(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 1, 2016)
Ferndale, MI – The Oakland County 115 News started in 2009 with just one city. In the past seven years we have grown in many ways that help keep readers “informed, inspired, and united.”
Here are some of the good things that come from having quality local journalism:
(1) Event Page. Our event page is a well-curated list of events in our core communities and events of interest through the area. This is a good list for people that want to explore, learn and be involved.
(2) Award Winning Investigative Reporting. The oc115 has won two investigative reporting awards for doing work that exposed corruption with a local housing commission and with a former school superintendent. Each year the oc115 works on stories that others are not. For example in 2016 we brought you details of the health department issues that led to the closure of Como’s Restaurant, we searched through years’ worth of police reports to show what crime happened at Motorama in Ferndale, and we gathered responses from local school districts about lead testing in their water systems. This is the kind of work take patience, dedication and expertise that make journalism valuable to society.
(3) Love for Local Charities and Community Efforts. The oc115 is a positive place for people to learn about charities and other group efforts taking place in their community, and to see what good ideas other neighboring communities have. Supporting oc115 means supporting a voice for many good causes.
(4) Focus on Local Elections. The oc115 interviewed 75 candidates for local offices in the 2016 election. While much of the media focused on the Presidential race, the oc115 touted the importance of being informed about local offices. Our video series gave readers a chance to virtually meet the candidates and hear for themselves about what made them want to run, what their priorities would be if elected etc.
(5) Connections. The oc115 is all about connecting people within communities as well as connecting communities regionally. There is a lot to learn from each other, and the oc115 is a way to show how those connections and lessons work to make everyone more informed, inspired and united. Looking at topic across communities adds a layer of accountability, and the ability to lean things from neighbors.
(6) Ethics. Much of the media today is a mix of opinions and news, often with the lines being blurred. There are many places online to get opinions, and we do value those. But our commitment to keeping the oc115 fact-based and in line with traditional journalism ethics sets us apart. Our job is to let people know about local issues, give them the information they need to be involved if they want, and trust them to make their own decisions.
(7) Non-partisan. Just as it is important to keep stories on oc115 fact-based and in keeping with traditional ethics, we also keep our work non-partisan. We do not endorse political candidates and our focus tends to be more on specific decisions and issues rather than ideologies. We want our readers to understand how decisions are made, and what their role is, and can be, in governmental processes and decisions.
(8) Drama-Free. The oc115 is a safe place for people to get news without being bombarded with dramatic, click-bait stories, annoying ads, background apps that prevent pages from working well, and comments that often spew more hate and misinformation than adding to stories. We are always happy to get emails from readers when there are errors or more information. But overall we believe that news and opinion needs to be separate, and there is not much good that comes from nasty comments. By not having them, it means people can share stories on their own social media and discuss them if they so choose. This also means people can be photographed, interviewed and participate, and share the stories without having to feel attacked just because they are in the news. If you are in the news for something positive, you should feel proud, not fearful.
(9) Reader-Supported Journalism. The oc115 is funded with a mix of business advertising and reader-funding. We have an “Online Community Garden” where individuals and groups can give $15 to have a virtual flower planted in their name on the website. This is a truly grass-roots way of keeping local journalism going and growing, and we’re proud to have readers be such an integral part of the work we do.
(10) Locally-Owned Media. Who owns what media you are viewing? This matters. Many publications are owned by corporations that do not even have news at their main goal. Even local publications often have out-of-state owners that may not know the communities the way someone local does. Also, a locally-owned publication help keep money made locally in the community and re-spent in the communities we serve. The oc115 is a Ferndale and Oakland County-grown publication, owned by a local woman with a strong commitment to the community and to the profession of journalism.
(11) Diverse. The oc115 is designed to serve diverse communities and share stories that may not be told elsewhere. Readers of oc115 are familiar with success in many groups, stories from many cultures, and the struggles of disenfranchised communities in a way that does not pit groups against each other, but celebrates how we all fit together. Some example include the recent naturalization ceremony in Southfield where 37 people became US Citizens, a guide for transgender people to change their names, a recent Love March in Ferndale, and the India Day Festival in Novi.
(12) Resources. The oc115 has a resource page that has information about homeless shelters, resources for those in need, free and low cost business classes, tips on taking care of trees, resources for mental health, places to check for jobs and other topics that readers have sought more information about.
(13) Serving Under-Served Communities. As the oc115 has grown, we have looked at communities that are not currently being fully-served by regional media. Many communities have little or no regular coverage. Others have only a weekly that focuses more on selling ads than on doing in-depth reporting. In order for Metro Detroit to thrive, people need the tools and a way to feel welcome to engage in their own neighborhoods. We are proud to be growing in ways that do not duplicate the work of other reporters, but that really fill holes in current media coverage.
(14) Model for More Community Journalism. The oc115 is not only here to inform, inspire and unite Oakland County readers. We are always learning, testing, and studying results. Our goal is to prove that reader-supported local news can work, and to be the model that helps others start similar projects in their towns.
(15) Growing, Not Cutting Back. There are many reports of publications closing or reducing staff sizes. As others struggle in their corporate structures, the oc115 has been growing each year. Everyone who reads oc115, shares our stories, writes, shares pictures, donates to the online garden and who advertises is helping to make the oc115 a success. This growth is because of you, and we are in it to keep doing this work for you.
Thank you for being part of it.
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