Mineral Wells Area News

Mineral Wells Area News launches new website

Mineral Wells Area News launches new website
August 22
15:00 2021

The ripple effect of this pandemic that began to ravage the country in 2020 left no industry or business untouched. As people and communities learn to survive in this new normal, you can’t help but notice one industry that is eroding in some areas but also adapting and thriving in others: the news media.

COVID-19 is killing off newspapers and creating an information crisis in small towns across the United States, but the Mineral Wells Area News has a mission to change with the times and fill the void created by the crumbling newspaper industry.

Closing Up Shop

Research shows that 85 American newspapers stopped publishing in 2020, and as most residents of this community know, The Mineral Wells Index, the 120-year-old pillar of Palo Pinto County closed its doors and stopped printing local news in May of 2020. The publisher announced more than a year ago that the paper would close and The Weatherford Democrat would take over any coverage of Mineral Wells.

There was no doubt in the community that there would be a void without a local paper. Mineral Wells city councilwoman Beth Watson told KERA-TV about the concerns and worries that people wouldn’t be as involved in city government without the newspaper to summarize what’s going on.

“Some of these meetings are really boring. Let’s just call them what they are,” she said. Watson told KERA that the community didn’t just lose a paper, but a seasoned journalist with decades of experience, as well.

David May worked at the Index for more than 15 years. He was a general manager, editor and reporter, all at once, when it shut down. Just prior to the announcement of the paper’s closure, May decided to put in his two-week’s notice. Mere days before his departure, the publisher told him the paper was ending. His concern really was whether complicated government issues would get the coverage they warrant. May recently took the job of CEO of Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce and will no doubt continue to be a voice for the area.

Filling The Void & Finding Solutions

As news of The Index’s demise made the rounds, longtime Mineral Wells resident Christi Dorr jumped into civic action. She quickly formed the Mineral Wells Area News page on Facebook to keep citizens informed of important local news and give the community a place to share obituaries.

In mid-May of 2020, Dorr teamed up with Amy Sabbatini-Bearden, a former Mineral Wells High School graduate and trained journalist, to begin covering local civic meetings and important events happening within the community.

Bearden volunteered tirelessly, covering city and county meetings and other events but knew she could never sustain it all on her own. Not to mention, she felt that citizens or officials would not take her seriously without a more professional and independent platform. She plodded along anyway, covering the news, and continued to build an audience on Facebook.

Fortunately, nearby journalists Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown of The Breckenridge Texan were watching and thought the Mineral Wells Area News would thrive with the right business model.

The Breckenridge Texan is a nonprofit digital newspaper that was developed by Pilkington and McKeown in 2017 when Pilkington experienced the downsizing of the local printed paper. The Breckenridge Texan team opted to forego the typical for-profit business plan and adopted a nonprofit business strategy that is thriving throughout the industry. They suggested MWAN adopt a similar format.

“While the primary mission of the Breckenridge Texan is to provide local community news coverage for our readers in Breckenridge and Stephens County, another one of our goals is using the website as a model to help other small communities launch similar websites,” Pilkington said in his weekly newsletter. “This is especially important today, with so many small-town newspapers struggling to survive or shutting down.”

Sabbatini-Bearden applied to the State of Texas and was granted nonproft status in April of 2021 for Mineral Wells Area News Corp. At the suggestion of Pilkington, MWAN applied for membership into the Institute for Nonprofit News and intends to manage donations under their umbrella. The Breckenridge Texan is a member of INN and operates most of their expenses through crowdfunding from their readers.

The Knight Foundation, one of the biggest INN contributors, says that while nonprofit is a tax status and not technically a business model, and a need for diversified, sustainable long-term revenue remains a constant issue, “but nonprofit news has led the way in seeking out reader revenue, donations and memberships that have longer staying power than advertising-and have the added bonus of bringing community members closer to the publication.”

Pilkington and McKeown aren’t just helping the news writers in Mineral Wells. They have several publications they are consulting with to help understand that this downturn in printed paper doesn’t mean small-town news has to disappear.

The future of local news and the documentation of the community renaissance booming throughout Palo Pinto County will take an army of well-trained citizen journalists. MWAN intends to train reporters across the county in proper news gathering techniques and fund the mission through donations.

Please consider a donation or volunteer your time if you think the mission of delivering local news is imperative.

Donate to Mineral Wells Area News

 

Help support the Mineral Wells Area News by making a donation

Subscribe to The Weekly Index

Each week MWAN will send you our weekly newsletter called The Index highlighting the weeks top stories. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7,818 other subscribers