Journalism Students Use New Media to Raise Awareness in Long Beach

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Students from the Journalism and Mass Communications Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) partnered with New American Media’s youth-led Voicewaves this semester to cover issues in some of the city’s most diverse and economically disadvantaged communities.

Those enrolled in the department’s Senior Seminar have been building on their journalism skills to cover a broad range of critical local challenges—such as implementing the Downtown Plan, tightening environmental regulations at the port, reducing crime, and encouraging cycling.  CSULB students are focusing their coverage on communities and challenges that, historically, receive minimal mainstream media attention.

Ultimately, their news features are meant to raise awareness of neighborhood concerns in North Long Beach, Central Long Beach, downtown and the Westside.  In recognition of its cultural and economic significance, student journalists are also reporting on news relevant to the area encompassing Alamitos Beach, Carroll Park, Bluff Heights and the Fourth Street Corridor.

“Through our reporting, we hope to give voice to some of the poorest and most underserved residents of the city,” said Gwen Shaffer, an assistant professor in CSULB’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.  By incorporating interactive elements into news stories, such as clickable maps and polls, “local residents will have an opportunity to contribute to and participate in the coverage of their neighborhoods.”

This model of news organizations partnering with community organizations “reflects a real world trend,” noted Chris Burnett, department chair.  For instance, the Voice of San Diego is produced by KNSD, the NBC-owned station in San Diego, and an online news organization supported by foundations, corporations and readers.

The content produced by the CSULB students—including pieces produced for broadcast, print, online and audio platforms—are being made available on websites hosted by both and CSULB’s the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.  Posts can be found on a university blog, and on the VoiceWaves YouTube Channel.

“This will be an important source of community reporting”, said VoiceWaves Community Engagement Manager Antonio Ruiz.  “Long Beach residents are all served by this partnership.”

Prumsodun Ok, VoiceWaves project director and executive editor added, “This partnership is one of our goals to ensure that a diversity of voices are represented on our website.”

New America Media, with the support of The California Endowment and the Knight Foundation and in partnership with Building Healthy Communities, launched VOICEWAVES in May 2011.  The youth are being trained to use photography, video, radio and the Internet as community engagement tools to produce a better Long Beach.

The project is based at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach’s Community Development Branch Youth Institute.  For more than 10 years, the institute has been a training platform for teaching youth digital media, team-building, and community leadership skills.

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