McClatchy/Google Names Site ‘Mahoning Matters’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A name, a logo, the hiring of two former Vindicator reporters and its managing editor are the latest developments in the creation of a local news website being launched through the partnership of McClatchy and Google.

Mahoning Matters is the name of the site, which is now active and branded with a logo that “borrows from the design of the Mill Creek Suspension Bridge,” the site states.

It is the first tangible product of The Compass Experiment, which describes itself as “a local news laboratory founded by McClatchy and Google to explore new sustainable business models for local news.”

McClatchy, a publicly traded media company that operates in 29 markets, announced July 18, about two weeks after The Vindicator said it was closing, that it would launch a local news website with financial backing from Google. The operation will be managed from McClatchy’s headquarters in Sacramento, Calif.

Mahoning Matters will use the platform, technology and revenue model developed by a Canadian company, Village Media Inc. The Compass Experiment announced Aug. 20 its partnership with Village Media, with “plan the build-out and launch” of the Youngstown site, Jenkins said.

Naming the site Mahoning Matters “reflects both what we’ll cover and what we believe: The Mahoning Valley matters. Youngstown matters. Local news matters,” Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment, stated in a blog posted Thursday.

“In talking with the community, one of the messages that stood out to us was that we couldn’t just focus on Youngstown,” she explained. “Issues of public services access, health care, government transparency and stories of progress were not only key in the city, but across Mahoning County. This is why we decided to take a wider view.”

Mark Sweetwood has been named editor of the site. A 37-year veteran of the news industry, Sweetwood was managing editor of The Vindicator for more than a decade. Joining him are two reporters who worked for the newspaper: Justin Dennis and Jess Hardin.

The operation is “aiming for a late September launch date,” Jenkins says.

Meanwhile, the former editor of The Vindicator, Todd Franko, has been named director of local sustainability and development for Report For America, “a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities,” states its website.

“I connected with them right after the Vindicator announcement [of its closing],” Franko tells The Business Journal.

The program is an outgrowth of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit media organization founded in 2017 that launched Report for America the following year. Through funding from a long list of national foundations, local newsrooms and nonprofits, 60 journalists are working for 50 news organizations in 27 states.

Franko, who starts his new job Sept. 16, says the idea is to “tap into the donor community to replace what advertising stopped funding.”

He will be based in Youngstown and travel to various cities “essentially looking to build a state-by-state network.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.