From Kristen Hare | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject When local news is connective tissue
Date September 20, 2023 12:34 PM
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Jessica Perez is the community editor for De Los from the Los Angeles Times. Perez joined the Los Angeles Times in 2017 and previously worked in breaking and daily news.

The theme for De Los’ first poetry series ([link removed]) is belonging. For it, through narrated and illustrated stories on Instagram, five poets weave stories of hope ([link removed]) , the ache and ease of home ([link removed]) , agency ([link removed]) , claiming ([link removed]) and the small and ever-present acts of belonging ([link removed]) .
It’s one of community editor Jessica Perez’s favorites so far, and it’s easy to see why. The Los Angeles Times launched De Los ([link removed]) in mid-July, building a space for belonging from the start. The new project covers “everything Latinidad,” with a focus on community building, according to an announcement ([link removed]) at launch time.
“The name literally translates to ‘of the,’ two words that connect a part to the whole when used in a sentence,” an Instagram ([link removed]) post from the project said at the time. “In the same way, De Los is meant to be the connective tissue between the Los Angeles Times and the Latino community.”
The poetry project is also a reflection of how De Los is approaching building and discovering that connective tissue. With a guest editor, the pairing of poets and artists, “it feels like a community project,” Perez said.
And unlike a lot of journalism our industry creates, that community isn’t just inside the Times. Perez’s role is about building relationships outside the newsroom. She plans and coordinates events and helps edit. It’s work similar, in some ways, to her past roles at Boyle Heights Beat ([link removed]) , a community news project.
Compared to the contraction ([link removed]) of Spanish-language and audience coverage happening amongst other local daily newspapers, De Los stands out with a full-time staff of 11. But the same issues causing those contractions in other places haven’t skipped Los Angeles.
In June, the Times announced layoffs ([link removed]) . Those layoffs included people on Perez’s previous team.
“That gutted me,” she said. “The timing was really also right around when we were getting ready to launch. There were a lot of feelings around that. Even within our newsroom, I wanted to make sure that we weren’t being seen as sort of a consolation.”
When De Los did launch, she said, it was hard to celebrate.
“To this day all we can do is continue to push forward in our work and our mission but also we continue to hold our leaders accountable for the way that the newsroom is led.”
That includes making sure that De Los isn’t the only team covering the vast and varied Latino community at the Los Angeles Times.
Success for De Los is in the analytics, of course. One of the poems in the belonging project got more than 32,000 likes on Instagram.
“Also we want to make sure we are really connecting with our audience, that people are sharing, that we also feel like we’re making a difference,” Perez said.
The evidence of that is in the personal comments and emails she and her colleagues see, in the number of community members who reach out and want to be part of De Los’ work, and recently in something more tangible.
In July, freelancer Javier Zamora wrote an op-ed ([link removed]) that the Pulitzer Prize board should consider prizes for noncitizens. Last week, the board announced ([link removed]) it would amend its requirements.
“We are just so proud to be a little bit of a part of that change,” Perez said.
I asked Perez what the rest of us can learn from her work as community editor. Here’s some of what she shared:
For more:
* Check out De Los ([link removed])
* Follow Jessica on Twitter/X ([link removed])
* Keep up with the work of other local newsrooms working to serve Latino communities, including Enlace Latino ([link removed]) NC ([link removed]) and La Noticia ([link removed]) in North Carolina; Arizona Luminaria ([link removed]) ; Pasa la Voz ([link removed]) in Savannah, Georgia; El Tímpano ([link removed]) in California's Bay Area; and the Latino Communities Reporting Lab ([link removed]) in New Jersey.

* Please read Angela Fu's piece for Poynter ([link removed]) on the Las Vegas Review Journal reporter who covered and uncovered the hit-and-run death of a retired police chief and has been the target of harassment since.
* And check out this open letter ([link removed]) from a coalition of organizations on Press Forward and the influx of money into local news. It reads, in part: "As this initiative unfolds and decisions are made about where support is directed, we want to be clear: Racial and ethnic diversity, equity and belonging must be among the pillars of its foundation. An equitable distribution of resources and opportunities ensures that underrepresented voices are heard and elevated by journalists, leaders and publishers who know them best."

That's it for me! It's very nice to be back in the old newsletter saddle again, thanks for all your kind notes last week. It's still sweaty season in Florida, so your fall vibes are appreciated. In that spirit, next week we're talking high school sports coverage. Go sports! 🤭
Kristen Hare
The Poynter Institute
@kristenhare ([link removed])

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