For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Teresa Wippel, publisher of My Neighborhood News Network.
- How did you find yourself at My Neighborhood News Network? I had just left a job in 2009 and wasn’t sure what I wanted to to do next. I had started out as a newspaper and wire service reporter but had worked in a variety of communications-related jobs in my career, including government public information and non-profit PR. Someone who knew about my journalism background suggested I start an online news site in Edmonds, and I did. Later on, I also acquired two existing online news sites in nearby Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, and formed the My Neighborhood News Network. It’s been a great adventure.
- Which of your stories are you most proud of?
We were the first local news outlet to cover plans by the Edmonds School District and the City of Edmonds to install a turf play field next a school in Edmonds. Parents and neighbors were worried about the growing concerns over the health and environmental effects of turf, and started asking questions. After a year-long process that included many meetings and some legal challenges, the Edmonds City Council voted to implement a temporary ban on installation of new turf fields in the city, while they await pending federal studies on turf safety. I do believe that our ongoing coverage made a difference in helping people understand the issue.
- What is your favorite thing about your job?
Being able to cover the news my way, with the best interests of the community at the forefront of everything I do. Everyone who writes and takes photos for me lives here, so we strive to be accurate and fair. Unlike a TV station that might show up once a year to cover a crime scene in Edmonds, and may never do another followup story once the dust settles, we have to live with the impacts of our coverage, so we’d better do it right.
- What is your interview style?
I enjoy hearing people talk about their lives, their dreams and their accomplishments. And if they have a complaint or frustration, I also enjoy trying to figure out if I can help them find a solution. So I always try to start with that: Tell me your story. Get comfortable with me as a person so we are connected. It’s a lot easier for people to be honest with you if they know you genuinely care about them.
- What do you look for in a story?
About 20 percent of Edmonds’ population is senior citizens, and they have some amazing life experiences — and when you find people in their 80s you certainly want to make sure their stories are told before it’s too late. We are also fortunate to have a thriving arts community here that generates some great human interest stories, not to mention many world travelers who like to write about their experiences.
- What is your day like at your job?
Every day is different, depending on whether we have a lot of breaking news. People think of Edmonds as a sleepy suburb but the truth is we have a fair amount of police and fire activity here. My main beat is Edmonds — where I oversee coverage, assigning stories and photos to freelancers when I don’t have time to cover them myself. Since I am the publisher, I also handle the business side, including ad sales for all three websites — I have two sales consultants who work on commission. And I have an editor who handles Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood coverage but we frequently work together as our coverage areas sometimes overlap. I cover every weekly Edmonds City Council meeting so spend a lot of time writing about local government issues. I get story tips from our readers as well as photos and video from people who happen by breaking news, so that helps with our coverage. The bottom line is, online news entrepreneurs never really leave their work — you are on the clock 24/7 — but I’ve never had more fun in my life.
- Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
Tracy Record and Patrick Sand from the West Seattle Blog are my heroes. They started one of the very first online news organizations in the country and they paved the way for those of us who came after them. They are two of the most hard-working, ethical people I know and really walk the talk in terms of being in this business for the right reason: They love their community and it shows.
- What is your favorite news outlet?
I skim a lot of different news sources every day looking for local story ideas so don’t have a single favorite. But I am a big fan of public radio.
- What is your guilty pleasure?
Mexican food and margaritas.
- Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am… taking a long bike ride. It clears my head and gets me away from technology.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Michelle Obama.
- My favorite thing about the Seattle area is…the water. I grew up in Eastern Washington and I never get tired of having access to Puget Sound and all our lakes.