LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The mission of the tri-lingual Alhambra Source community news site is to enable civic engagement and immigrant integration, and to be a model for taking up the 21st Century challenge of revitalizing democracy through local media serving diverse communities. Fully half of Alhambra’s residents are immigrants, according to the last U.S. Census, and helping them become part of the fabric of Alhambra’s civic life is a core element in the Alhambra Source’s mission.
In this, the Alhambra Source seeks to be a leader in the national effort to reinvigorate local journalism, so essential for advancing democracy. With many threats to democracy, such as low voting rates in national and local elections, there is a national effort to support the creation of “old time local journalism” that used to encourage citizen participation in their communities.
Throughout American history, our political representatives have recognized the need for what they called the Fourth Estate – media that serve as a watchdog on government in order to ensure its smooth functioning and to prevent the loss of democracy. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, wrote during the debate over our Constitution, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” His reasoning is found in another letter to those engaged in writing the Constitution: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
Of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, many do not have a local journalism enterprise, and this has meant that these residents do not have the information they need to participate in the decisions that affect the quality of their and their families’ everyday lives. There is an emerging consensus, that democracy has to be rebuilt from the ground up — in the spaces and places of local communities. The Alhambra Source is part of that effort.
Of course, local journalism can shake things up when decision-makers are not used to the transparency that comes with responsible coverage of their decisions. Transparency is essential, if uncomfortable.
In this time, when journalism in general is attacked as being producers of “fake news,” it is hard for citizens to know what media to trust. All we can do as the co-founders of the Alhambra Source is to say that we are dedicated to independent and responsible journalism that serves the whole Alhambra community.
This does not mean that we will be perfect, nor does it mean that our editor’s stories along with opinion pieces written by our community contributors will not produce discomfort. It does mean that the inclusion of community voices is part and parcel of the democracy that we all treasure.
– Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach and Michael Parks, Co-Founders of the Alhambra Source
Sandra is a professor of communication, and Michael is a professor of journalism in the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Sandra is the principal investigator of the Metamorphosis Project, and Michael is the former editor of the Los Angeles Times.