Mar 8, 2023 - News

Hilliard news outlet hopes to fill local coverage gap

The entry sign into the Old Hilliard neighborhood.

Kevin Corvo has reported on the city of Hilliard since 1999. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

Kevin Corvo was there when Hilliard shifted to a new city-manager style of government, when a parks official was convicted of theft in office and when residents protested racial injustice in a downtown park.

  • The longtime community journalist wants to keep going ā€” even after his newspaper, ThisWeek Hilliard, was shut down in January.

Driving the news: Corvo recently launched The Hilliard Beacon, a newsletter and accompanying podcast about the city of around 37,000 residents.

Why it matters: After falling victim to widespread cuts by the nation's largest newspaper chain, Gannett, Corvo is going solo in an effort to fill the resulting gap in local news coverage.

State of play: Corvo is a Hilliard lifer, having worked on his high school newspaper and then studied journalism at Ohio State.

  • He's covered his hometown since 1999, first with the Suburban News Publications chain and later for ThisWeek Hilliard.

What he's saying: "I chose to stay in community journalism," Corvo tells Axios. "When a reporter stays put for that long, you develop some pretty good rapport (with local sources)."

Yes, but: Several reporters were folded into the Dispatch's sports desk when ThisWeek shut down, but Corvo lost his job.

The big picture: Ohio lost over 1,200 newspaper reporter, editor, photographer and design positions between 2012 and 2018.

  • Hundreds more newspapers across the U.S. have shuttered in the years since, resulting in a growing number of news deserts.

The intrigue: Several outlets like the Hilliard Beacon have launched recently in Ohio to help fill this gap, including the nonprofit newsrooms Signal and The Marshall Project, along with Axios Local newsletters in Columbus and Cleveland.

Zoom in: Corvo is partnering with Hilliard-based Franklin Street Creative, a business-focused nonprofit founded last year by local entrepreneurs Jordan Smith and Tim Hofmann.

  • They are both longtime supporters of Corvo's work and considered the loss of ThisWeek Hilliard a major blow, Smith tells Axios.
  • The two are offering marketing help and podcasting space in an effort to build a sustainable local journalism model ā€” an early podcast episode highlighted the recent controversy surrounding Hilliard's "Turkey Gang."

The bottom line: Corvo says he's heard from many longtime readers and sources about how they will miss the old newspaper.

  • If enough people miss it, does that mean enough will support his new venture?
  • "I guess that's what we're going to find out," he says. "I enjoy it too much to stop. I'm invested in Hilliard."
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