I started as an editor in this newsroom a little more than a year ago, and it's been inspiring to work alongside journalists committed to public service.
That mission is at the core of everything we do. It permeates how we talk about stories. It's why our reporters, producers, hosts and editors chose to work here. But we know that deepening our connection to our existing audience and finding new listeners and readers are critical to sustaining our newsroom.
That's why over the last few months we've spent quite a bit of time thinking about how we are finding and telling stories, and how we can do an even better job of delivering reporting you won't find anywhere else.
I want to tell you why we decided this was so important, and talk to you about the role we believe our fellow Southern Californians can play in creating a more informed community.
You’ve probably noticed it’s been a tough time for our industry. We have politicians calling reporters the “enemy of the people,” and dismissing stories they don’t like as “fake news.” There's an endless stream of newsroom layoffs.
But we know what we do matters, that the Founding Fathers had it right when they guaranteed a free press in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
So here’s our mission and promise to you:
You deserve great local news – and we need your help to find those stories. We listen to what you’re curious about, what keeps you up at night, and who you want held accountable. We’re inviting you to be part of the conversation.
Of course, it's one thing to write that down and it's another thing to make it happen. We know we have to earn and keep your trust by delivering fair and accurate reporting. We know we need to make important stories interesting. And we also know we need to be more transparent in our process and better explain how we report stories.
It's a big change from when I first started in journalism, and showing your work was largely frowned upon. But I've come to believe that what a lot of traditional journalists thought was self-serving is actually valuable. How would you know it took months of hard work to deliver that one crucial takeaway in an investigation, if we don't tell you? We shouldn't shy away from taking you along on the reporting journey when it makes sense, instead of just waiting to deliver a final story.
We also know the news can feel overwhelmingly negative at times. We talk a lot about how to bring you stories that also inspire you, make you laugh and explain something you always wondered about – even if it isn’t breaking news.
OK. So how do we deliver? I asked our reporters and producers to really think about the communities and crucial issues they cover, and to write their own individual mission statements.
The goal? Spend as much of their time as possible on original stories (and not get stuck echoing information that everyone else is reporting.)
They enthusiastically embraced the assignment. Here are the topics and questions we plan to spend most of our time on in the coming months. Let us know what you think:
How does who you are and where you live affect what kind of justice you get in Southern California?
ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
Josie Huang, covering Asian American communities:
More Asian Americans live in L.A. County than any other county in the U.S. The communities are varied and complex and often invisible in the mainstream media. I tell the stories of recent immigrants and families who have been here for generations to answer the question: How do you navigate the intersection of being Asian and American and what impact does that have on L.A.’s future?
JOBS & THE ECONOMY
David Wagner, covering the economy
The Southern California economy is strong, so why are so many people living paycheck to paycheck? I tell the stories of these Angelenos, their struggles and the many creative ways they make a living. I share information on strategies that can put people on the path to greater prosperity.
Adolfo Guzman Lopez, covering higher education
I focus stories on college students who are at a crossroads, particularly those on the first rung into higher education. Many of those students are trying to overcome academic and other challenges because they believe college will be the path to a better life. How do the people around them – in their personal lives and at the institutions they attend – help or hinder their success?
Kyle Stokes, covering K-12 schools
Is your local school any good? What does ‘good’ even mean? I help parents understand what defines quality education and which tools let them assess — and sometimes even choose — their own schools. I examine the forces that drive which students get advantages and which students get left behind, in school and beyond.
Carla Javier, covering arts education
Exposure to the arts can open doors to a creative life, but not everyone has the same opportunities to be creative – even though California state law requires access to arts education. I explore what’s being done to address the disparity and who does, and does not, get to learn about and make art.
Priska Neely, covering early childhood development and education
I connect educators and caregivers of children ages 0–5 in L.A. County who live and breathe our early childhood system every day with academics, researchers, and policy makers to reveal gaps between the two and shine a light on what’s working and what’s not.
Emily Guerin, covering the environment
I'm interested in the tension between California's status as an environmental leader and the reality of our enormous fossil fuel consumption and production. I'm also examining the tension between our need for more housing and the reality of our hotter, drier, more fire-prone future.
Emily Elena Dugdale, covering daily news developments
I bring you onto the scene of the stories Angelenos are talking about today and help you understand how they’ll affect you. I’m always on the lookout for news and unique stories about Los Angeles – let me know if you have one.
