BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA — The Locust Fork News-Journal, like many websites, is wholly devoted to the quirks, whims, emotions, and talents of its founder–in this case, a former newspaper reporter and self-proclaimed champion of the “independent watchdog Web press” named Glynn Wilson. Unlike most sites (including many owned by the “corporate media” Wilson rails against) the News-Journal is stable and profitable–a testament to what can happen when a dedicated reporter takes on issues that are meaningful to him, and is savvy enough to build a platform and audience to support his efforts.
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Contrary to what the name suggests, the Locust Fork News-Journal did not arise from the merger of two dailies in the town of Locust Fork, just north of Birmingham. It is and has always been a web publication, and is named after the nearby Locust Fork River. There are no clear boundaries for what Wilson, a founding member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, chooses to cover, but a major thread is both reporting on and a more improvised, personal chronicling of conservation issues throughout the south–from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.
The story of the BP oil spill was ready-made for Wilson’s site, and does a lot to highlight the strengths that attract the News-Journal a niche audience. (Those who don’t fit the niche will be less charmed.) Throughout his BP coverage, Wilson takes on an emotional, personalized, and, most importantly, outraged tone–a tone that many affected by the spill no doubt felt lacking among traditional media. Wilson’s piece on “The Untold Story of Human Health Effects From BP’s Oil Disaster” is particularly representative of the News-Journal brand. As the top of the post notes, Wilson offered the story to The Washington Post, but was rejected. Readers who gravitate to the News-Journal out of distrust of the mainstream media are often pointed to literal examples of stories they could not have found elsewhere.
Many journalists will be interested in learning Wilson’s secret formula for earning a living covering just about anything he chooses. Those who ask his advice will be told, more or less, to stop whining, learn how to do some basic programming, and set out to chase big stories. His revenue-seeking is vigorous, but his business, which operates as a sole proprietorship, is rather freeform. When asked about his numbers, Wilson said, “Truth is, I’ve not calculated it. Chances are if I did, I wouldn’t say exactly anyway since the IRS may be watching…. I just know I’ve been able to bring in enough from Google checks, blog ads, donations and such to do all the traveling and get to the stories I want to cover…. I assure you I have not wanted for Yuengling this year, or last, or the year before. I buy the Black & Tan by the twelve-pack, and as long as there are a few in the cooler, and plenty of gas in the van ready to go for the next story to break, I’m happy.”
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Name: The Locust Fork News-Journal