The original version of this story has been updated with a correction.
Wildfires have consumed close to 100,000 acres in northern California’s Mendocino County this week. About 15,000 of the 87,000 residents there have been evacuated from their homes.
Public emergencies like this are a stress test on the state of increasingly beleaguered local news, as lives are at stake over people’s ability to access information about their community.
In Mendocino County and hundreds of other communities across the country, in addition to traditional media, grassroots local journalism initiatives are emerging to fill the gaps.
The Mendocino Voice, launched two years ago by two former Willits News reporters, 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. 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.
A similar scenario is playing out across California. Lake County News, from Mendocino-neighboring Lake County, and Sierra News Online, near Yosemite, are providing crucial and exclusive wildfire coverage in their communities this week.
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.
All are members of LION, a nonprofit with 225 members in 45 states that supports the publishers of local independent online news organizations. Its membership — both
Read more here: https://www.poynter.org/news/newspapers-cut-grassroots-solutions-fuel-resurgence-local-journalism