After a wonderful year serving Somerville, the reporter begins new steps
Ever since I began my work as assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, I knew that I should be prepared for the unexpected. This local news project, the Somerville Wire, a publication of BINJ’s Somerville News Garden project, was in many ways an experiment, something that was just coming into being and was facing a lot of unknowns. I began overseeing the Wire, together with our executive director, Jason Pramas, in February 2021, in the middle of a pandemic, a fraught and challenging time for everyone in Somerville. And out of this tumultuous climate, we set about trying to achieve a single goal: to bring more reliable, responsible news to one small American city in the hope of preventing it from becoming a “news desert.” Instead, we wanted to help create a “garden,” a place where journalism could thrive, where the community could be heard, and where solid, strong news structures could exist.
With this intention, we began our tasks. We followed City Council meetings, we conducted surveys, and we worked with students who were interested in grassroots reporting. So many stories came out of our research and interviewing; we spoke to people about policing in schools, the displacement of artists, and efforts to mitigate rodent activity in Somerville. We even began a regular public affairs talk show, Somerville Live Wire, with support from the Somerville Media Center and our host, Mary Ellen Myhr. But I think what work at the Somerville News Garden showed me that was most critical was the importance and meaning behind local news, behind hearing the voices of everyone in our city. No story is insignificant, and talking to my fellow community members, hearing what moves them and what impacts their lives, I have learned what it means to listen. Just listen.
I was recently offered the opportunity to work as a writer for the Community section of Boston.com, and while I am excited about exploring this new path, I am extremely grateful for the time that I had to serve the Somerville community as a reporter. I am thankful to every individual who made time to just patiently speak to me and share about what is valuable to them—the effect that wage theft has on immigrant workers, the problem of air and noise pollution from highways, safety at a school play yard. Your stories make life in Somerville what it is, and hearing people’s perspectives, even if they may not match, even if we do not agree, enriches our experience of the world and gives it more facets. Having this exchange shows us who we are. And for that reason, I am so unbelievably humbled by the chance that I had to write for this community, and I sincerely hope that this project that we started—without knowing where it would go, how it would end up—will continue to grow, to build, and to serve as a support in the community. Thank you to everyone in Somerville, to Jason, Mary Ellen, and Chris Faraone, and I hope to stay tuned and see where the news takes us.