By Kendra Sitton
A team of journalists in San Diego is embarking on a new online community journalism project to ensure stores of the pandemic are preserved. The project, “Stories of San Diego,” lets People of Color (POC) in the region and beyond submit their experiences and photos from the past year to be compiled on a website for others to read. The stories will also be included in a book published in late 2021 and the entire project will be archived at San Diego State University’s digital library.
Since COVID-19 has disproportionately affected POC, and POC are underrepresented both inside newsrooms and in the stories those newsrooms tell, these stories are particularly important to publish.
Stories of San Diego was founded by local news producer Lindsay Hood, a disabled Black woman living in Normal Heights. She assembled a team of volunteers for the project, starting with Jane Woo, who is the director of communications. Software engineer Osha Groetz is assisting on the technical side of the project. Experienced journalists Paul Krueger, JW August and Lynn Walsh are digging into the data to find disparities POC faced for the eventual book Hood will publish.
In addition to her help with the project, Woo was the first person to submit her own story to the website. She shared an experience that occurred early in the pandemic when a white woman accosted Woo, her husband and child while they were in La Jolla, asking why Muslims beheaded white people and not Chinese people. The woman escalated the situation and yelled at them when they asked her to leave them alone. . Afterwards, the only bystanders to check in with them were African American.
“It was truly an alarming and a traumatizing experience,” Woo said in the story.
The format of the project allows people to tell their own stories in their entirety, rather than being shortened for broadcast. People can send submissions in their preferred language and there are editors available for Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Illicano and English.
“I want people to be able to read stories about all people and be able to read it in the language that they know so they can get the full effect. It’s really important for everyone to be heard,” Hood said.
Currently, another member of the team, Dahhee Kim, is ramping up the project’s social media presence to raise awareness of the project and attract more participants. The volunteers are also contacting cultural organizations so they can alert their members.
Hood said she would be happy with even 100 stories but other members of the team think they can reach 1,000. One roadblock they are facing is that people are worried they do not write well enough to be published. Hood reassures them that there are editors available and multiple perspectives are needed. To help people struggling to write, Hood is adding five prompts so they can have specific things to answer.
“I want people to really write their own stories, if I do it, I’m accustomed to broadcast so I’m gonna cut out a lot of really good things,” she explained. “It’s got to be from the person themselves.”
She also noted that she is limited when writing about cultures she may not understand or be a part of. Only members of that culture can do it justice.
The public can submit their stories in a variety of ways — they don’t need a computer or internet access to participate. People can text their story and a photo to 619-777-5776, email their story to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.storiesofsandiego.com to learn more.
— Reach Kendra Sitton at email@example.com.