What began as one alum’s social media hobby has become an innovative source of news for a small town in Illinois. Digital publication Around Ptown is a civic calling and full-time job for Prophetstown resident Dan Eyrich.
“We lost something as a community when Prophetstown’s weekly newspaper and those in three nearby towns were purchased by a large media company and merged into a single publication,” said Eyrich.
He noticed how the merger led to gaps in coverage of local events including in-person accounts of high school sports and community meetings. Eyrich was a teacher in the Prophetstown school district when he began covering PHS football games live via social media much to the delight of the community. Over time, he added real-time coverage of other sports and events.
Now in its sixth year, Around Ptown’s reach has expanded to include coverage of city council and school board meetings, human interest stories (like Santa and Mrs. Claus' visit), upcoming events, obituaries and since March, the county’s daily COVID case numbers.
Eyrich admits he is much more comfortable behind the camera. He said live video is popular with themore than 5,000 followers of Around Ptown. Sporting events top the list, but residents also appreciate his real-time reporting of river flooding, storm damage and COVID-19 updates.
Eyrich’s typical day starts about 8 a.m. and may stretch into the evening and weekend depending on sports and meeting schedules. When asked if the closeness of a small town complicates his reporting, Eyrich said he is not into investigative journalism or chasing down controversy.
“I try to please everybody, but if something happens that people should know, I write about it even if it upsets a few people,” Eyrich said. “It’s more important than ever to be fair and accurate because there’s so much misinformation out there. The bottom line in all this is keeping our town vibrant and moving forward.”
Dan Eyrich grew up on a farm near Prophetstown, a community of 1,900 on the Rock River in northwest Illinois. He left the area to attend college and after graduation landed his first photojournalism job in North Carolina. After a subsequent stint in Oklahoma City, he took a position with an NBC affiliate in St Louis where he worked behind the camera for 20 years. Dan and wife Sue (Damhoff), also a Prophetstown High School alum, raised their family in the metro east where Dan followed up his first career in broadcasting with a master’s degree in Elementary Ed from SIU Edwardsville and second career as a teacher. When the couple moved back to Prophetstown to be closer to their families, Dan continued teaching until his retirement in 2014.