New correspondents share importance of community news

By Jennifer Neutel

Oakland Voices participants tackle journalism challenges through program

Tiffany Lacsado says she feels blessed to have the opportunity to be an Oakland Voices correspondent, and is looking to bring awareness to community issues that go unnoticed through her writing.

A non-profit worker in her mid-30s, with a two-year-old son and a baby on the way, Lacsado has mixed feelings about her East Oakland, Calif. community.

“I have some strong critical opinions about this community and yet I’m still very protective over this community,” Lacsado says, noting different communities of color, immigrants and refugees have all found a home in the area.

Oakland Voices — run in partnership with The Oakland Tribune, Bay Area News Group and Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education with a grant from The California Endowment — is running its third cohort engaging 12 East Oakland residents in a nine-month program. It aims to put the power of storytelling in the hands of East Oakland residents who often have a unique perception of their neighborhood.

A Pacific Islander originally from Guam, Lacsado says East Oakland is home to one-third of the county’s Pacific Island population. She sees the Pacific Islander community going through a renaissance, and says she has a timely opportunity to be a positive influence through engaging in the media and writing stories that highlight assets in her community.

Lacsado says she’s always played with writing in different forms, including screen writing, music writing, poetry, prose and creative non-fiction. She was looking to try something that had a bit more structure, and thought the opportunity to be an Oakland Voices correspondent would be an interesting kind of writing to try.

Reflecting on her first few weeks in the program, Lacsado says the deadlines have been difficult given all the other activities in her life. Interviewing people for stories has been another challenge.

“It was hard for me to be an attentive listener and then write. I felt like I was being disrespectful by writing while they were talking and people were really passionate about what they were talking about,” she says.

Lacsado has also been grappling with how much information to include in a story. As someone who has always believed in “minimal words and maximum impact,” she says it’s been difficult determining how much information readers need in order to have the appropriate amount of context, and has since surprised herself with how much she can write.

“It just started for us but it’s a great program and I hope more news outlets have programs like this,” Lacsado says, pointing to the program’s cofounder Martin Reynolds as a trailblazer.

Fellow Oakland Voices correspondent Saa’un Bell says she’s noticed there are less reporters on the ground who capture what’s happening in the community. Her interest in being an Oakland Voices correspondent is also to tell the stories that often go untold and are important to the community, she says.

“A lot of things that are happening in our communities that we don’t necessarily know and we should know,” Bell says.

When she interviewed for the Oakland Voices program she shared how the less education people have the less likely they are to be engaged in the news, as they can’t afford newspaper delivery and may not have Internet access.

“I think it’s important in that news outlets engage their communities….To say we want you to be able to cover stories in your own community, especially given what we know what’s happening in the news industry,” Bell says.

Bell notes the program has made her more understanding of why things are reported in the way that they are, and she has a newfound respect for how reporters look to include both sides of a story.

For her, the challenging part is going out into the community to get a story and build trust with the community person. Generally, the communities have their own community news reports and newsletters so having people open up can be difficult, Bell says, noting it is helpful to have an Oakland Tribune press pass.

Bell says the experience so far as an Oakland Voices correspondent has been amazing.

“Oakland is such a diverse city. The cohort that we have represents the diversity of Oakland so you get the diversity of unique and interesting stories — stories that definitely should be told. I think so far my experience has been really great,” she says.

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Writer: Jennifer Neutel

— Oakland Voices is one of three pilot sites participating in the ASNE/Journalism That Matters partnership exploring how and why news organizations are engaging with their communities. This story is written by Axiom News

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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