As you may know, the Alhambra Source is a collaborative project initiated by journalists and communication researchers at the USC's Annenberg School. Before the site launched, we spent close to two years getting to know your city. We talked to Alhambra residents, visited local organizations and interviewed business owners. We looked at maps, collected census data, spoke to officials and followed Alhambra stories in the media. Now we want to share with you the research side of Alhambra Source. Every other week, the Alhambra Source staff and the USC Metamorphosis research group will post some of the insights gleaned through our work in your community. As we share what we have learned, we hope you will let us know what you think through comments or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do Alhambra residents want? Insights from our focus groups.
One of the first things we noticed about Alhambra was its absence. Absence from mainstream newspapers, absence from local news TV channels, absence from LA radio shows. During the months when we followed multiple media outlets looking for news about the community, hardly anything related to Alhambra was published, said or shown. Alhambra coverage appeared in local newspapers targeted to Chinese residents, and to a much lesser extent Latino residents, but those were outlets accessible to a single ethnic group rather than everyone living in the neighborhood.
From a journalistic point of view, this suggested the need for a multilingual local news website serving the city. From a research perspective, lack of common media coverage was one sign that Alhambra residents may have difficulties collectively imagining their community. News media are a key storyteller, and sharing stories about our city is what makes us feel close to other people living there. It's also one way to identify common neighborhood problems and come together to solve them.
That’s why when we started conducting focus groups about Alhambra, one of our main goals was to see what the residents thought about their local news and whether they felt they were getting enough information about the city. We talked to people about community interests and concerns, but also asked them if they thought those important issues were given enough attention by local media.
The multilingual focus groups were conducted in May of 2009, and were attended by 91 Alhambra residents – Chinese, Latino and Caucasian locals between the ages of 25 and 45. What we found confirmed our expectations: a major reason why people were not involved in their community was that they just didn't know what was going on in the neighborhood. While a number of respondents said they'd like to be engaged in civic activities, they also pointed out that very little helpful information was available to them.
Probably the only common news source of the city was Around Alhambra, a newsletter published by the Chamber of Commerce. Ethnic newspapers were mentioned as a source of community information, but residents felt that even there the local coverage was far from sufficient. Chinese outlets like Sing Tao Daily, China Daily, and World Journal are among the most informative news sources, likely to carry a few local stories every week. Still, those were only available to Mandarin speakers.
Really good news for our project was the way residents wanted to access their local information. Many participants in our focus groups said they preferred getting community news on the Internet. Some suggested that an e-mail newsletter with summaries of important stories may also be a good idea.
Grounded in the suggestions of Alhambra residents, we have since launched the Alhambra Source website and we're continuing our community research. In a couple of weeks, we'll be ready to share more of our findings, this time focusing on Alhambra's demographic profile. In the mean time, please post your comments to let us know where you go for local news and what important community issues you'd want addressed on our website.