I first learned that ambulance service in the Mahoning Valley was in trouble while writing a routine story about a levy on the ballot in one of the communities I covered for The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio’s daily newspaper.
Since completing the story, I have heard from paramedics and Youngstown area residents, wanting to add their voices and perspectives to the public’s knowledge of this problem
A local fire chief explained that he was supporting the ambulance levy after two residents of the community had heart attacks in the spring and each was forced to wait about 30 minutes for an ambulance.
While the residents survived, their stories illustrated that private ambulance services in the Youngstown area were so increasingly unreliable that communities with the resources to do so were taking EMS service into their own hands.
The more questions I asked about this situation, the more I learned that nearly everyone in the area had a story to tell about how a local ambulance failed them or someone they know. Prior to receiving The Center for Community Solutions’ Health and Human Services Reporting Grant, I had skimmed the surface of this topic. As the reporting team at The Vindicator grew leaner, the demands of daily coverage didn’t leave much room for in-depth projects like this one.
When papers like The Vindicator shut down, coverage might go away, but the issues themselves certainly don’t.
During my time at The Vindicator, I was technically an “intern” making $10 an hour for a 40-hour work week. The grant from Community Solutions provided the necessary resources for me to pursue this story while maintaining daily coverage of my beats.
In late June, I learned that I won the grant the same week I learned that I would lose my job when it was announced that, after 150 years, The Vindicator would close at the end of August.
The fact that these two things happened in the same week felt like the perfect illustration of the current state of journalism. First of all, doing good work does not translate to job security. More importantly, there are so many important stories that local journalists don’t have the resources to tell. When papers like The Vindicator shut down, coverage might go away, but the issues themselves certainly don’t.
I raced against the clock to complete the project before the Vindicator closed. Thanks to the doggedness and flexibility of the folks at Community Solutions and my editor, I was able to finish the story to run during the Vindicator’s final week. When the paper closed August 30, analytics showed the ambulance story was among the paper’s top 10 stories for 2019 on Vindy.com.
Since completing the story, I have heard from paramedics and Youngstown area residents, wanting to add their voices and perspectives to the public’s knowledge of this problem. As the Youngstown Fire Department adopts new cost-cutting measures this fall, the issue of ambulance service will take on new complexities.
I no longer work at The Vindicator, but I decided to stay in Youngstown to report for Mahoning Matters, the first site of The Compass Experiment, a project of McClatchy and Google. At Mahoning Matters, I intend to continue to explore this important issue.