Racine County Eye is rolling out a new service for our readers to send in news tips and receive specialized content from us via SMS text messaging.

So if you see any news, weather or traffic around Racine County, all you have to is text Racine County Eye at (262) 205-2853. The news organization also plans to use the technology to gather reports about barriers to employment for its special series called Catch 22.

We received a grant from the Community Listening and Engagement Fund(CLEF) to help them serve a more diverse audience and engage with readers through a mobile technology platform.

Racine County Eye was started by veteran journalist Denise Lockwood five years ago. More than 40,000 people regularly visit Racine County Eye every month.

“We need to meet our audience where they are and this grant helps us do that because we know that not everyone that owns a cell phone has access to Broadband,” Lockwood said. “So if people receive news and information they need, they become more connected to the community.”

Here’s how it works

Our tip line is (262) 205-2853. Use it to send story tips, and upload photos or videos. You’ll also receive texts from us as well. Text STOP to unsubscribe, HELP for more. Standard message rates apply.

  • To report news, text the word NEWS to the number.
  • To report traffic incidents or backups, text the word TRAFFIC to the number.
  • To report weather-related information, text the word WEATHER to the number.

Once you’ve sent the text, a prompt will ask several questions.

Why we’re doing this

Racine County Eye’s mission is to help it’s readers connect to the information they need and want in a meaningful, credible and authentic way. We don’t charge for our news but if people want to financially support us through memberships, they can. We could definitely use the support.

But RCE is looking for creative ways to engage the community around topics that matter to them, and one of the biggest issues our community faces is employment. So through a professional organization called the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, RCE has been able to secure several grants to support its mission.

Created by The News Integrity Initiative (NII), the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the grant helps Racine County Eye reporters produce more relevant news through technology.

Racine County Eye users will be able to access content via text messages, answer online interviews, and submit story tips. Users will be able to opt-in or out of receiving messages and have the ability to sign-up for topic-specific newsletters.

And there’s more…

We also plan to use this technology as part of our Catch 22 project, a four-month-long look at work and workers in Racine County.

We’ve also designed a “Catch 22” SMS text list for people to tell us what their experience has been like looking for work and finding training resources.

Starting Oct. 15, there will be a new question for people to answer about barriers to employment. We’ll push out the story we wrote that week, have videos, and offer job listings and resource pages to help people connect better with this topic.

Racine County Eye is among 18 recipients of a $1,500 investigative journalism grant from the Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION) and the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation.

We’re also looking for sponsors of this content. This is a great way for employers and social services agencies the chance to connect to Racine County residents. If you are interested, please contact Denise Lockwood at denise@racinecountyeye.com.

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