In late summer, Boyle Heights Beat welcomed its two newest reporters – both part of the inaugural cohort of the California Local News Fellowship program. The fellows, Andrew Lopez and Ricky Rodas, are Los Angeles natives who are ready to serve and inform Boyle Heights and the Eastside communities.
The California Local News Fellowship is a state-funded initiative that prioritizes community reporting and young journalists in the state. Administered by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, the program chose 39 rising journalists and assigned them to two-year, full-time reporting positions in newsrooms across California.
Outlets assigned fellows include La Opinión, LA Times, Caló News, San Francisco Public Press, and the Long Beach Post.
Born and raised in the Eastside, Andrew Lopez has found his way back home to connect with his community through reporting. The 30-year-old graduated from Berkeley in 2023, with a master’s degree in journalism. One of his most impactful reporting experiences was as an intern at a newsroom in Wichita, Kansas. Lopez finds similarities between that newsroom and ours, and hopes to bring some of the skills he acquired in Wichita to Boyle Heights.
Lopez’ passion for learning and for creating accessible media translate into his journalistic work. With a curiosity for uncovering Boyle Heights’ rich history and learning about the community, he aims to shine a light on local voices.
“I think whether it’s highlighting a small business or a community event, that’s going to bring something good to my neighborhood,” said Lopez. “I think that is really valuable. I was just always a fan of learning in different ways and receiving information.”
Lopez also has experience with newsrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area, and while working there as a reporter, he decided to integrate teaching into his life. Coming from a family of teachers, Lopez worked as a substitute with K-12 students.
For that reason, Lopez was excited to find out that Beat has an educational component, and he looks forward to working alongside the high school students in our youth journalism program.
“It’s really wholesome and heartwarming to see teenagers spreading their wings and, little by little, learning about themselves and what they want to do,” Lopez said.
“A lot of major news organizations, unfortunately, write off opinions or thoughts of young people,” he added. “I don’t think that’s the way it should be – people who are young and growing up in a community and reporting on that community have such a unique and powerful take or perspective on what’s going on.”
Lopez hopes to form connections with BHB students, as he shares a similar background with many of them. He comes from an immigrant family and hopes to inspire students to dream big.
For Ricky Rodas, working as a reporter for Boyle Heights Beat is also somewhat of a homecoming. Growing up in El Monte and attending Cal State LA for his undergraduate degree, Rodas is no stranger to the Eastside. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 2020, with a master’s degree in journalism.
Before his fellowship with BHB, Rodas was a reporter for The Oaklandside. He was part of its launch three years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You couldn’t even go out into the community … so that was a trial and error experience for me,” recalled Rodas.
Although he said his time at Oaklandside was a learning experience, he’s ready to work for a more established newsroom like BHB.
“I’m looking forward to more of the existing structure here,” he said. “I want to be able to create new things but also not have to create things from scratch”
In addition to reporting, Rodas was also drawn to Boyle Heights Beat by the opportunity to work with our students. At the beginning of his journalism career, the 28-year-old looks forward to giving back to the community.
“Just because we’re at the start of our careers doesn’t mean that we have to wait 10 years to try to give back to other folks,” said Rodas. “We’re still learning, but I think we’re at a higher place, so we do have wisdom to offer them.”
As a Salvadorian in Los Angeles, Rodas said that most of his upbringing included being surrounded by Mexican and Chicano cultures. Because of the increasing importance of the Central American community in the area, Rodas aspires to diversify Latino media coverage and report on all angles of Latinidad.
“I’m pretty good at identifying people who are outliers in communities,” said Rodas. “I think I bring that with me, and it will help me find stories that are not just rooted in the Mexican-American experience.”
Rodas says he’s excited about reporting in an area with such a rich culture and tradition and looks forward to getting to know residents.
“I love talking to all types of people,” he said. “I’m a vago and I’m always outside. I really want to be a part of this community as much as I can.”