2022 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Micro Newsroom winner

Mission Local: Punching above our weight

About the Project

These entries demonstrate a range of engagement tools and outreach. We’re a small site and pride ourselves on doing a lot of street reporting, which we continued to do throughout the pandemic. But we also witnessed a huge need in the Latinx community for news that readers could use. To help, we started a texting service for our monolingual Spanish residents with everything from tips on how to take advantage of public programs to sudden changes in a food bank’s schedule or location. The texting service is two-way so we also hear from our subscribers about what is happening in their lives which is generally magnified throughout the community. This helps with story ideas.

We could see, for example, how isolated students had become during Covid so we not only wanted to document that isolation we wanted to relieve it in some way. Instead of using print for the series, we used illustrations and audio, a media that students could better appreciate. The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting came through with funding for the series after being impressed with an earlier series we did on documenting the everyday life of immigrants through the pandemic.

We presented the work in Report Card to at least a dozen schools and encouraged students to produce their own illustrated projects. We published some of the work and we also hired three high school students to work with our reporters to produce their own stories. We published all of those pieces as well.

For the corruption stories, we looked to multimedia to greatly extend the reach of those stories. How could we make this complicated web of stories understandable? The project produced an interactive, which illustrates the connections between the different players, links to the stories and an interactive quiz.

The story on the Lyft and Uber drivers, which ended up changing Uber’s policy, illustrates how well-reported stories can go viral. This story did and in doing so, it became clear that the ride-share companies would have to react. The comments and tweets from drivers across the country mounted and eight days later, Uber publically announced a change in policy.
In sum, these five stories offer an excellent illustration of how multimedia and social media can creatively engage and extend the reach of high-impact journalism – even when it is done by a small publication.

Judges Comments

The judges called this site a hugely valuable community resource and required reading for anyone in its coverage area, providing information unavailable anywhere else. They praised its use of visuals and data to engage its readers in a variety of ways, and held it up as an example of how even a small staff can do mighty work.