We were building from scratch when we first launched Los Angeles Public Press a little more than a year ago.

We picked a name, built a website, developed social media channels, and quickly got to work producing original journalism for our 10 million neighbors in Los Angeles County. Today, we are a rapidly growing digital-native newsroom that’s cementing itself as an integral part of Los Angeles’ local news and communication infrastructure. 

LA Public Press does journalism for you, your family, and your neighbors. It’s a newsroom that publishes original, community-responsive news, and information to help the 10 million of us who call Los Angeles County home better organize and advocate for ourselves. It’s a journalism machine we are building to ensure all people in LA, regardless of their language, wealth, gender, race, immigration status, or other characteristics, can be equal participants in our local democracy. 

Our newsroom identifies issue-based communities of power across Los Angeles County and strategically publishes and partners to ensure those communities – our friends and neighbors – have access to dependable journalism, and actionable information for civic engagement.

In just over one year, our team and network of contributors have published more than 200 pieces of exemplary original journalism, each conceived in response to a demonstrated gap in our local information ecosystem. Our coverage strikes a balance between the top issues affecting our entire region – like housing affordability, pollution, public safety, and policing – with the understanding that each of these issues manifest on-the-ground in local communities. 

Southern California has a rich history of social movement that continues to this day. Angelenos of all stripes are consistently self-organizing to build a better city, and they depend on accurate information about the problems and potential solutions to do so. Ensuring the movement of neighbors advocating for other neighbors has access to dependable, reliable, journalistically scrupulous information is where your Los Angeles Public Press fits in. 

LA Public press Audio Director Carla Green hands out our Renter’s Zine at the LA Public Press launch party in Pico Rivera.

In our first 14-months of publishing, we have made significant progress to building a powerful newsroom that’s fundamentally accountable to Los Angeles’ vast and varied communities. We are responsive to the urgent and evolving information needs of LA County residents, and we publish original journalism meeting those needs in a manner that’s accessible to people in LA wherever they are already seeking local news and information. 

Showcasing existing community power, elevating those who are already ‘doing the work’, providing timely and actionable information on approaching consequential decisions, and supplying people in LA with dependable and truthful information about our beautiful home is what we are doing. It’s just the beginning, and there is no time to spare. 

The Stakes

It’s plainly obvious things are very wrong. Millions of us, disproportionately young families with children, are struggling to get by, and are seriously considering leaving for less expensive regions of the country. We are backsliding on pollution, are gridlocked by auto-dependent infrastructure that kills and maims many more than violent crime, and we retain bragging rights to one of the world’s most unaffordable housing markets. Political stasis and open corruption is simply the water we swim in. 

Perhaps most urgently, more people than ever before are dying painful and public deaths. Every day in Los Angeles County six people expire while experiencing some manner of unsheltered homelessness. You may have seen a white sheet on the sidewalk. It is a very real body count on a deep failure of public policy and overall collective civic competence. It’s also an issue many of us in Los Angeles are losing hope will ever be resolved. Both you and I know that’s not an option.

None of our issues are going to be solved by any single individual, coalition, working-group, association, or political machine. By and large, the collective problems facing Greater Los Angeles are something that can only be addressed with broad regional collaboration in a way the region’s political architecture seems designed to resist. 

Good journalism, produced by a collaborative local news ecosystem made up of many independent news outlets, is integral for finding solutions.

Threading the needle depends on residents having access to dependable information that builds their overall understanding of our objectively complicated circumstances. The pathway forward depends on us knowing how we got here, what needs to change, and how we can take action alongside our neighbors who are already moving the needle, even if they happen to speak a different language from you.

This is a journalistically defensible public narrative of social possibility and change that can show a pathway to participation for all people in LA. It is what the smart, dexterous, and “devastatingly informed” team at Los Angeles Public Press is working to build every day. 

What kind of journalism we publish

The 200 exemplary pieces of original journalism published in our first year represent a tangible data set we are using to evaluate how news and information spread digitally across Los Angeles. It’s stupendous work broadly covering the pressing issues affecting the entire region, but with the understanding that all of these broad issues manifest locally at a community level. 

Fundamentally, we focus on the breakdown between the public process and how the public is and isn’t included – for example, when the absence of Spanish language translation at a Los Angeles City Planning Commission meeting exacerbates existing tensions over a proposed apartment building in Boyle Heights. 

We concentrate on the struggle of housing insecure tenants to remain in stable housing across Los Angeles County. We’ve covered movements to enact municipal rent stabilization ordinances prior to official action in Burbank, Maywood, South Pasadena, and Cudahy. Plus, resources for tenants, continuing coverage of the for-profit businesses that seek to ‘leverage’ apartment disrepair into greater profit for property owners, and the breakdown of government agencies’ ability to meaningfully respond to the urgent concerns of tenants. Many of the same pressures squeezing residential tenants also apply to commercial tenants. This has led to a broad following amongst legal-aid and economic survival organizations and tenant-friendly coalitions and organizers.

We have developed ongoing community-driven coverage in Southeast Los Angeles (SELA), among the regions of LA County least covered by existing local media. Our SELA coverage is boosted by continued coverage of tenant’s rights relevant in a renter-dominated area, but also addresses crucial issues like pollution, healthcare, and the ongoing skirmishes over street vending in the region. This has led to an over-indexing of SELA cities in our existing digital audience relative to LA County at large. 

