Firebrand Media helps forge regional community news network

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Firebrand Media recently joined forces with independent community news publishers in Southern California to confront challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Southern California Community Media Network is the brainchild of five Southern California newspaper owners and publishers who met over Zoom during the pandemic to share ideas on how to best pivot and help each other endure.

“Hyperlocal journalism, which has faced many challenges across the country, is so important to amplify the issues to our communities and provide a voice for all,” said Steve Zepezauer, CEO of Firebrand Media and publisher of the Laguna Beach Independent. “Partnering with other independent publishers through the Southern California Community Media Network allows us to share ideas, collaborate on special projects, and create an advertising network that reaches more than 1.7 million engaged readers. We’re proud to represent Laguna Beach in this new network.”

Among the Network’s members are Picket Fence Media of Dana Point, Reeder Media of Fallbrook, The Coast News Group of Encinitas, and San Diego Community Newspaper Group.

One of the biggest crises facing community newsrooms is Assembly Bill 5, which limits certain industries’ use of independent contractors. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1506 to extend the exemption for newspaper distributors working under contract with a newspaper until Jan. 1, 2025.

A state-mandated increase in labor costs would land in an uncertain time for community newspapers that have already cut costs during the pandemic.

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