NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership: The Occidental, Boulevard Sentinel announce local reporting collaboration

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The Occidental is excited to announce the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership (NELA NRP), a professional collaboration between our Community News section and the Boulevard Sentinel. NELA NRP represents an investment both in the futures of our own student journalists and in the future of reliable journalism for the communities of NELA.

“I am most excited about this partnership because I believe that student journalists can be part of the solution to disappearing hyperlocal news in this country. Our partnership can lead the way for collaboration with local news sites and trained student journalists,” Barbara Thomas said, The Occidental’s staff advisor and a former reporter and executive news editor at the Los Angeles Times (1989–2014).

Spring 2021, The Occidental will expand our local reporting and hire a dedicated Community News team to report on the neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Mt. Washington and Elysian Valley — with opportunities to publish work and be paid by both The Occidental and Boulevard Sentinel. In addition to co-publishing, members of the NELA NRP will have access to a network of ‘Industry Guides:’ local, professional journalists who can provide writing feedback, industry insights and general advice to our early-career journalists.

Former editor-in-chief Matthew Reagan (senior) and Kathy Ou (junior) will continue in their roles as Community News editors to oversee the inaugural semester of the partnership.

The Occidental’s Community News section will work closely with Boulevard Sentinel owner and editor, Teresa Tritch-Hendrickson. Before returning home to Eagle Rock to run the Boulevard Sentinel, Tritch-Hendrickson’s career in journalism has included time in Washington, D.C. as the senior editor and bureau chief for Money magazine and in New York as a member of The New York Times Editorial Board (2004–2017).

“The partnership is urgent for the Boulevard Sentinel because any local news outlet that has managed to survive so far has to explore every possible model and collaboration that will enable them to keep publishing,” Tritch-Hendrickson said. “The Neighborhood Reporting Partnership will provide opportunities for Oxy’s student journalists while helping the Sentinel to continue providing high-quality local coverage. The collaboration could also be a model for other papers and communities to follow to help ensure the viability of a local press.”

In hiring for the Community News section, The Occidental will be intentional about providing this opportunity to students from communities that are underrepresented in our newsroom. It is The Occidental’s responsibility, given its role as a learning paper, to ensure that the next generation of journalists it trains consists of people from communities who have historically been denied a role in the newsroom. Specifically hiring staff of Black, Latino, Indigenous, queer and underresoured backgrounds is a required step to adequately cover our campus and the surrounding community.

NELA NRP represents a major step The Occidental is taking to provide access to industry opportunities in a field that often pulls from a select group. An Asian American Journalists Association analysis found in Summer 2018 “65 percent of interns” from seven leading national and regional news organizations “attended a group of intensely selective universities that make up just 13 percent of U.S. four-year colleges.”

The partnership comes at a crucial time for local newspapers and student journalists, Hendrickson said.

“The loss of so many local and regional news outlets means that student journalists face limited opportunities,” Tritch-Hendrickson said. “By teaming up with the Boulevard Sentinel, The Occidental journalists are taking advantage of the fact that their coverage area — Northeast L.A. — is still served by a local paper that can use and develop their skills.”

NELA NRP is the latest investment in our Community News section since its launch with one part-time editor in Spring 2017. In Fall 2018 one full time editor was hired. During the 2019–2020 academic year, staffed with two full-time editors, the section published the most articles of any section in the newsroom.

Over the course of this fall semester, The Occidental and Boulevard Sentinel have piloted the partnership — co-publishing coverage of local mail operations, COVID-19 and Scholl Canyon. More articles are currently in the works to be published before semester’s end.

The Occidental will announce specifics on the partnership, including details about the application and hiring process after the college has made an announcement regarding instruction for the Spring 2020 semester. According to college president Harry J. Elam Jr., LA County will issue updated guidance on higher education for next semester in late November or early December.