More Than Just News, A Public Service in Print

February 1, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

As one of the top news markets in the nation, Los Angeles has no shortage of quality journalism, provided in many platforms and in many languages. For decades, Eastern Group Publications, publishing original bylines in both English and Spanish, has been among the newspaper groups that has made its own immeasurable contribution to journalism and to the communities it has covered.

Unincorporated East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Bell Gardens, and smaller neighborhoods in Northeast Los Angeles are some of the communities I covered during my time at EGP. Elizabeth Chou, who currently works at LA Daily News, was my co-worker at EGP back then. She covered Monterey Park, Montebello, Commerce and Vernon. We reported on a gamut of news worthy events, from local to national public policies affecting our specific communities, individual city councils, neighborhood councils, contentious elections, activism, crimes and centenarian birthday parties. We spent hundreds of hours interviewing, researching, fact checking, writing and copyediting. Chou additionally prepared the newspaper layout.

Gloria Angelina Castillo is a former journalism professional. She has a Master’s Degree from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, San Diego, where she majored in Ethnic Studies.

Mia Valerie Juarez was just in high school when she began interning at EGP. The East LA native started off by helping to find local events to include in EGP’s Community Calendar but soon enough she was conducting interviews and writing news articles. The 20-something-year-old is now a television news reporter and producer for a national news affiliate in Nebraska.

Several EGP journalists have continued their careers in the news industry. Some have gone on to work for major Spanish language publications, like La Opinion, and you can find the bylines of others, including past interns, in English language newspapers across the country, or on internet blogs and news sites.

Though EGP has been a good launching pad for aspiring journalists, its most important impact has been to simply give a voice to several historically lower-income, under-served communities.

Besides covering harder news, simply by being in the community, EGP often found positive stories and examples of kindness that showed the dignity in written-off communities. (Example:  the efforts to revive the historic Maravilla Handball Courts).

EGP has documented historically significant events from the Chicano Movement to where we are today with younger generations moving forward empowering concepts and fiercely dispelling stereotypes.

In recent years, news organizations have begun making their original reporting available translated into the other language. The Boyle Heights Beat, a literary program founded by USC Annenberg School of Journalism, is now providing similar hyperlocal bilingual coverage in Boyle Heights.

Nonetheless, for decades, it’s been EGP’s hyperlocal coverage that has filled the news void left by larger news organizations. EGP’s newspapers were distributed free and to people’s doorsteps for years.

During my time there, we provided detailed coverage of Los Angeles Unified School Districts’ Public School Choice reform, the East Los Angeles Cityhood movement, the Exide lead contamination, “Dreamers” bravely participating in non-violent protests before President Obama signed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the list goes on.

What other newspaper would so painstakingly take on the task of outlining and summarizing all the applications to take over operations at some of the region’s most underperforming schools?

EGP was a perfect fit for me. I wanted to report in both English and Spanish. I wanted readers to access the same information and “be on the same page” so to speak. Because I grew up in a Spanish-speaking home watching Spanish-language news broadcasts, as I got older I began to notice that sometimes there was a significant disparity in English versus Spanish-language news. For example, if there was a recently published study on the economy and immigrants, the Spanish-language news might highlight the beneficial contribution of immigrants while the English-language news might focus on the negative. The result, I suppose, was immigrants feeling empowered while anti-immigrant sentiment was spurred in different homes.

We worked with other ethnic media organizations as well. I wrote an article on Adult Day Health Centers closing due to state budget cuts. In 2013, I earned an award for a three-part bilingual series on Autism in the Latino and monolingual community in our coverage area.

I felt strongly that my work at EGP was a public service. Unfortunately, working as a journalist in underserved communities does not qualify under the category of “public service” for student loan forgiveness programs, otherwise, things may have worked out differently for me.

I was often overwhelmed at EGP, I felt a tremendous responsibility to cover everything because there was so much going on and if I didn’t cover it, maybe no one would.

I’m truly grateful to the Sanchez family for their support all those years, and for their sacrifices to keep the newspaper afloat while others buckled with the economy. I hope that if new owner/leadership is found for EGP, they will be as passionate about reporting on the always evolving complexity of immigrants and Americans in these communities.

Gloria Angelina Castillo is a former journalism professional. She has a Master’s Degree from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, San Diego, where she majored in Ethnic Studies.

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