Things are moving along in Youngstown, where we are in the process of building out The Compass Experiment’s first local news site.
One of the most important initial tasks we faced was naming this new publication. I’m excited to share that we landed on Mahoning Matters, a name that reflects both what we’ll cover and what we believe: The Mahoning Valley matters. Youngstown matters. Local news matters.
A few weeks ago, we held open community forums in partnership with the Youngstown and Mahoning County Public Libraries. In these forums, we heard from local residents, many of them subscribers to The Vindicator, about what they need from a local news source.
One of the messages that stood out to us was that we couldn’t just focus on Youngstown. Issues of public services access, health care, government transparency and stories of progress were not only key in the city, but across the Mahoning Valley. Hence why we decided to take a wider view.
Our logo is an iconic architectural detail borrowed from the beautiful Mill Creek Suspension Bridge, located within Mill Creek Park, an area gem that many at our forums cited as one of their favorite destinations in Youngstown.
More than a name and logo, it is the staff who are the heart and soul of a newsroom. Mahoning Matters is going to start out with an amazing team of journalists who should already be familiar to many in the Mahoning Valley.
Leading this effort is Editor Mark Sweetwood, whose deep knowledge of local news and the Mahoning Valley will be invaluable in getting Mahoning Matters up and running.
Mark has spent 37 years working in the local news business. For more than a decade, he served as managing editor of The Vindicator. During that time, the Vindy staff was honored with many accolades including two first place general excellence awards as well as the coveted First Amendment Award from the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors. In addition to working with us, Mark teaches journalism at Youngstown State University.
On Mark’s team are two ace reporters who also hail from the The Vindicator.
Justin Dennis has covered crime, courts, government and public education first at the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pa. and later at the Star Beacon in Ashtabula. At The Vindicator, he reported on the Mahoning County government and courts, as well as the communities of Austintown and Canfield. Justin grew up in Poland and Salem, graduating from Salem High School. He studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
Jess Hardin grew up in Pittsburgh and started reporting at The Vindicator, where she covered the communities of Poland and Boardman. While there, Jess won a grant with the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland to research ambulance service in the Youngstown area, which she wrote about just last week. Prior to joining The Vindicator, Jess worked at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that provides a safe disclosure channel for federal whistleblowers. Jess graduated from Georgetown University, where she studied government and Russian.
We at The Compass Experiment are excited to welcome Mark, Justin and Jess to the team. These three will be driving the coverage and outreach of Mahoning Matters as it gets off the ground.
We are still aiming for a late September launch date, so expect more news on that very soon. In the meantime, we hope you’ll visit the site at mahoningmatters.com and sign up for our email list for future updates.
Mandy Jenkins is the General Manager for The Compass Experiment, a local news laboratory founded by McClatchy and Google and is part of Google’s Local Experiments Project. If you have questions, suggestions or are interested in joining Mahoning Matters as a partner or sponsor, please reach out to her via email, on LinkedIn or Twitter (DMs are open).