Here at the Advocate, we believe in community journalism. We know that stories about neighbors and the issues concerning them are why readers look to us and trust us for news that, literally, hits home for them.

We’ve been doing community journalism in Dallas since 1991, when what is now the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate launched. Lake Highlands and Preston Hollow/North Dallas followed in the 1990s, and Oak Cliff in the 2000s. Though there are commonalities in these neighborhoods, they are distinct in many ways, and our goal is to tell those unique stories in ways that resonate with neighbors and make an impact in these communities.

Now, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Facebook Journalism Project Community Network, the Advocate will expand this work into two new neighborhoods — South Dallas and West Dallas.

Our nonprofit arm, Advocate Foundation — founded in 2004 to serve organizations and individuals in Dallas communities — is being repurposed as a news nonprofit that will steer these efforts. The grant will fund listening tours in West Dallas and South Dallas, helping us to understand where and how neighbors get their news, and what stories need to be told. We’ll announce next steps at the conclusion of the listening tours.

Why are we just now expanding to these areas? Advocate’s business model is based on advertising dollars. Our magazines are delivered to front doors in our neighborhoods for free, and our digital content is available online to anyone wanting to read it. The problem with this model is that it limits us to communities where advertisers want to spend money to reach the wealthiest residents of the city.

Over the past year or so, we’ve done a lot of reflection about what it would take to dig deeper into complex issues facing our communities, as well as other communities throughout Dallas. The reality is that it’s not possible with the current resources we have. As we looked to innovative local news efforts across the country, a solution emerged in our nonprofit arm.

For a few years in the 2000s, Advocate’s nonprofit was able to raise enough money to award grants to neighborhood schools and organizations. But the one-two punch of the 2008 recession and the digital revolution dried up local journalism resources in Dallas and across the country. All of us are trying to do more with less, which is untenable.

A nonprofit model allows for a return to journalism for its intended purpose — public service. With the news nonprofit, we plan to embark on community journalism efforts in Dallas’ underserved news deserts, starting with South Dallas and West Dallas, and also tackle complex civic issues citywide with a local media collaborative.

This week marked the beginning of both. Through our new media partnership with South Dallas newspaper The Dallas Weekly, our follow-up on enrollment at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts co-published on the Advocate and Weekly sites Wednesday morning, and in the Weekly’s print edition this week. A chance encounter with the Dallas Morning News’ Sharon Grigsby led to the realization that we were working on related pieces and an organic effort to publish our story and her column in tandem.

We here at the Advocate are excited about the opportunity to create impactful journalism for even more Dallas residents, and we are grateful for grantors like the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network for supporting these efforts.

We will continue to inform you, our loyal readers, as we make progress. To learn more or to support these new efforts, please reach out to Keri Mitchell at 214.292.0487 or kmitchell@advocatemag.com, and follow @thequotablelife on Twitter.


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