The antidote for anyone who despairs about the future of journalism is to attend a get-together of community bloggers.
Yesterday, The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program brought together people from across California who lead community-focused journalism to learn more about what they do and whether our training program could be of assistance. For some, blogging was a hobby. For others, it was a profession. For all, the primary motivation was a public-spirited goal of filling news gaps and keeping people informed. Here are few of the talented people we met:
- Erick Huerta, an East Los Angeles College journalism student, writes about the Eastside via several outlets: his personal blog, Just a Random Hero, on The Eastsider and Taco . In describing why he blogs, Erick says, “Growing up without a legal status in the United States is a unique experience. I personally never had help from others in dealing with my legal status, what to do about it or how to cope with it. As a result of my experience, I want to help out the next generation of kids growing up like me and help them realize that life goes on no matter what happens. I want to help them realize their full potential before the world takes it away from them.” Here’s Erick’s post about yesterday’s community blogger session.
- Devin Browne is the creator of MacArthurParkMedia.com, featuring stories set in and around the Los Angeles immigrant neighborhood of the MacArthur Park. Devin told us about her latest project called The Entry Way, in which she and another reporter are “living with family from Mexico, now in MacArthur Park, to learn a foreign language so that we may better report on our own native city and country. We are paying rent, they are teaching us Spanish. More, we are living in their America: we are eating tostadas and falling asleep to telenovelas, we are going on Sundays to the Pentecostal church under a tarp with fluorescent lighting and full band, we are navigating a neighborhood in which nearly everything that happens is illegal: the fake IDs, the drugs, the extortion, the prostitutes in the panaderias, even the street vendors who sell tamales on the run.” You’ll become a fan after seeing this multimedia story about the tamaleros created by Devin and her reporting partner, Kara Mears.
- Echa Schneider’s day job is with the Oakland Public Library, but after hours she runs ABetterOakland.com, focused on land use, transportation and other important local issues. Her 17 local contributors include Mayor Ron Dellums, and her online discussions are hopping, with numerous posts drawing more than 100 comments. I was entertained by the video titled “Who turns tricks in front of grandma?” about a local public works committee discussion on funding public restrooms in Oakland. Who says public policy is boring?
As inspiring as it was to hear about this work, I also was concerned about burnout, especially among the “one man band” operations. Jose Arballo Jr., editor of Southwest Riverside News Network, said he has had three days off since August. Jake Bayless, founder of the Empire Report, is publicly asking for others to take over the site so he can spend more time with his family.
I wish more traditional media outlets would be open to the opportunity of partnering with these new voices instead of regarding them as competitors. Regardless of where and how they work, journalists tell stories so they can be heard. Traditional media still have a huge megaphone, but fewer things to say these days given staff cutbacks. Partnering with promising local sites seems like a smarter, and probably cheaper, strategy than waiting for the day when there is more advertising revenue to hire back more full-time reporters.