The Northeast L.A. Riverfront Collaborative is an interdisciplinary project that builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. KCET Departures is the media partner of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative. For more information visit the website www.mylariver.org
This past June, the interns and the research team of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative conducted media census field work. Media census involves walking in the neighborhoods with clipboards and cameras and making observations of the different types of print media available, such as newspapers, newsletters, brochures, pamphlets and tabloids. Sometimes the media could be found inside a kiosk on the sidewalk or posted on a bulletin board inside a restaurant. We took pictures of where we found the media, jotted down notes on what the media looked like, and picked up samples if they were free.
The goal of this media census fieldwork was to understand the nature of the media environment in the Northeast Los Angeles area and begin identifying the similarities and differences in the types of media active in each of the area's five neighborhoods: Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights and Elysian Valley.
Why do local media matter? They play a key role in creating common interests, issues and events that are specific to the neighborhood and can foster a shared sense of identity among residents. The media stories can often be a starting point for conversations among residents and can trigger a community organization to pay attention to an overlooked neighborhood issue. The community organizations may also have important updates and news about the neighborhood that may be communicated to the residents through the local media. The key to building community in urban areas is this active neighborhood storytelling network, whereby residents, community organizations and local media together generate and share stories about their own neighborhoods.
The idea of the neighborhood storytelling network comes from communication infrastructure theory (CIT), developed by USC's Metamorphosis Project, which has looked in-depth at the nature of different storytelling networks within various neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. The findings from research suggest that an active storytelling network that connects residents, community organizations and local media is crucial to sustaining community and increasing the health and civic well-being of residents.
The media census fieldwork we conducted during the summer helps us to start generating our own list of the active storytellers in the NELA study area, as many of the smaller, local print media are not listed in major media directories.
Here are some of the initial observations and what they may suggest about the print media in each of the five neighborhoods and the corridors that we covered: Los Feliz Boulevard, Fletcher Drive, Glendale Boulevard, Figueroa Street, Cypress Avenue, Loreto Street and Riverside Drive. We hope to do some more in-depth field work to further identify the characteristics of the neighborhoods' media environment.
The diverse range of print media in Atwater Village reflects the abundance of small businesses in the area. A handful of magazines and newsletters, covering topics such as recreation, fitness and food — Los Angeles Sports and Fitness Magazine, L.A. Yoga, Whole Life Times and Record Collector — seem to reflect the types of businesses in the area.
Another interesting characteristic in Atwater Village is the abundance of ethnic media that suggests diversity in the readership, which includes Punjabi, Spanish and Korean speakers. For example, the Punjabi newspapers Khazana India Journal, India Abroad, India West and Punjabi Press USA were found inside the India India Sweets & Spices on 3126 Los Feliz Blvd. We will need to further investigate if these ethnic, multilingual media cater specifically to immigrant residents in Atwater Village or if the ethnic businesses attract diverse audiences from the surrounding neighborhoods.
In contrast to Atwater Village, where the media seemed to be more spread out across Los Feliz Boulevard, Fletcher Drive and Glendale Boulevard, Cypress Park had a smaller range of newspapers, magazines and flyers. Interestingly, there were several locations where print media were concentrated — Antigua Coffee (3400 North Figueroa Street), Bike Oven (3706 North Figueroa Street), Cypress Park Recreation Center and Cypress Park Family Source Center (CPFSC). There was an abundance of flyers that promoted community service, bike rides, educational content and teen sports events and programs.
In our future work, we may need to look at the degree to which these sites act as meeting and greeting places for the residents, and the role that these print media play in informing residents about what is going on in the community, but also how they may trigger conversation.
Similarly, in Glassell Park, the plaza on Eagle Rock Boulevard housed a wide range of print media, creating an important gathering and meeting place for residents. We found both Spanish and English language media, including the Auto Mercado, La Opinion, El Clasificado, Daily News and the L.A. Times.
On Blake Avenue in Elysian Valley, we spotted the Little Free Library, which stood out with its unique appearance that contrasted with the more business-oriented media we found in Atwater Village and Cypress Park. The Little Free Library is, as its name indicates, a free library that is part of a worldwide network of more than 10,000 bookstands where neighbors can "take a book, return a book."
Our initial observations of print media in Lincoln Heights were quite limited. We spotted some kiosks on the corner of Avenue 19 and Broadway, but additional visits and observations will be needed to uncover the types of print media active in the area.
So far, these were some observations we made in our initial fieldwork. Future visits and more in-depth observations in each of the neighborhoods will be needed.
We are using the media census fieldwork and a complimentary online media monitoring process to gain an understanding of the local NELA storytelling network and communication ecologies. Based on the research and analysis of the media and stories published, we will present data that provides an understanding of the current storytelling themes and practices about the NELA study area's relationship to the L.A. River and its adjacent NELA neighborhoods. We also plan to invite local media producers to be part of a focus group discussion to explore the conditions of storytelling and sustainable storytelling strategies.