Boyle Heights Beat is ‘Por y Para la Comunidad’
As news deserts expand across the country, the tight-knit historic immigrant community of Boyle Heights is home to a groundbreaking journalism project that has become the community’s trusted source.
Praised nationally for its unique model of community reporting, Boyle Heights Beat is driven by journalist-trained high school reporters who are often the first-generation children of immigrant residents. The news agenda is driven by youth and input from the community members who read it. This is news done differently.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, “por y para la comunidad,” which means, ‘for and by the community,’” says Kris Rivera, executive director and publisher. “This isn’t about reporters from outside the community, scooping in and doing a story and heading back out. We train youth reporters who live and are invested in the community.”
This was never more important than during COVID. As Los Angeles was asked to lock down and work from home, the narrative was very different for communities like Boyle Heights.
“This is a community that was really affected by COVID,” Rivera says. “We did a lot of amazing pieces about what it was like for parents, uncles, aunts, who had that fear of going to work every day. They didn’t have a choice. They worked in fast food or as janitors or as first responders. Many residents here didn’t have the luxury of working from home.”
They also sought out answers for residents, especially those seeking information in Spanish to questions about vaccines, testing, why numbers were so high or simply what was safe.
Boyle Heights Beat publishes bi-lingual Spanish and English quarterly print editions with a circulation of 38,000 and a monthly podcast Radio Pulso. A fixture in the community after 12 years, they are now followed by mainstream publications looking for insight.
This year, Boyle Heights Beat opened a dual office/community space in the heart of the neighborhood and were able to hire a former student reporter as a full-time community news reporter after he graduated from college.
“Boyle Heights Beat offered me the guidance and mentorship I needed to find my way in life,” says Alex Medina, that newly hired community news reporter. “My mentors helped me transform my hobby of writing into journalism. As a recent college graduate, I’ve returned to the program that gave me the support I needed in order to give back and support other students and community members.“
Its unique model also provides vital support and education, including professional mentorship for hundreds of student reporters. Most go onto college and some into journalism. Many return to give back to Boyle Heights.
“You see them become curious and care and develop a relationship with their own community,” says Rivera. “It’s inspiring. It’s what this is about.”
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Contact: Kris Kelley Rivera
Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community news project produced by youth, offering “noticias por y para la comunidad,” or “news by and for the community.” Boyle Heights Beat offers a unique brand of community journalism, built around neighborhood meetings that youth reporters lead each quarter to solicit ideas and hear concerns.
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I joined Boyle Heights Beat to grow my writing skills and I gained so much more. I didn’t always know what I wanted my career to be, but Boyle Heights Beat helped me build confidence to make that decision. I am currently a journalism student at Long Beach State, a College Journalism Network Fellow with CalMatters, and I am back working with Boyle Heights Beat as community outreach coordinator. My first ever story with BHB was a print and radio story about a homeless community college student who had aged out of the foster care system and was struggling in college. During my interview I remember how appreciative she was towards me for caring about her story. At that moment I realized how powerful it is to be able to help tell someone their story. This story caught the attention of a Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees member and the radio story got picked up by KCRW and resulted in donations for housing three college students. I will always take pride in how this story informed listeners and readers and also motivated them to take action.
Launch the Next Great Community Journalists
Boyle Heights Beat is the only Eastside nonprofit news source in Los Angeles. A groundbreaking model, the Beat supports and trains student journalists, who source news from their own community, providing vital information on COVID, news, politics, and local profiles that the community trusts.
This year, the nonprofit is raising $50,000 to start a fellowship program for new college graduates for professional training to become community journalists.
With good sources of local information more important than ever, you can help sustain local journalism and expand Boyle Heights Beat’s vision of local news, “por y para la comunidad,” for and by the community.
California Community Foundation
The California Endowment
Elevate Youth California
Emerson Collective LLC
USC Good Neighbors
Yerba Buena Foundation