Teenagers in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles, are taking media and reporting into their own hands and telling the stories that are directly impacting their community from a first-hand point of view.
The unique and very personal approach of having the neighborhood’s teenagers report these authentic stories has caught the attention of several national media organizations including The Los Angeles Times.
The Boyle Heights Beat was born because mainstream news sources were often leaving out stories about Boyle Heights.
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According to the website, Boyle Heights Beat is a collaborative project born between USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism and La Opinión newspaper to give the predominately Latino neighborhood bilingual news about what is happening in Boyle Heights. The opportunity to report on topics such as immigration and gentrification as they see them affect their neighbors is given through Boyle Heights’ local newspaper, Boyle Heights Beat, or Pulso de Boyle Heights.
“Boyle Heights was not adequately covered by mainstream papers like the Los Angeles Times,” Michelle Levander, a co-founder and publisher of the Boyle Heights Beat, told NBC Latino. “So we thought, who knows a community better than its youth?”
With that, Levander and Pedro Rojas of La Opinión newspaper formed Boyle Heights Beat in 2010 and began recruiting Boyle Heights teens to cover issues and stories that mattered to them. According to NBC Latino, the teens do not need to have experience in their high school newspapers and are required to attended two news meetings a week as well as a journalism boot camp to teach them all the journalism basics.
Most of the reporting for the newspaper is done by teen members of the Boyle Heights community. The newspaper is always looking for new writers to continue their mission of covering Boyle Heights like nobody else does.
Teens interested in working for Boyle Heights Beat must be enrolled at one of the five Boyle Heights high school since the mission is to have the youth of the neighborhood cover the neighborhood. The opportunity to work for Boyle Heights Beat gives students a chance to learn about the field of journalism as well as their own community.
“Before I joined the Beat, I wasn’t really aware of issues in my community. I was just kind of like, I live here, whatever. But doing the Beat has really shown me a deeper appreciation for the community, for where I come from, and for where the community comes from,” Boyle Heights Beat reporter Saul Soto told NBC Latino. “It’s given me a newfound love for this place and I love it. I really love it.”