Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

News partnership explores the rural Dakotas

May 9, 2012, 2:58 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

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The first issue of Dakotafire, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, is online.

Dakotafire works with eight local newspaper partners to produce a quarterly publication that explores important regional issues in the James River watershed area of North and South Dakota. The project is funded by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

“Dakotafire’s alliance of reporters and editors work together to produce in-depth, regionwide coverage of issues vital to the sustainability of the area’s rural communities,” the site says in describing its mission. “This alliance, which connects these journalists online, allows them to cover topics they could not address as successfully alone.”

The inaugural spring 2012 issue of Dakotafire focuses on an issue that is dear to editor Heidi Marrila-Losure, a co-founder.

“Learn, then Return” explores “Seven ways to help rural youth see a future back home.” In the issue, Marttila-Losure shares her own story of return:

“It occurred to me then that where I belonged was back in rural South Dakota. That’s where my fight, my purpose, my meaning lay. Dakotafire is for me an extension of that sense of fighting the right fight – the worlds of both journalism and rural America are being shaken now, but I am pleased to be able to do work that might in some way help them both.”

The issue first appeared as a print magazine that was inserted in local partner newspapers in April.

Marttila-Losure said that in addition to producing the magazine, the newspapers also collaborate on stories about regional rural issues every two weeks. These stories are published on Dakotafire.net and in the newspapers.

By Michele McLellan, a Knight Community Information Challenge Circuit Rider