Neighborhood news is good news
Oh, the trouble that awaits a teen with too much time on his hands. Drugs and delinquency. A summer job at Hot Dog on a Stick. Shudder to think.
But now thanks to Access Sacramento, one group of Sacramento youths will instead spend the summer as journalists—a whole different sort of trouble.
“These are kids who have never been told that their opinion is important. And they have more nuanced opinions than you might think,” said Isaac Gonzales, who serves as mentor and assignment editor for Access Sacramento’s Neighborhood News youth-correspondent program.
The young reporters have been productive in their first few weeks, as you can see by visiting www.accesslocal.tv.
For example, one post skewers high-school zero-tolerance policies, from the point of view of someone who has been kicked out of school. Another correspondent gives an enthusiastic review of Oak Park’s Happy Takeout Chinese restaurant.
One enterprising reporter documented the city’s Cut Your Cubes carbon-pollution-awareness event downtown, and also covered a pedestrian and bike-safety-traffic study that’s happening in south Sacramento. One student wrote about cuts to advanced-placement classes and other needed programs in her high school, while another did a write-up of the proposed McDonald’s drive-thru that was rejected by the Sacramento City Council in Oak Park.
The program is an outgrowth of Access Sacramento’s Neighborhood News program, which has been going for about a year, and gets its funding from the California Endowment.
Some of the money is being used to pay students a small stipend every week for their work.
“The results have been pretty amazing,” said Gonzales, who admits that he himself was “kind of a punk” when he was younger.
“For some nonprofits, the best they can do is give the kids a place to be for two hours, where they’re not going to do something bad,” said Gonzales. But neighborhood news correspondents are on the hook for certain “deliverables” every week, including a 200- to 500-word story, a three-minute video, and attending a weekly production meeting. The students also take part in a podcast every other week, and “they even have press passes. So they can go out and talk to people and say, ‘I’m with Access Sacramento.’”
Ron Cooper, the executive director of Access Sacramento, hopes the Neighborhood News experiment can help make provide better coverage for neighborhoods that have always been underserved, “and now are even more poorly served because of the cutbacks in newsrooms.”
Long before everybody had a Tumblr and a Twitter feed, Access Sacramento has tried to get the tools of the media into the hands of the people. (The Access Sacramento mission statement is “Giving voice to the thoughts, dreams, opinions and community events not otherwise seen or heard on commercial and public radio, television and other popular forms of media.”)
“I like to think that what we do is sort of a social laboratory. We can try new things,” said Cooper.