The Harvey World Herald delivers hometown coverage

A small newsroom, staffed by just one reporter, fills a gap in local coverage

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The Harvey World Herald is a neighborhood newspaper covering the community of Harvey, Illinois, south of Chicago. The publication was started in October 2021 by Amethyst J. Davis, a Harvey native.

She’d noticed a lack of local hometown coverage on important topics affecting the community.

“I got to Harvey, and the community center’s closed up. … A lot of businesses have started to close up because of the pandemic. … And I had the hardest time figuring out anything about anything because a lot of information isn’t on the city’s website,” said Davis.

Davis studied policing and public policy while attending New York University. She decided to veer into journalism when she moved back home.

“Harvey has really, especially in the 21st century, become shorthand for political corruption,” said Davis.

She cited examples, such as federal agents raiding both City Hall and the police department on the same day. Fifteen years ago, elected officials also came under fire for mishandling federal money. These incidents have led to distrust in the community and are the backdrop to Davis’ life.

“While I knew that, like, life in Harvey wasn’t perfect, I think my mother and my family did a great deal to keep all of us involved in the sort of beacons of hope in the community,” said Davis. Her “beacons of hope” were the community and youth programs.

“If you’re 25 or 35, you grew up in the midst of gang violence, but you also grew up in the middle of that sort of golden era of youth programming — the gymnastics program, the baseball team,” she said.

Political corruption, dying businesses and nostalgia for her youth fuel what Davis does at the Harvey World Herald.

The name itself is a nod to the high school, which called itself “Harvey World” to give it a sense of identity separate from Chicago. The publication aims to provide readers with information about education, business, public safety, health, politics and entertainment. Although there’s been a steady increase in subscribers and strong readership among youth, there have been challenges — namely, staffing.

“2022 has been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster for a litany of reasons. Yeah, it’s just me,” she said. She’s wearing all the hats.

“[In 2020,] I quit my job in New York City to move back and do this. This is my full-time gig at this point,” said Davis.

Davis hopes to build a sustainable business model, relying on grants, digital advertising and subscribers. The Harvey World Herald received a $15,000 stipend from the Tiny News Collective.

Advertising has been a hard sell because marketers don’t consider the community of Harvey to be strong or lucrative consumers.

“How do you build advertising if you’re in a community where a third of the community lives at or below the poverty line? How do you build a reader revenue model?” she asked.

Even with those issues, Davis plans to expand the publication and bring on more people.

“So, I’m trying to actually do a better job of something that I wasn’t able to do … which is covering school board meetings and really telling more education stories. That’s definitely a big priority. And, we’re also in the midst of elections,” she said.

Although there’s been plenty of support from other journalism organizations, Davis has gotten some pushback from her own community — notably from its older residents and by way of their social media comments.

“The misinformation and the drama, if anything, has come from those 45+, and that’s just wild to me because that’s the generation that often will say that my generation in Harvey doesn’t care for the community and doesn’t do anything,” she said.

Davis said, if anything, that’s fuel for what she does as a community news publisher. And she plans to help the next generation of journalists.

“[Our older] generation is largely behind why the Harvey [World Herald] exists. … Harvey needs local news,” said Davis.

Victoria Holmes is a freelance journalist and writer based out of Dallas, Texas. Previously, Holmes worked as a TV news reporter and political podcast host at WNCT-TV in Greenville, North Carolina. Reach out to her on Twitter.

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  • enigma58

    My hat's off to Ms. Davis. It's extremely rare to see anyone getting into the local news business. I did something similar, several decades ago, in the suburban Vancouver (Wash.) community of Cascade Park, so I might be able to offer some suggestions:

    1. Forget digital. I know this is counter-intuitive for the current media environment, but digital, whether on the web or an app is "pull media" and, therefore, a hard sell. Go to press. Paper is still dirt cheap, usually about a penny a printed page, and production costs, using desktop publishing applications, is even cheaper. So, a subscription/retail copy can be priced at 25 cents and still pay production costs for 16 pages of news. This makes the "push" model of print not just equal to the cost/benefit of digital, but wholly superior. Use digital to sell subscriptions and classified ads.

    2. People buy news by the pound. Big papers sell more than small papers and digital papers don't sell hardly at all...that means subscriptions and ads. Go for a large sheet, say 29-inch web folio, and print the maximum number of affordable pages.

    3. Don't sell ads...sell eyeballs. Print birth notices, wedding notices and obituaries...write them in-house and publish them for free. Venues, funeral homes, churches and local retailers will stampede to buy ad space next to them. The same goes for school news, and not just sports. If a school has an honor role, print the students' names. Every parent will buy a copy of the newspaper and retailers will buy ads to promote their family friendly merchandise to these readers.

    4. Keep the cover/subscription cost low. People can always find a quarter to buy a copy...a dollar requires thought.

    5. You don't make money unless you go to press, so go to press often. Weekly is preferable for a community newspaper. At $12 per year, you'd be surprised at how many people want to subscribe...and local merchants will be happy to pay for the opportunity to reach these subscribers.

    6. Skip non-profit business models. There's no tax advantage to them, and it adds to your complexity.

    I hope this helps.

    Tuesday, October 4 Report this