Friday, August 10, 2018

Head of online publishers' group says his members 'fill the gaps' in local news coverage of California wildfires

Four photos of the Mendocino wildfire by Elizabeth Larson, editor and publisher of the Lake County News.
The historic wildfires in California have spawned online news outlets to deliver information that "fill the gaps" in local news coverage, Matt DeRienzo, executive director of Local Independent Online Publishers, writes for the Poynter Institute.

The Mendocino
Voice "has been updating residents almost around the clock about shifting evacuation zones, services for the displaced and efforts to contain the fires since they broke out," DeRienzo reports. "A typical audience of about 15,000 people tuning in for news about local planning commission or school board meetings has swelled to more than 76,000 during the wildfire coverage."

In an adjoining county, Lake County News, Editor-Publisher Elizabeth Larson told DeRienzo,
"It's primarily my husband, John Jensen, and me. We're also evacuated from our home office in Lucerne, and are staying at a friend's home." To the southeast, Sierra News Online, near Yosemite National Park, "are providing crucial and exclusive wildfire coverage in their communities this week," DeRienzo writes. "Downstate, Berkeleyside and Santa Barbara’s Noozhawk provide journalistic and business model inspiration as longer-established online news sites that have achieved financial sustainability and added reporting resources over the years."
The Mendocino Voice was started two years ago by two former Willits News reporters, with support from a LION program "made possible with support from the Democracy Fund, that is helping local news sites figure out local advertising sales by pairing them with veteran local online news publishers who’ve been successful at it," DeRienzo reports.

DiRienzo writes hopefully, “There’s a framework in sight for replacing — and in some cases exceeding — the local journalism we’ve lost.”

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