Your LA Public Press is keeping busy. Here is a peek behind the scenes as we reimagine how news can help to build a thriving Los Angeles. Today, more on how our newsroom is directly responsive to information needs of LA County’s renters.

Want to push your landlord to do their job? We have you covered.

The Los Angeles Public Library has catalogued LA Public Press’ first printed housing-rights zine: “How To Get Your Landlord To Do Their Job.” It’s the culmination of a collaboration between LA Public Press, Place Long Beach, and the community of renters we directly serve. 

LA Public Press talks to renters to determine what stories to cover, and how exactly we should publish our journalism. In 2023, we surveyed more than 700 residents across Los Angeles County. Housing, unsurprisingly, is the top issue on residents’ minds. Tenants told us over and over how they need accessible information on housing — including in-person and multi-language print alternatives to web.

We saw and responded to the need for useful stories and guides on how to hold your landlord accountable, and make them follow the law to maintain habitable rental units.

Last March, LA Public Press Audio Director Carla Green wrote a guide for tenants on how to compel their building’s owner to follow the law. Using feedback from our audience surveys, Green published the explainer “How to get your landlord to fix the toilet — and generally do their job — in LA”. It was a wet spring, and we had heard from many they were having trouble getting their landlords to repair leaky walls and ceilings as atmospheric rivers soaked Southern California.

We published it in English and Spanish, and shared it widely.

After we published the guides, I thought hard about the many people we surveyed who said they appreciated printed material. Many people in LA, particularly seniors, remain digitally isolated. When a friend asked me if there was any way to get a printed version of the article to give to tenants, I figured we could do one better and make a zine. I have limited experience in zine making; I made one in undergrad for a class and I participated in a zine-making workshop last year. But I knew that I wanted the zine to be beautiful so readers could feel cared for when they held a copy. I enlisted the help of some experts.

I reached out to Sarah Bennett of Long Beach for guidance on making a zine. Bennett is a well known zine expert, and former LA Weekly journalist, who runs a zine printing studio called Place. Bennett reformatted our explainer into a bilingual zine on how to get your landlord to make necessary repairs. Graphic designer Alyson Yee illustrated it beautifully. The result was an informative zine with wonderful illustrations that I call Frog and Toad-coded: cozy and warm.

We printed 200 copies for our first test run. We gave out some of the zines at our LA Public Press launch event in Pico Rivera, and shared more at coffee shops and schools in South LA. We also submitted eight copies to the Los Angeles Public Library’s zine collection, which can be checked out at the Baldwin Hills, Benjamin Franklin, Cypress Park, Edendale, Felipe de Neve, Goldwyn Hollywood, Palisades, and West LA locations.

This experiment paves the way for more zines in more languages on more close-to-home subjects for people in LA. Along with Community Engagement Reporter & Producer Amanda Del Cid Lugo, I am consistently engaging with LA County residents and looking for opportunities to publish journalism that is meaningfully in community with those we serve.

We know that not everyone can easily find information about renters rights. A zine created in collaboration with the community, and distributed through schools and libraries, helps people in LA better advocate for themselves.

Mariah is a journalist who can be found at one of LA's many libraries, and supporting local musicians and street vendors.