CASPER, WY — [UPDATE: On September 5, 2012, the Knight Foundation announced that WyoFile was yet again a recipient of its Community Information Challenge Grant. The site received $62,000 from Knight and an equal amount from the Wyoming Community Foundation. It will hire one full-time reporter dedicated to the Wyoming Legislature and one part-time minority reporter, who will cover the Wind River Indian Reservation.]
Even though WyoFile covers the goings-on of the least populous state in the union, it still finds plenty of stories to tell. Launched in 2008 by former Los Angeles Times reporter Rone Tempest and entrepreneur Christopher Findlater, the site features a plethora of in-depth, locally focused reporting: a profile of Casper’s last locally owned grocery store; a look at the state’s financially struggling ski slopes; a primer on how to save money at the doctor’s office by paying in cash. By collaborating and story-sharing with other news outlets like High Country News and Wyoming Public Radio, WyoFile hopes to raise its profile as a viable news source in its own right.
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Editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer and managing editor Ruffin Prevost make up the entirety of WyoFile’s full-time staff, but the lean crew manages roughly a dozen regular contributors, ranging from those with decades of journalism experience to first time writers looking for a chance to report on their home state. (Findlater currently serves on WyoFile’s board of directors, and Tempest continues to contribute to the site as a freelancer.) Bleizeffer comes from an energy reporting background, and the site features an energy blog that covers energy issues facing coal- and oil-rich Wyoming. In 2010, the site addressed another thorny issue with its coverage of ongoing race and social issues plaguing the Wind River Indian Reservation. The site is updated on a weekly basis.
WyoFile is overseen by a board of directors comprised of seasoned journalists, many of whom have been involved in the site from day one. The site’s funding has come in large part from a grant by the Knight Foundation and the George P. Storer Foundation, though individual donors have played no small part in keeping it afloat. The funding from Knight is set to expire in 2011, and WyoFile is currently pursuing additional grant funding from other sources. As the site’s reach continues to grow, the hope is that reader donations will begin to play a larger role in its sustainability.
As the site moves forward, Bleizeffer hopes to collaborate with Wyoming newspapers on a more frequent basis. Right now, WyoFile occasionally features articles from Environment & Energy Daily, and sometimes High Country News and NewWest. As for its original reporting, WyoFile allows other media outlets to use its stories free of charge. “It’s really unclear who’s going to pay for news and who’s going to pay for journalism,” Bleizeffer explains. “But there will always be a need for good journalism.” WyoFile is faithful to this notion, but also expounds the virtues of a locally focused site. As Bleizeffer notes, “That’s what we’re striving for, to have an impact on state, regional, and hopefully national issues. But you can’t forget where you come from.”
Principal Staff: Dustin Bleizeffer, editor-in-chief; Ruffin Prevost, managing editor.
Affiliations: The George B. Storer Foundation; The Knight Foundation; Christopher Findlater; Marcia Kunstel; Joe Albright; Anne Pendergast; the estate of the late Tom Stroock; Wyoming Community Foundation.