We’ve developed coverage of unsheltered homelessness at the level of the individual unsheltered communities in Los Angeles County – ranging from the experience of people living in vehicles, the persistent police harassment experienced by people living outside, and the ongoing challenge of just finding a bathroom

We have developed evergreen civic resources, among the most viewed posts on our website, that help people navigate complicated systems that directly affect their day-to-day lives. This includes information for tenants on how to make use of existing legal rights to habitable housing, how to ensure your home is free from lead pollutants, how to make a pollution complaint, and more.

And we cover the intersection between public process and public participation. This includes examination of the City of Los Angeles’ continuous effort to limit public meeting comment, how language access remains an issue in our public process, fact-checking the statements of elected officials, and documenting community efforts to produce knowledge where the public process has simply failed

Our work has been discussed in public meetings, and is regularly reshared and by local organizations invested in building power to support a more just Los Angeles. Within the existing media ecosystem, our journalism was regularly attributed with “first reported by Los Angeles Public Press” credits by many of Los Angeles’ existing local newsrooms in print, online, and over the broadcast airwaves. Other newsrooms have also republished our work, and will continue to. 

In our first year, we also co-hosted a city council candidate forum with Boyle Heights Beat where we piloted an innovative de-carceral approach to community safety

It’s been 14 months, and none of this is accidental. At the very heart of our mission is to help ensure LA County residents have the information they need to take informed action on the issues that are most important to them. 

How people use our work

Journalism is only valuable if it reaches people. To reach people, it needs to be accessible, and must conform with existing media consumption habits. It’s not enough to simply click “publish” on a web story. We are also mindful that the vast majority of people access information via social media, by word of mouth and direct messages, through social service agencies, at community events, and a world of other online options like search and aggregator apps like Apple News, Newsbreak, and Flipboard that are all somewhat distinct from a traditional “newsroom.” 

Building a newsroom that can journalistically evaluate information and construct a basic understanding of present circumstances is step one. Making sure that journalism is distributed accessible across multiple digital platforms and other distribution channels in a highly heterogeneous ecosystem is step two. Marrying both of those labor-intensive processes into one digital-native newsroom that has the trust of residents, organizers, existing organizations, and others seeking to create change in the home they love is what LA Public Press is doing.

Because of LA’s heterogeneity, the strategy for digital distribution varies for each particular issue and sub-regional geography. Cutting those trails depends on a team who are deeply knowledgeable about the idiosyncrasies and particular local cultural nuances that drive community power in this place we call home.

It’s working. We are rapidly growing a consistent, local, and loyal digital audience on each of our distinct in-house publishing channels. 

Our journalism is consistently shared across our local news ecosystem. It drives public discussion, agenda-sets other news agencies’ coverage, and is regularly mentioned in public meeting comments. People are desperate for reliable news about their home communicated respectfully and at a community level.

It’s a contrast to local news that has historically only shown up in a neighborhood when there is a violent crime. Our newsroom is fiercely committed to depicting a “humane” and “complete picture of life” in Los Angeles. This means showing off and sharing the human infrastructure that drives the creation of welcoming communities, and fundamentally makes up the magic of Los Angeles. 

Many of the most viewed pages on our site are not the proverbial ‘hard news’ stories, but instead thorough resources that help synthesize knowledge on less intuitive topics  – for example how to make an informed choice when you’re voting on superior court judges, and tools you can use to compel a derelict landlord into maintaining a habitable housing unit

That last story – how to get your landlord to do their job – was converted into a physical-media ‘zine’ distributed through public schools, and the Los Angeles Public Library. It was a successful experiment in developing physical media after the newsroom heard our neighbors saying there is still a place for physical media in our twitchy digital world. 

LA Public Press’ guide for tenants whose landlords are failing to maintain habitable housing.

While LA Public Press is a 501(c)3, and we are obligated to never make any endorsement of any electoral campaign, the connection between the density of local news coverage and electoral participation is a real one. It is a fact that more people engaged with our multi-platform coverage of the recent election in Los Angeles City Council District 14 than the margin between any of the top three vote-getters in that particular competition. 

What’s next?

It’s a pivotal moment for journalism in Los Angeles, as it is for the entire country. As the Los Angeles Times continues contracting, and other local outlets continue consolidating or shuttering completely, Greater Los Angeles desperately needs robust, responsible, local knowledgeable news media.

Fundamentally, LA Public Press depends on donations big and small, but especially big, to continue existing. Our non-profit revenue model is rooted in the assumption that people like you see enough value in our work to step up and say ‘Yes, I support journalism.’

When we look to the future of Los Angeles, Angelenos need to have a shared, affirmative vision of the city as it really is. We lack this now, and without a common narrative or set of basic facts, the challenges before us will persist.

The circumstances of Los Angeles: community erosion, policy failure, individual isolation, and a continued balkanization and fragmentation as the city is made and remade for financial return. These are not unique to our region. But in many respects, LA is America’s leading indicator.

Los Angeles Public Press represents a small portion of what stands to be a civilizational evolutionary test. Addressing our existential issues — homelessness, pollution, global warming, policing, justice, corruption, transportation, housing, public health writ large — requires an ability to communicate with our neighbors. Only through a common understanding of the challenges we face can we consider what we must do, and plan for what we will do.

What we are embarking on is bigger than narrative change. It’s the bravery to set the narrative, and defend it. How can we highlight the good work if there is no trusted news media to do so?

How to help

Financial support is integral for the survival of journalism. If you’re in a position to offer financial support, every bit counts. Click here to reach our donation page. If you are interested in higher level or institutional support, please reach out to me directly: [email protected]. I cannot emphasize enough how urgently journalism, including your LA Public Press, requires major financial support for its survival.

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Thank you for reading your LA Public Press.