Written by Edward Smith
In 2016, news junkies across the Valley discovered a new source for insight into politics and city hall — Granville Homes’ GV Wire.
Born out of a desire to “inform and educate Fresno residents about the issues that impact our lives today,” GV Wire is the homebuilder’s attempt to break through the dozen or so media outlets in the Valley and dig for itself a niche in the area of civic and political reporting, according to Darius Assemi, president of Granville homes.
Assemi said the idea of a media outlet was in the works for several years. He has been vocal about Central Valley politics, but it wasn’t until recently that, according to Assemi, the technology and the way people are getting their news opened up an opportunity to start the organization.
“We’ve been involved in politics for a long time,” Assemi said. “This is an opportunity to help educate and inform Fresno residents about issues that matter to them and will matter to them down the road.”
Issues from immigration to public safety policy and water to housing affordability keep their small staff busy, according to Bill McEwen, news manager at GV Wire.
But the biggest beat the organization finds itself in is local politics, an area that McEwen and Assemi feel is underserved when it comes to news coverage.
The advantage to covering an underserved area is that they don’t face the same pressures that traditional news outlets face, according to lead reporter David Taub, who has been with GV Wire from nearly the beginning.
“We are willing to pour through what may seem like the mundane of a government agenda, and find the items that really will affect our community,” Taub said.
One of the regular segments of the online publication is his “Politics 101,” which covers issues ranging from campaign finance to city hall pressures on rental property inspections.
“I saw a void in our community about understanding some of this legislation,” Assemi said. “We have a lot of great news outlets here locally, but I saw a void in the market where we could do in-depth analysis on air quality or water or immigration that impacts us here locally.”
Filling this void is still something Assemi has been getting used to, and, as he puts it, it has been a learning experience.
As the news outlet learned and grew, GV Wire needed staff to back it up.
For that, Assemi brought on McEwen, whose previous credentials go back 35 years with The Fresno Bee, including time served as their opinion-page editor.
“I joined GV Wire because it presented an incredible opportunity to build a digital news site from the ground up and to work with highly talented and motivated people,” McEwen said. “I see GV Wire growing quickly and having a tremendous positive impact on the community and, over time, on the state of California.”
As it grows, the news team recognizes the need for modern-style reporting.
“Many people like to read, but many of us want to see a video,” Assemi said. “I can get a gist of a story in a 30-second or one-minute video [where] everything is explained to me. If I have time I’ll read the article, but if I don’t, I’m onto my next topic.
To keep that interest, they recently hired Jamie Ouverson as a “story-teller” for video projects and “think-pieces.”
The ability to move people and stir them to action is what they want from their storyteller, according to McEwen.
“The ability to tell a story is really important,” McEwen said. “Every story today is competing in the marketplace to draw attention, to be that magic thing that will make people read it. If you write stories and they aren’t being read, you’re filling in a diary.”
One particular portion of the marketplace GV Wire is hoping to illuminate is that of the decision-makers.
Alongside a website overhaul and their regular news submissions, McEwen hopes to be back doing what he did at The Bee — writing and editing opinion pieces and editorials.
The hope would be to draw experts and legislators to write on relevant topics, such as transportation. “[We’d] identify a California transportation expert and ask him to write 650-700 words, and we’d publish it in what we’re going to call ‘issues.’”
The news is still something GV Wire is growing and adapting to, as Assemi will not hesitate to say.
But, he and the GV Wire staff view it as a different kind of news outlet with the ability to be nimble.
“We don’t have the financial pressures that other media face,” Taub said. “We can devote the time and manpower to provide high-quality work and explain issues such as government accountability, immigration, education, economy and how it all comes together.”