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The Entryway Draws Criticism, Dialogue

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Photo by Kara Mears/The Entryway

Photo by Kara Mears/The Entryway
Bold statements can draw major criticism. Such is the case with the optimistic view I shared at the end of my post about The Entryway, an online project in which two white women move into a household of immigrants in the MacArthur Park/Westlake area to, in part, "learn Spanish so that [they] can better report our native city."

As with any project of this type, it drew criticism in the comments section and some observations last Friday from Kevin Roderick on KCRW. "This style of immersion journalism is always open to criticism as inauthentic or patronizing," he said. "After all, there are plenty of experts already on L.A. immigrant culture - hundreds of thousands live it every day. They could just be interviewed, or hired to report it themselves." Roderick, however, noted that projects like this "can yield wonderfully detailed and authentic insights."

Add to that this from Tuesday. "This is not what we need. Not what we need to celebrate, not what we need to encourage," wrote Daniel Hernandez in an opinion post on his website. "Progress is needed in media values in the same way we've seen progress in media platforms. So if independent media workers (or wealthy foundations, or documentary filmmakers) truly care about giving voice to marginalized voices, they should empower immigrants and poor people to tell their own stories. All it takes is a cheap or donated camera, an Internet connection, and a bit of encouragement. Look at Project Luz, or the Border Film Project, for starters."

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(Also: Hernandez told LAist in 2006 that he always tries to be aware of how his own cultural perspective informs the process. "You can't not. For journalism, abandoning cannibalizing hang-ups is bliss.")

As noted in the original LAist post, the "immersion journalism" portrayed in their diary--yes, filled with raw emotion and culture shock--that is taking the heat is only one part of the project. For Devine Browne and Kara Mears, who are behind The Entryway, the journal is not even journalism to them, but a "personal narrative," they say in a recently published F.A.Q. that they hope clears up questions, concerns and accusations. A main core of the anticipated year-long project, now about one month in, is stepping away from the journal to more traditional reporting, whether it be old school or new school. A gander at writer Browne's MacArthur Park Media demonstrates this. The stories there, such as Tamales on the Run,, The Corner and The Takeaway, are mostly audio interviews where people tell their stories first hand.

Perhaps, how those stories are told are debatable, too, but criticism towards the project should include the full picture, not just one aspect of it.

Nonetheless, the dialogue about The Entryway is a good thing. Media of all sorts--LAist included--needs to be dissected and discussed in order to improve (After all, this is why there are events like last weekend's Media Reform Summit and studies like the recent report [.pdf] on local TV news stations not being very local). With that said, here's an opportunity to tell us (and other members of the media who are reading this) what in Los Angeles truly needs better media coverage, why and how should it be covered. There is nothing new about posing this question, but it never hurts to get a fresh reminder on what's important to readers and Angelenos across the spectrum.