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The Racine County Eye news website was born six years ago and I am grateful to be able to do the work I do.

Heather Asiyanbi, my former business partner, and I launched the site as a part-time thing. What else would two middle-aged women do with kids in college do after being laid off from our former employer? Both of us had almost two decades of working as professional journalists. We thought the community deserved to have better journalism.

Focusing on solutions

Three years ago, Heather moved on. At the time, I didn’t know if I had what it took to run my news organization. So I worked with Jackie Zach, a business coach with Action Coach. I worked on refining my why — that traditional journalism wasn’t for me anymore.

There were too many stories that had been ignored, too much emphasis on conflict-based journalism and not enough focus on actually helping our readers. We couldn’t write everything. But we could use our institutional knowledge about certain topics that mattered.

Now the site has grown to have an annual audience of 450,000 readers. Over the years, I focused on exclusive content — the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant contamination issues, access to mental health, institutional racism in Racine, Foxconn, and employment.

That’s what has fueled my work — helping the community. But Mr. Denise and my cardiologist will tell you that I have put too much of my heart into this. So after having been diagnosed with congestive heart failure in September, I had to put some limits on what I could and couldn’t do. It wasn’t easy. There were entire storylines that I just couldn’t get to that I wanted to write, but managing my health and keeping the direction of the company moving forward had to take priority.

My staff — all three of them –had my back, however. And because of them, we still had our highest level of traffic. LION Publishers, a professional organization that I belong to, recognized our work on barriers to employment. And we secured a grant from WordPress and the Google News Initiative to update our site in January.

On a positive note…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been in planning mode. And I kept coming back to one question: How should a local news website make you feel?

After having some really good conversation with several readers, I came up with the following:

  • A news website should be transparent and trustworthy
  • Focused on solutions, not just problems
  • Dedicated to truth-telling

And a lot of that needs to be focused on growing pains, whether it’s focusing on Foxconn to being named among the worst places for black people to live to water issues.

Here are five things that we’re working on to help our readers live a better life.

  1. Help Wanted: Our employment podcast is coming back.
  2. Targeted email newsletters around employment and real estate.
  3. Must read news section, which will focus on exclusive deep-dive topics facing our community that will also include resource pages.
  4. A celebrations page for events — think Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Date, Prom, graduation, Father’s Day, July 4 and all of those other holidays. Who doesn’t like to celebrate?
  5. And last but not least… we’ll add sports coverage.

For our advertisers, we’ve got some great things brewing. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Just pay attention to your email. If you are a business owner or make advertising decisions for your company, sign-up for our email newsletter.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.