Stop the Presses: No Editor Needed
Let's hit the streets with "Just Alvie News"
Old school journalism is nearly dead.
That's hard for me to say, but it's the truth. As a seasoned journalist with bachelor's and master’s degrees in journalism, I've covered everything from psychic fairs to Presidents for decades for numerous national publications and websites.
I recognize what was journalism is no more.
Because of corporate media, news is an echo chamber of regurgitated press releases and click bait. Editors want easy stories, sending reporters to cover a meeting, asking a few questions and moving to the next assignment. There's little room for asking why or how. Editors control the content, and the bigwigs who sign the paychecks ultimately control the editor.
Readers, though, crave truth. They want to know what is happening with their tax dollars and in their backyards.
With the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) continuously under threat, the truth matters more than ever. In some cases, the only way to capture the entire picture of a situation is by requesting documents under FOIA.
A lot of people who use FOIA are not connected to a media outlet. They are everyday people, and they hold the keys to journalism's future.
They may not have journalism degrees, but they know how to demand documents and disseminate information, usually on social media, but also online on their own sites.
Although scouring documents for details is important especially when it comes to investigating corruption, but so is knowing what's happening around you.
Hello, spontaneous journalism
Alvie Taylor calls himself an "influence journalist" as the creator of "Just Alvie News."
His Facebook page "Just Alvie News" has more than 23,000 followers. Those numbers don’t lie. You can see them on his page. His viewers are validating him.
Day and night, Alvie keeps his pulse on all things in Saline County's East End and Landmark communities where he lives. His scope sometimes reaches further to Redfield, Sheridan and even Lonoke but his major focus is the place he calls home.
Alvie is on the scene whether it's a homicide, a car crash or an escaped emu.
“I beat corporate media a lot of times to the scene,” he said. “Then the corporate media won't run it.”
While corporate media ponders the value of the story in dollars like paying for gas, Alvie just goes.
Unlike traditional broadcast journalists with big cameras, Alvie only uses a Galaxy A23 and stabilizers for a steady shot. He clicks Facebook Live and disseminates the news.
If Alvie is standing there, telling you what is happening and you can see it live, it's reality. It's news, and people need it.
What is a news desert?
Alvie is a different breed of journalist that is needed now as more and more news deserts are created in the United States.
A news desert can occur in rural or urban areas as well as inner cities, neighborhoods and suburban towns.
Many media scholars have described news deserts as “a geographic or administrative area, or a social community, where it is difficult or impossible to access sufficient, reliable, diverse and independent local, regional and community media and information.”
Many Arkansans live in a news desert where their local newspaper, if they even have one, is owned by a big company not an individual who lives in the town like the old days.
Media corporations often gobble up local newspapers and either kill them or create a shell of what was a beloved weekly community treasure — unique, eccentric, and relevant to its residents.
Alvie is far from corporate.
He's a one-man operation focused on giving his viewers and readers what they want – hyperlocal news – that affect the lives of residents in the communities he covers.
Alvie's Facebook page, groups and other social media accounts (Instagram, YouTube, X and TikTok) cover crime and car crashes. He calls out city council members, cops and community leaders and recaps courts.
He mixes in memes and mental health stories – including his own – recovery help and community news like an upcoming holiday parade in Maple Creek Farms and store grand openings.
Quirky with a blond mohawk, Alvie charms on camera and in person as we recently sat in Cravings, a cozy coffee shop and restaurant in East End.
Of course, he knows Cravings owner, Nancy Drew – yes, her name is Nancy Drew. He also knows about the shenanigans in this East End area called Hope Valley and has reported on the stolen sod that someone ripped up around Cravings.
Sod may seem trivial – someone actually stealing sod – but no. Theft is theft, and a local community deserves to know. Their sod may be next.
“They see it as all the small crimes add up and turn into big ones... plus they have pride in their community and when new things are messed with its like a slap on the face,” Alvie said.
“That was not the most important thing that happened that night, but it was different enough to catch people's attention,” he said. “One of things that I preached the first year was that this was our community, it was our job to take care of it and make better. I encouraged them to no longer ignore the small things to post and let their names be known.”
Alvie knows that a story like this and the runaway emu play well on social media for their humor factor.
“When I first started, crime was getting more and more out of control. I told them to be hyperfocused on what is going on in town,” Alvie said. "For almost six months several of us would drive around in shifts around … the community and in the high theft areas over time we started seeing a reduction in the thefts and break-ins.”
Alvie also posts “Most Wanted” photos like this one from the Benton Police Department.
But Alvie's real ace-in-the-hole is his Facebook Live feeds where his followers interact with him. Yes, Alvie has become a popular local celebrity, and that helps him get news tips from sources while increasing his viewership. Alvie builds trust like newspaper publishers and columnists once did.
The Pandemic Led Alvie to His Path
Always a curious kid, Alvie read the newspaper – the printed kind – every morning in elementary school. He studied journalism in high school and worked on the yearbook. Although he moved to Florida and Texas for corporate jobs, Alvie returned to Arkansas.
In 2020during covid, he seized the opportunity to discuss what was happening during the pandemic. When Facebook locked down his account, he came up with a new page "Just Alvie News" in the middle of the night.
In the uncertain chaos of covid, Alvie found a desire to connect with the world as much as the world wanted to connect with him.
From covid, he became interested in the 2021 Hunter Brittain murder case.
Brittain was an unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by a Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy near Cabot. This case is ongoing, and Alvie has followed it continuously.
If Alvie thinks his followers are interested in a topic, he covers it. If he's unaware of a topic, they let him know.
He recently live streamed a meeting in Sheridan that was held to discuss stray dogs and the city's dog pound with local rescue members and city and county officials.
Alvie captured an important moment. A local activist said he'd donate a $1,000 to start putting dogs “down.”
Is that important in the scheme of world affairs? Not exactly. Is it important to animal activists around Sheridan and tax payers? It sure is. By the time the weekly newspaper hit, the meeting would have been old news.
That's why this brave new type of journalism is important – to inform the public and report the news that matters to them quickly.
And Alvie has a right to do it.
“The First Amendment is my press pass,” Alvie said.
[“Just Alvie News” is completely independent. Help him out by visiting his Facebook page.]
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