My New Job Is Reporting About You (So Here's A Little About Me)

That's me, pre-pandemic. Don't worry: I wear a mask now. (Bill Youngblood/KPCC)

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Hi! I'm LAist's new community engagement reporter. It's nice to meet you.

Until recently, I was an education reporter covering the K-12 scene. But in early March, while attending an emergency meeting of the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, my approach to newsgathering began to shift.

It was early in the pandemic. Masks weren't everywhere yet. News was breaking by the minute. Gatherings were still held — and INDOORS. And I was in a boardroom to see firsthand what the nation's second largest district was planning to do to slow the spread of this new virus.

I found a seat and tweeted where I was and what I was doing.

Quickly, hundreds of people started following me on Twitter, asking for updates, frequenting my DMs, and lighting up my email. It was unlike anything I'd experienced before reporting on other breaking news situations.

I tried to answer people as best as I could as the questions flooded in. For example:

From that moment, answering your questions became my focus.

Now, instead of starting my stories exploring my own questions, I'm guided by what you want to know.

  • When a reader asked for "a list of school closures, like we have on snow days back East," we made one.
  • When community members needed a directory of resources for food and other assistance, my colleagues compiled one.
  • When a main source of free meals was suddenly in jeopardy, I explained why it was happening.
  • When you wanted to know which schools got waivers to reopen, I filed public records requests.
  • When there were questions about access to in-person education, I made maps that showed disparities.
  • When you asked me if public health officials were ensuring that the reopenings were being done safely, I looked into that too.
  • And as pandemic panic set in, we were there with a comprehensive coronavirus guide based heavily on questions being asked of journalists across the newsroom.

Together, my colleagues and I received and responded to more than 4,700 of your questions about the coronavirus (while also answering questions about voting, racism, and unemployment). And despite extraordinary levels of suffering, a theme I've noticed is that people still want to know how they can help out.

"How can I help?" is a question I've also asked myself. And here's what I've come up with:

As LAist's new community engagement reporter I can help by seeking out the hard-to-find answers to the questions that are important to you — about any subject — just like I did at that emergency LAUSD meeting..

This is me - way before the pandemic, back when I was learning how to be a reporter - with the gear I use to record interviews (Courtesy Jephie Bernard)

I will take your questions and concerns to officials and experts.

I will put their answers into context.

I will listen to you and aim to share feelings and life experiences not commonly reflected in the news.

I won't have all the answers immediately, and may not be able to respond directly to everyone, but my promise is to read, look and listen to everything you send me, and apply it.

Your messages and questions now inform my understanding as I investigate, report, keep our leaders accountable, and ask my own tough questions of others.

So, let me know what you want to know. Or tell me your concerns. Or share something amazing that's happening in your world so I can help shine a light on it (after all, we could all use some good news these days). No question or tip is too big, too small, or too seemingly obvious.

Email me at cjavier@scpr.org, DM me on Twitter @carlamjavier, or fill out this form.

You now have a friend who's a reporter.