Ashley McMahon reports for the Toledo Free Press and serves as the Community Outreach Manager at Home Instead Senior Care in Toledo. She previously served as Managing Editor for the Ohio-based Blufin Media, and as a producer for WLUW radio in Chicago. In addition, she creates content for her personal food blog,

Out with Big Papers:

Consumers Switching
to Community
News Sites

January 2015


Tucked in among more than 2,000 entries, Sylvania, Ohio resident Ben Tucker was thrilled to learn he was among the finalists in the “Uncle Ben’s: Ben’s Beginners” cooking contest.

With the help of his mother Lisa, the six-year-old submitted a three-minute cooking video demonstrating how to prepare his gluten free, rice pancakes. His recipe and charm nabbed Ben a spot among 100 finalists, vying for the chance to win a $50,000 makeover for their school’s cafeteria.

“I really hope I win,” said Ben, who attends Highland Elementary School in Sylvania. “I want to get new tables for my school.”

Unfortunately, the kindergartner didn’t nab the prize in the end, yet his neighbors were still given the opportunity to hear his story, thanks to Sylvania’s community news website.

At a time when Americans have more choices for news than ever (in this fractured media universe), perhaps surprisingly it’s the smaller venues that are gaining steam. Community news sites, like the one that shared Ben’s cooking efforts, combine old-school newsgathering techniques with social media streams to give people access to what directly matters, and truly affects them most.

With our traditional news system, the consumer receives quality, reasonably unbiased information that a reporter carefully constructs to tell an important story.
Social media gives the user a chance to customize and craft information depending on his or her likes, dislikes and content gathered from the individual’s chosen networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.). Community news combines key qualities from both of these prevalent outlets.

The first time I noticed this shift was when (more…)

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, close to half of all children will experience school bullying at some point.

Bridget Birdsall is a Wisconsin-based writer, teacher and speaker who writes about issues related to race, religion, gender and sexual identity. Her young adult novel, Double Exposure, the story of an intersex teen athlete, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top anti-bullying books published in 2014. Learn more about Bridget at

“It Damaged Him.”
Knocked Down For Being Different

January 2015


Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can actually kill you. Seriously. It happened in our family, it could happen in yours.

My nephew Jeffrey Fehr was different.  He was handsome. He was eighteen years old. He’d been the captain of his high school’s cheer squad and he’d just finished his first semester at college when, on January 1, 2012, Jeffrey hung himself in the front foyer of his family’s California home.

Like me, Jeffrey identified as gay, but like all of us, he simply wanted to fit in and share his gifts with the world. Unfortunately, as his father told the media after his death, “For years and years, people knocked [Jeffrey] down for being different. It damaged him. It wore on him. He could never fully believe how wonderful he was.”

Teens like Jeffrey, who identify as, or who are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning or intersex are four times more likely than their peers to be bullied, to struggle (more…)