Spreading the news

When weather closes schools and other agencies, they often have just hours, if not minutes, to spread the word.

That’s where FlashNews Network comes in. Craig Walker is the founder and sole operator the web-based news distribution service in Vancouver that serves 800 organizations in Washington, Oregon and five other states.

Clients can use the system from any computer with internet access to post news releases with video clips, sound bites and photos. Once news is posted it goes to daily and weekly media outlets and custom mailing lists. 

Walker’s work began 28 years ago when he wrote and distributed school closure news for Multnomah Education Service District. That was before fax machines and the internet. At one time he used a “bat phone” to call multiple newsrooms with one button.

“I think smoke signals and carrier pigeons were the only two (methods) I hadn’t used,” he said.

That changed nine years ago, when Walker had web-based software designed to do the job and FlashNews was born.

In about 2001 FlashNews branched into general news releases and they became its bread and butter. It now has 250 non-school clients in the Vancouver-Portland metro area, where 500 news releases go out monthly. In Clark County, 80 organizations use the service including police and fire departments, its fastest growing clientele sector.

Services start at $125 per year and go up to $300. Nonprofits pay $90 and some serving basic human needs, like Share and the Oregon Food Bank, get the service for free. Walker can afford this because FlashNews spreads the cost of news distribution so thin.

FlashNews brought in between $100,000 and $200,000 this year. The biggest costs for the home-based business lie in travel and internet bills.

Recently added services include FlashBite, which sends news via phone as MP3 files; FlashAlert, sending releases with text messages and e-mail; and a feature requested by local TV stations that lets organizations post emergency releases directly on their web sites. Media outlets are charged for that service, but don’t pay for FlashNews otherwise.

“Someone needs to own the system,” Walker said, adding that he doesn’t want to be a media puppet.

Partnership with the media came easily because they asked Walker for it.

“I try to keep in mind who the media wants to hear from,” he said. “My people have been pretty good about not putting fluff out.”

FlashNews Network of Craig Walker Communications
Craig Walker, founder and president

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com.

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