Ex-Tribune reporter launches news site in Great Falls

Montana has another online news site started by a former daily newspaper reporter.

The Electric, dedicated to covering the city of Great Falls and Malmstrom Air Base, was launched in early May by Jenn Rowell, who was laid off by the Gannet-owned Great Falls Tribune last October.

Rowell covered city government and the military as a reporter for the Trib, and she said she intends to continue to focus on those subjects, as well as on Cascade County and the Montana National Guard, since they are now covered only sporadically by the Trib and local television news.

Since leaving the Trib last fall, Rowell said, she has watched as important city stories are ignored until they blow up into controversies or until official action is about to be taken on the matter at hand.

“To me, it’s kind of too late to really inform people about what’s going on,” Rowell told Last Best News. “It just kills me. You’ve got to tell people what’s happening.”

Rowell said she began thinking about starting her own independent news website even before she was laid off, then spent months planning such an endeavor before plunging in in May. She knew she wanted to stay in Great Falls because her husband, Mark Mallory, who had been active military, is now a civilian employee at Malmstrom.

She has been writing her own stories—up to 10 a week, she said—since launching the site, but she hopes to solicit paid and unpaid help. In the “About” page on The Electric, Rowell said hopes to bring on “former journalists in the Great Falls area and across Montana as well as other smart people with a knack for writing and informing the community.”

JRTR

Jenn Rowell on the job.

That section also included this: “The kind of stories you can expect to find here: how local government works; things that seem boring, such as taxes, budgets, municipal code and ordinance updates, but actually impact your life; analysis of economic development, downtown revitalization, and the local business climate; food security, the local food network, agriculture and local impact to the bigger food picture in the U.S.; news from the Montana National Guard and Malmstrom Air Force Base, which will often include broader nuclear issues, military and national security stories.”

She went on, somewhat cheekily: “The kind of stories you won’t likely find here: cat videos, lists of the best places to retire, celebrities who crashed their car in Montana, car accidents, petty crime or car chases (unless there’s a danger to the public over an extended period of time). You can find that kind of information elsewhere. But that’s not to say we won’t have a little fun with stories about enjoying the outdoors in the Great Falls region or the hunt for the best burgers in the area.”

Rowell said she worked on school newspapers in high school and college, then got an internship with the Newports News, Va., Daily Press while she was still in college. She later worked for newspapers in Fredericksburg, Va., and Montgomery, Ala., before leaving to do communications work for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

She joined the Tribune in 2013.

The Electric doesn’t carry any advertising yet, but Rowell intends to move toward finding advertisers while also seeking nonprofit status, which would allow her to seek grant funding for the news site.

You can reach Rowell at jenn@theelectricgf.com.

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