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Community News Collaborative Launches with Four Reporters, Editor

The news team will cover a variety of stories in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties.

By Eric Garwood April 27, 2023

The Community News Collaborative consists of, from left, reporters Sarah Owens, Catherine Hicks, Jim DeLa and Alejandro Romero. Editor Eric Garwood, center, leads the team.

The Community News Collaborative consists of, from left, reporters Sarah Owens, Catherine Hicks, Jim DeLa and Alejandro Romero. Editor Eric Garwood, center, leads the team.

The Community News Collaborative (CNC) is ready to begin telling the stories of Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, and you’ll be able to read, see and hear them at your favorite local media outlets.

Launched in 2022 with funding provided by the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, the CNC operates in conjunction with WUSF Public Media to provide an additional level of community news coverage in the region at a time when many newsroom staffs are shrinking.

The five-member CNC news team, based in Sarasota, will produce journalism on a variety of topics for about a dozen media partners including newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

The CNC consists of an executive editor and four multimedia reporters. News staffers are employees of WUSF Public Media, itself one of the CNC’s partners, though the CNC operates independently.

“It is wonderful to see the Community News Collaborative fully staffed and delivering content,” Barancik Foundation president and CEO Teri A Hansen said. “This will provide our partners with a steady flow of stories about our community, many of them that have not been covered in recent years. Most importantly, the CNC will help boost civic engagement and knowledge for many, many of our neighbors.”

Among the topics CNC journalists will report on: the environment, grassroots education, social and criminal justice issues, development and underserved communities. 

Here are the journalists who form the CNC:

Catherine Hicks is a graduate of University of South Florida where she is also finishing a masters degree in digital journalism. She served as a digital producer for Fox 21 TV in Denver, Colorado, while also running a freelance reporting and copy writing business. She is a native of Pinellas County and served as a graduate teaching assistant at USF. Hicks is particularly interested in issues of mental
health and the environment. She can be reached at [email protected]

Sarah Owens is a graduate of Milligan University, where she played intercollegiate soccer before joining the staff of the Johnson City Press in Tennessee as a reporter. She has focused on issues of social justice, cultural practices, mental health and criminal justice. Owens was the editor in chief of her campus newspaper and is a native of Alabaster, Alabama.  Sarah can be reached at [email protected]

Jim DeLa is a veteran of the news business, serving in a variety of roles over four decades. He’s worked in television, newspapers and radio while reporting, editing and supervising teams of journalists. He was the night metro editor of the Bradenton Herald, worked in university offices of communications and was director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. In his spare time, DeLa is a baseball and softball umpire. He most recently served as a digital producer at WWSB-TV in Sarasota. Jim can be reached at [email protected]

Alejandro Romero is the CNC’s video specialist. He is familiar with the people and issues of Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties after his time as a multi-media journalist, producer and occasional anchor for Suncoast News Network, where he worked for about three years. You can reach Alejandro at [email protected]

Leading the team is Executive Editor Eric Garwood, who most recently served as managing editor of the Observer Media Group’s news operations in Sarasota-Siesta Key and Longboat Key. Garwood, 60, has been a reporter, page designer, editor and newsroom leader for 39 years at newspapers in Florida and North Carolina. If you have story ideas for the news team, reach out to Eric at [email protected].

This story is courtesy of the Community News Collaborative, made possible by a gift from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. 

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