Central Coast residents continue to grieve the death of freelance journalist and photographer Matthew Frank, who garnered a massive online following for reporting local breaking news as SLOStringer.
The SLOStringer’s social media pages that once provided thousands of followers with spot news on accidents, fires, emergencies, road closures, and other events in the county were flooded with condolences after Frank was killed in
a vehicle crash in the early morning hours of March 21.
“Thank you for your service to the SLO community,” one reader wrote on the SLOStringer Facebook page. “Although I did not personally know you, your page was my first and last stop each day. You, and your journalistic
- PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK
- SLOSTRINGER: 30-year-old Matthew Frank, who gained large online following breaking news on the Central Coast as SLOStringer, died in a vehicle accident March 21.
Frank operated anonymously as SLOStringer, and many of his readers didn’t know his identity until his death. Jacquelyn Frank, his mother, described her son as a “gifted and smart” individual who wanted to help others and keep his community informed.
“He loved it. It was his passion,” she said. “Matthew never wanted accolades.”
True to form, Frank asked that his name not be published when SLOStringer won “Best Social Media Presence” in last year’s annual New Times Best of SLO County reader’s poll. In a 2016 email to New Times, Frank said he started working as SLOStringer around 2011. He said he wanted to cover important local news and events in the community that other outlets would not, or could not, cover.
“The citizens of SLO County (and beyond) should know what’s really happening in our community,” Frank wrote. “The bad AND good.”
Initially Frank said he hoped to sell his photos and footage to local media outlets, but found that many were uninterested or lacked the budget to pay for freelance work.
“By that time, however, the general public started to get
That direct approach gained Frank a large and loyal audience on social media sites like Facebook, where the SLOStringer now boasts more than 55,000 followers, as well as another 12,000 on Instagram. Despite the large online following, Frank said he made little-to-no money from his work as SLOStringer and paid for equipment, travel, and other expenses mostly out of his own pocket.
Frank was a fixture at breaking new scenes along the Central Coast, often among the first to arrive on scene. His work brought him into close and near-constant contact with local fire departments and law enforcement agencies, whom he expressed admiration for and sought to portray in a fair and accurate light, even offering digital and print copies of his photos to government agencies and first responders for free.
“Mainstream media is very quick to jump on any negative aspects of law enforcement/emergency responders, but seems to lack a lot of the positive side,” he wrote. “I’m trying to bring back some of that balance.”
After his death, several area police and fire agencies took to social media to praise Frank’s work as SLOStringer.
“Matt’s reporting was a welcomed and refreshing insight to the many daily acts of public service that so often go unreported,” a statement from the CHP’s Coastal Division Air Patrol’s Facebook page read.
Jacquelyn Frank said that the online outpouring from those who knew him as SLOStringer was heartening.
“They loved him, and now, as a proud mother and father, we’re able to say that he’s our son,” she said. “He was a hero to many people. He was certainly our hero. There’s a big hole in our hearts.”