Liberty City Link debuted in the South Florida Times three weeks ago, and now that you've seen it, perhaps it's time to explain what it's about and how it came to be.
The first thing you should probably know is that what you read in Liberty City Link is, with the exception of this column, the work of journalism students at Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
There are 17 students this semester, mostly Hispanic, with a few Anglos and one African American. In future terms, the staff will change, but already the current staff has said they want to stay on and continue working.
That's because this group of student reporters, many of whom had never been to Liberty City and some of whom were afraid to go, have quickly come to love this too-often-stigmatized place of poverty and plenty, hardship and hope, evil and good.
They’re enthusiastic beyond belief that they have the chance to cover the community – the good, the indifferent and the bad.
A bit of history:
I'm a product of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where I earned a master's degree in 1981 before starting my career as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in New Jersey and Florida. I taught part-time for most of those years before joining FIU as a full-time professor in 2005.
My class at Columbia published The Bronx Beat, a weekly paper covering a community much like Liberty City, one we journalists typically paid attention to by covering food, fun and festivals, crime and corruption. The Bronx Beat is where I learned street reporting and how to do a better job than that.
Fast forward to Florida:
The first class I taught at FIU was called Multi-Ethnic Reporting. It teaches students how to cover communities whose members look, speak, behave, and believe differently than they do by forcing them to look at their own attitudes, then throwing them into places they'd never otherwise think of going: places like Liberty City.
Combine The Bronx Beat with Multi-Ethnic Reporting, and what you get is Liberty City Link.
We hope to do better by Liberty City than merely food, fun and festivals, crime and corruption. To be sure, we will cover those subjects, but that's not all we'll cover.
We hope to view the neighborhood from the inside out, as a place where people live and work, raise their children to be good people, and just try to get by. And as a place where people live who don't do any of those things and prey off the people who do. Just as if we were covering the places where the folks afraid to visit Liberty City live.
Sometimes we'll be really good at what we're trying to do, and sometimes not so much. We're “baby journalists,” learning our craft as we go. There'll be a new crop of us every semester and, to be honest, a bit of a learning curve.
But we promise to work real hard to get it right.
We hope you will help us. You are not only the people we cover, you are the people who can tell us what to cover. We want to hear your stories, what is happy in your lives, what is not so happy; what's good in Liberty City and what's not good; about the official and the unofficial.
Liberty City Link stories all contain the e-mail addresses of the reporters who wrote them. If you like the story, tell them. If you don't like it, tell them. If there's something they should cover or something that they're not covering, tell them that, too.
I make the same offer.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call me at 305-919-5677. Fax announcements, news releases, letters or anything else you think we should see at 305-919-5215.