When I found out that I’d be reporting for the Victoria Advocate starting June 1, my first thought was that there’d be so much to write about.
Then COVID-19 hit.
As the six flags flying over DeLeon Plaza in downtown Victoria show, the Crossroads region has been through a lot. In recent years, there’s been Hurricane Harvey and the Eagle Ford Shale Play.
Now, the Crossroads is facing a huge public health challenge and the worst economy since the Great Depression. In the last couple months, I’ve been reading stories of resilience in the Advocate’s pages: doctors switching to telemedicine, churches holding drive-in Easter services, families driving by grandparents to wave hello.
I want to find more stories to tell. But I’ll need your help.
My name’s Mark. I’m the Advocate’s new rural counties beat reporter, and I want to talk to you about your communities and the changes you’ve been facing since the pandemic began.
I’ll be covering the counties surrounding Victoria, especially Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca and Refugio.
As you can probably tell, I’m new to the area. I grew up near Boston, and spent the past two summers reporting in Ohio. I covered politics and the economy for The Blade in Toledo and reported on criminal justice for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Advocate hired me through a program called Report for America. Local news has taken a serious hit in the past decade, and with ad revenues disappearing during the pandemic, things have gotten even tougher. This program is helping local newsrooms invest in community-based journalism.
I’m the second reporter the Advocate has hired through this program. If you’ve been following the Advocate’s public health coverage, then you’ve probably read a bunch of stories by Ciara McCarthy, another Report for America reporter who has been working nonstop to cover the pandemic.
I’ve been studying up and learning as much as I can about the Crossroads. But I can’t do my job well without the community. I want to know what’s on your mind and what issues need to be covered in your town.
So, let’s talk. I’ll be driving around the area in the coming weeks to introduce myself (at a safe distance, of course). And I’m always happy to chat on the phone.
There’s a Google Form online that will help me best cover your community. You can reach me anytime at email@example.com or 361-574-1264. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.