Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    OaklandLocal publisher addresses Mass Media and Society class

    The Mass Media and Society Class had to a chance to speak with executive director and publisher of the alternative news media website OaklandLocal. Susan Mernit spoke with students on March 4 about running a non-profit and sharing uncommon stories of the Oakland community.
    OaklandLocal, launched in 2009, is considered an independent news non-profit organization which is a resource for, according their website, what is “happening in education, city government, food, innovative tech, arts and culture, youth and more in Oakland.”
    It is not funded or run by a major media conglomerate like Fox or NBC Universal, and its content is written by a staff who lives and works in the city. That staff ranges from ages 18 to 60, and is 80 percent people of color, and 70 percent women.
    According to Mernit, stories come from writers who focus on and are passionate about the communities they live in. For instance, a biased piece about a shooting in Oakland will not come from a writer who is writing from a big city office across the country.
    It will often be objective coverage, focusing on issues of class and race, coming from someone who has first hand experience with the community where that incident took place. Usually, though, OaklandLocal will cover stories the mainstream media do not cover.
    Sometimes however, pieces will be infused with passionate opinion. These are the “community voices” pieces in which writers are concerned with what is going on in the world around them.
    Occasionally, guest writers will be featured on the OaklandLocal page, voicing their impassioned views about Oakland’s happenings such as the gentrification of its neighborhoods or Google moving in to the Fruitvale neighborhood. Mernit and her team make sure the content stays true to the author’s intent.
    However, said Mernit, “there’s no hate speech, we have to know who you are, there’s no slandering people and if you have a point of view [on] an issue, there’s a place people can come and talk about it.”
    Mernit shared with students that OaklandLocal takes pride in their investigative reporting. The site was born out of such reporting and the fact that news coverage was so unbalanced. Mernit and her business partner, Kwan Booth, were frustrated with the fact that the Oscar Grant story wasn’t being accurately reported.
    At this point, after having established a solid readership, people flock to OaklandLocal frequently, and on more than just their website. “We don’t believe in this idea of ‘make them come to our website.’ Nobody does that,” Mernit said.
    This philosophy has been successful and now, in posting content on multiple media platforms and sites, readers follow Mernit and her team on Facebook and Twitter, where they have over 26,000 followers.
    Now, after OaklandLocal’s success, Mernit and her team have begun a new site, this time one which is much more commercial. The site, titled “Live Work Oakland” is a database of 300 tech companies in Oakland.
    Differentiated by different business categories, the site is, according to their website, a resource of a “comprehensive list of tech-related entities in Oakland’s burgeoning and diverse tech community.” Mernit said that she feels the site has “real commercial potential.”
    Mernit concluded her talk by sharing advice with the Mass Media class. Discussing such topics as building relationships with potential employers and what it’s like to get your feet wet in the world of journalism, students appeared engaged in Mernit’s experience as a seasoned writer and business owner.
    OaklandLocal posts daily and can be visited at oaklandlocal.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Live Work Oakland is now available at liveworkoakland.com, and also has frequent blog posts.

    Susan Mernit Oaklocal
    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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