Our Model and Commitment
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
Phoenix Tso, Editor-in-Chief
Phoenix Tso has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Alhambra Source since 2016. Originally from the Boston area, she graduated with a MS in Journalism from USC in 2015.
Dominic Tovar, Community Outreach Manager
Dominic Tovar is the Community Outreach Manager for the Alhambra Source. He is a San Gabriel High School alumnus and received his B.A. in Literature and Digital Media at UCSC in 2016. By stimulating local engagement and coordinating events, Dominic supports the Alhambra Source’s mission of community integration.
Sandra Ball-Rokeach: Sandra is Co-Founder of the Alhambra Source and serves as Co-Chair of its Advisory Board. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Washington. While a Professor of Communication and Sociology in USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (1986-2018), Sandra led the Metamorphosis Project, an in-depth inquiry into the transformation of urban community under the forces of globalization, new communication technologies and population diversity. Sandra is a Fulbright Scholar, a Rockefeller Fellow, Vice President of the McCune Foundation Board of Trustees, and is the recipient of multiple mentorships awards for graduate student training in community-based social justice research. Currently, she is devoted to fulfilling the mission of the Alhambra Source: To serve as a civic institution for grassroots civic engagement, immigrant integration, and public interest journalism that gives voice to the diverse communities of the San Gabriel Valley.
Michael Parks: Michael is Co-Founder of the Alhambra Source and serves as Co-Chair of its Advisory Board. He is a Professor of Journalism in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism where he served as its Director from 2002 to 2008. Michael is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for International Reporting on the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He served as Editor in Chief of the Los Angeles Times from 1997-2000. He also served as the Director of the Center for Health Reporting funded by the California HealthCare Foundation. Michael has brought his experience of global reporting and editing to his mentorship and management of Alhambra Source’s editorial team, community contributors and student interns. As a resident of the San Gabriel Valley, he brings his local knowledge to bear on the Alhambra Source’s coverage of residents’ issues and concerns.
Joyce Amaro: Joyce Amaro grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and is a 26-year resident of Alhambra. She is a founding member of the Alhambra Preservation Group (APG) and currently serves as APG’s president. APG is a non-profit organization that works to educate residents about the need to preserve and protect Alhambra’s architectural resources. She also works for the City of Los Angeles, overseeing the City of Los Angeles Stormwater Public Education Program. She writes for blogs associated with both LA Stormwater and APG and administers the social media components of both programs as well. She is passionate about reading to children and volunteers at Monterey Highlands Elementary School, reading to Kindergarteners.
Neel Garlapati: A former Alhambra resident and community contributor, Neel is the Senior Director of Development at Fairplex, home of the Los Angeles County Fair and a variety of year-round educational and cultural programs. Neel brings more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit sector in fields ranging from social services to museums to higher education. He has previously worked at Claremont McKenna College and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He is an experienced fundraiser who has successfully led the development of large proposals across a range of organizations. He is a graduate of Pomona College and received his Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California.
Sara Harris: Sara is a journalist with 20 years of experience reporting on land-use, education, and social/environmental equality as host of Hear in the City (KPFK 90.7FM), as bureau chief at Youth Radio Los Angeles, and on Marketplace, Morning Edition, WNYC, PRI, and Mexico’s IMER. Sara co-founded RadioSonideros sound-mapping collective, AudioPostales cross-border radio, and currently teaches with Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network. She holds an M.A. in Specialized Journalism from USC and another in Film Studies from University of Amsterdam. Her community engagements include UC Master Gardener and animal handler/intervention counselor for Home Dog L.A.
Barbara Osborn: Prior to becoming Communication Director for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Barbara worked for 15 years as the Strategic Communications Director for the Liberty Hill foundation, and as a strategy and leadership coach for numerous community organizations and philanthropic institutions. Barbara has followed the development of the Alhambra Source project as the teacher of a graduate seminar on community-engaged research at USC Annenberg, and brings her own experience as a former journalist whose work has appeared in numerous national and local outlets.
Elisa Perez: Elisa grew up in, and still resides in, the San Gabriel Valley and was a member of Alhambra Source’s second class of Reporter Corps. She is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach where she received her degree in Narrative Film Production with a concentration in producing and creative writing. After holding several positions in the film and television industry, her passion for community engagement and equal opportunity for the underserved led her to her current position with Community Partners’ communications team. Her work has been featured in Alhambra Source, The Hechinger Report and KPCC’s Take Two.
James Rojas: In addition to being an Alhambra resident, James is an urban planner, community activist and artist. His work examines U.S. Latino cultural influences on urban design and sustainability and is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum. Using his interactive public-engagement and community-visioning method, he has held over 400 workshops and been featured in exhibitions in universities and museums around the globe.
Eric Sunada: Eric Sunada works for the California Institute of Technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he is an engineer. He is a former community contributor to Alhambra Source and founder of Grassroots Alhambra. Eric credits the Alhambra Source for serving as a focal point of information and for facilitating this informal network that led to the formation of Grassroots Alhambra. Today the group consists of over 500 members that aim to promote equitable development in the city and foster local government accountability.
Karin Wang, Esq.: Karin recently joined the UCLA School of Law as the Executive Director of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, which trains and mentors future generations of justice-minded lawyers. Prior to UCLA, Karin was Vice President of Programs and Communications at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the nation’s largest legal and civil rights group focused on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this role, she worked to significantly expand the organization’s use of communications to further its social justice mission. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, she has worked for more than 20 years on a number of civil rights and immigrant rights issues.
Elaine Woo: Elaine Woo is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor with deep experience in daily journalism, including three decades on the staff of the Los Angeles Times. Her assignments have included personality profiles, news features, breaking news, commentaries and news obituaries on notable local, national and international figures. A native of Los Angeles, she is a graduate of Alhambra High School and Occidental College.
Teresa Ybarra: President, Alhambra Latino Association and Public School Teacher for 37 Years. In her career as an educator she has taken on many roles including instructional aide, early childhood education aide, parent workshop presenter, curriculum writer, instructional specialist and bilingual teacher. Her passion lies in working with Latino students and parents. Teresa’s philosophy is “Si Se Puede” and she is a proponent of Alhambra Latino Association goals for academic achievement and cultural awareness in the community.
Over the years, more than 60 community members have contributed stories, photos, videos, and ideas. We recognize them and showcase a selection of their work here, and invite you to bring your ideas and perspectives to the table.