A New Voice for Boyle Heights

Today, we are delighted to share the first edition of Boyle Heights Beat, a bilingual newspaper dedicated to news that matters to the people of Boyle Heights. The “beat” of Boyle Heights is unique — urgent, soulful, full of promise and excitement. It is fast-changing and lively, fitting for a Latino neighborhood with an eclectic immigrant history and a rich civic life. Now, with Boyle Heights Beat, which will be published quarterly, and its sister website, boyleheightsbeat.com, the community’s voices will be heard.

And who better to share Boyle Heights’ stories than its youth?

Boyle Heights Beat is produced by teen journalists who come from five local high schools: Theodore Roosevelt High, Mendez Learning Center, Puente Learning Center, Bravo Medical Magnet and the Boyle Heights Technology Academy. Selected from a pool of 70 applicants, they range in age from 14 to 18. They started out as 14 kids from different schools, backgrounds, and grade levels; over the months we’ve worked with them, they have come together as a real news team.

Boyle Heights Beat is reported with the high journalistic standards of its founders: La Opinión and the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. Yet it also belongs to Boyle Heights ”“as a newspaper reported “for and by” the community. Boyle Heights Beat reporters live the stories they report: about crime trends, the economic downturn, and do- mestic violence. They enjoy the arts, too, and dreamed up our community poetry page, which they named  ¡Exprésate!

From the beginning, our youth reporters told us they wanted Boyle Heights Beat to portray the neighborhood as they know it — as much more than the stereotype of gangs, crime, tragedy, and bad news. If you read these pages, you’ll see they’ve succeeded ”“ with local success stories; profiles of unsung local heroes who make a difference; historical tidbits reveling in the rich past of their community and thoughtful explorations of local debates about redevelopment, neighborhood safety and urban renewal.

Getting here has been fun, yet it also has taken a great deal of perseverance — and the support of parents, teachers, community members, and dedicated adult editors. Our news meetings take place twice a week, with reporting sandwiched in between our students’ many responsibilities at school and at home.

To launch this project, its founders formed a unique academic-community- news media partnership, supported by the California Endowment, a Los Angeles-based health foundation. We believe that a vibrant community newspaper can help make Boyle Heights a healthier place.

Already, our news team is helping to close information and education gaps that contribute to many of the neighborhood’s woes.

Please join the conversation! Share your ideas, suggestions and tips — and add your own voice to the Boyle Heights beat!

Michelle Levander and Pedro Rojas, Co-Editors and Publishers