Crystal Proxmire is a freelance writer for Between The Lines. But what many readers may not know is that she also runs a website dedicated to her hometown, Ferndale. The 31-year-old resident covers city politics, crime, news and more on Ferndale 115.
1 Why did you decide to start Ferndale 115?
When I was 6 years old, my siblings and I were kidnapped and taken across the country for several months. When the FBI brought us back to town, a local news channel did a story against my dad’s wishes. They made several mistakes, including calling my brother a daughter. From then on my dad was very critical of the media. In high school I was misquoted in the local paper as saying that the AP tests were “a brain drain.” Then, when I was 21, my dad shot himself in the parking lot of the Madison Heights Police Department and the local papers refused to cover it.
All those things, along with the over-commercialization of national media, made me want to start my own paper to do the kind of job that I always envisioned a good reporter doing. I got involved in online news groups and figured out that this was going to be the future news source. I started an online paper in Muskegon first, where I was living after college, but it was just too soon for that area. Ferndale is my home, and I think the best place for this kind of experiment.
2 What do you love most about living in Ferndale?
I grew up here, but I left to get my degree from Grand Valley State and lived on the west side of the state for a while. When I left, Ferndale was becoming a ghost town, but when I came back it seemed new and vibrant again. The LGBT community in particular gave me a place where anyone – even nerdy reporter chicks – can fit in.
In Ferndale, there are over 400 nonprofit groups, as well as many festivals and chances to be involved. Plus lots of stories. It helps that it is walkable.
3 What does your website provide to the community that is unique?
The 115’s motto is to “inform, inspire and unite.” That’s why we’re different – because it’s not about what I can write to satisfy advertisers; it’s about what people really need to know if they want to be informed, inspired and connected to their neighbors. I live here. I share info from a variety of groups. I don’t endorse candidates and I don’t sell out. I also don’t let people post anonymous comments. Those get nasty on other sites and they are often used to spread lies, rumors and misinformation.
In addition to that, we have the most comprehensive list of community events and the most news about Ferndale.
4. How do you hope to further contribute to your community in the future?
My goal is to make the paper successful enough that I can teach others to be reporters and step back to focus on writing novels and nonfiction. I’ve written a book about FTMs, and I am really interested in gender issues (having been raised by a single male has given me an interesting perspective on this), but also there are other issues that I think I could make a difference in.
There are many issues that the world needs more understanding and communication about, but there is also the issue of simply getting people to be aware – not just of the big issues, but about each other. Getting to know their neighbors, getting to understand their local government and learning how to look at issues with a critical – yet open – mind. I think there’s a lot to do.
5 What is your ultimate hope for Ferndale 115?
Financial sustainability so that I can further reach my paper’s goals. I’m only covering about 25 percent of what I could be if I had things like staff, transportation and a good salesperson. Somewhere out there is a person who shares my passion for communication, and also likes money enough to do a good job of advertising sales.
But even above that, I’d like to change the media model and figure out how to make The Ferndale 115 News a truly reader-supported paper, instead of advertising-based.
I also want to get readers more involved with writing. For the first year or so I wouldn’t accept stories unless I could pay the author. I thought that was fair. Yet now I realize that a lot of the rewards of writing are not financial, so I am now open to submissions and I hope a lot more people will feel safe sharing their views of the community.
Get your dose of Ferndale news at www.Ferndale115.com.