Michelle Faust Raghavan, covering health care
We’re living longer than ever before. What are we doing to get ready as California rapidly ages? I connect aging adults and caregivers with information, experts, and policy makers to help them understand risks and bridge the gaps in care.
Alyssa Jeong Perry, covering community health
It is still very hard for many people to talk about mental health. I explore how Southern Californians are trying to overcome the stigma, how that differs depending on your community, and what it will take to make help more accessible.
HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS
Matt Tinoco, covering housing and homelessness
It’s not just you. Southern California’s sky-high housing costs are changing how we live and who can afford to keep a roof over their head. I will help you understand the factors that got us here, what’s being done to help those struggling, and new pressures around the corner.
Leslie Berestein Rojas, covering immigration and emerging communities
Southern California is home to many new immigrants – about a third of L.A. County residents are foreign born. Immigrants are creating an evolving definition of ‘American.’ I will deepen the understanding of how immigrants are changing the region and how L.A. changes immigrants.
Mike Roe, covering entertainment
Los Angeles is the home of arts and entertainment. My job is to help you figure out what is worth your time, and introduce you to other talented Angelenos who make it happen. This is a space for the creative work you care about – or don’t know about yet.
FOOD & DINING
Elina Shatkin, covering food
Los Angeles is the most diverse and interesting food city in the United States. It’s a place where street tacos are as revered as any 12-course omakase dinner – and rightly so. My job is to connect hungry Angelenos – through food – to the culture, history, people, and neighborhoods that make up our city.
Sharon McNary, covering infrastructure:
Infrastructure is what we build together to make life better (and the things that break). My role is to reveal the often-surprising and important systems that make life possible in and around L.A.
Jill Replogle, covering Orange County
From homelessness to demographic changes to rising sea levels, I help you understand rapidly changing Orange County — no matter which side of the “Orange Curtain” you live on.
Mary Plummer, covering politics:
Democracy can be messy. In Southern California, the political system is changing in front of us, from how we vote to who is running for office. Many voices are shouting to be heard. I examine who gets listened to, and why, and provide a guide to anyone who wants to more fully participate in civic life.
Frank Stoltze, covering public safety
Southern California has a long and troubled history when it comes to policing. I explore a continuing disconnect between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve, look at when reforms have worked and where and why tensions remain. I'm always examining whether justice is being served.
RELIGION & DIASPORA
Aaron Schrank, covering religion and diaspora
I help Angelenos understand the role religion plays in their daily lives and the lives of their neighbors, in a region that has long been a safe haven for oppressed religious and ethnic communities worldwide.
Jacob Margolis, covering science
From the consequences of climate change to the next Big One, the threat of another natural disaster is never far away. I help Southern Californians understand the science shaping our imperfect paradise and get them prepared for what’s next.
MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS
Libby Denkmann, covering veterans and military affairs
More military veterans live in Southern California than anywhere else in the nation. I tell their stories – from those who excel after discharge to those who falter. How is America supporting its commitment to veterans and their families? How are we falling short?
WHY IT MATTERS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO
You'll be hearing more about these missions on air at 89.3 FM, and you'll find easy ways to ask questions or give us story tips on the stories we publish on LAist.com, the website we acquired last year.
For many of us, becoming journalists was a calling. It's not always easy to talk to strangers or ask tough questions. I got my start in the fourth grade. I wanted to create a newspaper so I assigned myself a story and dragged my friend Linda Gonzales through a hole in the fence at the shabby public golf course near my home. We tracked down a couple of confused golfers and questioned them about their life goals.
My mom ran it all off on a mimeograph (this was pre-copy machine days), and I went door-to-door to deliver the news. (I really hope Linda’s memory that we called it the “Daily Hamburger” is correct!)
What made me do it? Curiosity. A chance to learn about the world. A desire to share someone else’s story.
Today, I’m fortunate to have a much bigger platform. It’s one I take very seriously, and the support we feel from our KPCC + LAist members drives us and motivates us all every day.
So we have to prove that our journalism is worth paying for, and worth your donations. It's pretty remarkable, what your support has built. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of Southern California Public Radio. In that time, support from our members has taken a low-performing public radio station and turned it into one the region's biggest newsrooms, and one of the most powerful NPR affiliates in the country.
We're excited to see what we can build together next.