To Serve and Inform: The Mott Haven Herald

A news engagement project

The Nameplate of the Mott Haven Herald

A box of ramen noodles arced through the air before being loaded into the back of a police van. The officers of the 40th precinct were collecting provisions to send to Puerto Rico as it rebuilds after Hurricane Maria. Across the street rise brown brick housing projects and down the street new construction is underway near the community gardens and the methadone clinic.

Joe Hirsch, the editor of The Mott Haven Herald, is showing me around the neighborhood. The tour highlights immigrant community centers, art galleries, food pantry lines and charter schools. Joe has spent the last decade covering this neighborhood and has stories about every block. Later that evening, at the Paley Center, journalists from national news organizations discussed regaining the trust of the public. Joe builds that trust every month by publishing stories that treat the neighborhood as more than a “place to go.”

Google Map highlighting the location of Mott Haven. Melrose is to the North and Port Morris to the East

The 2010 census found the South Bronx to be the poorest congressional district in the nation. Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris, three neighborhoods covered by the Herald, have a combined population of over 70,000. The Herald aims “to air information, connect residents and give them a voice.” With The Herald’s one full time reporter/editor/publisher, each print edition of the paper and each digitally published story requires incredible work and resilience to produce. Luckily there’s help.

15 students. 13 beats.

Every fall, Joe Hirsch welcomes a new group of students from CUNY’s graduate school of journalism to work on the paper. Students, in their first semester of graduate school, report and produce journalism that goes out in print editions of 4,000 papers and online through the paper’s website. “The population of these neighborhoods is expected to rise to 200,000 in the next five years,” Joe tells me. He sees immense opportunity to grow the paper’s readership and to experiment with community engagement tactics.

I’ll be documenting the work behind the work that students produce for the Herald and highlighting examples of listening that allow news to be created with and for the community. Each student’s beat will require different outreach strategies and the linguistic and cultural diversity of the neighborhood will provide additional obstacles for the English-language Herald to best serve the needs of the residents of Mott Haven

Follow along and if you have any suggestions or recommendations please post in the comment section below