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The room held people ranging from 12-year-old students to retired community members in their 60s; there was a mix of immigrants and people born and raised in the United States. And the people in the room held a variety of roles in our community, from parents to community organizers to city council representatives.

This conversation happened as part of News Voices: North Carolina’s ongoing partnership with The Charlotte Observer, but on this occasion journalists from other newsrooms joined us — coming from Enlace Latino, Latino Rebels and Norsan Media. So as much as this was an effort to build relationships between residents and local journalists, it was also a conversation about how local newsrooms can collaborate to ensure that people get the news and information they need.

The majority of our time together was spent in small-group conversations exploring the following questions:

  • What brought you (or your family) to Charlotte? And/or what keeps you here?

  • How can a local English-language newspaper like the Observer best serve Charlotte’s immigrant communities? What stories should it tell? What information should it provide?

  • Do you know of other news outlets (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, etc.) that do a good job of serving immigrant communities?

  • What can Charlotte do to better serve immigrants? Is there a place other than Charlotte that’s doing a better job serving its immigrant communities?

  • What questions do you have about policies, laws and rules affecting immigrants in Charlotte? Or about the people — immigrants, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers — who come from around the world to make this region home?

And some of the observations that emerged were:

  • Local news needs to tell the stories about how the United States influences other countries, especially via elections, and has destabilized countries in ways that have created forced migration.

  • The coverage of immigrant people is one-dimensional and fails to uplift the resiliency and creativity it requires to navigate the world as an immigrant person.

  • In Charlotte, “immigrant” is synonymous with “Latinx” even though there are immigrants from various parts of the world. Black immigrants and immigrants from smaller Southeast Asian countries, among others, are erased from the story.

  • Stories about immigration also have to be stories about how we create a Charlotte that people feel part of. We need stories that reach beyond one-dimensional coverage of immigrant communities and underscore how a variety of local issues affect immigrant people.

  • Black and Brown truths are often labeled as conspiracy theories if they don’t resonate with White residents and/or reporters who have different lived experiences.

  • The talking points that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement uses to justify its cruelty aren’t backed by data. People want more coverage that disproves ICE’s arguments.

And there were a lot of people, residents and journalists alike, asking how the news organizations in the room could collaborate and how newsrooms with greater resources could add capacity to smaller outlets.

A community member raised a principle of media-justice work when they said: “Media systems create the cultural conditions that allow for policy and political change to happen.”

News Voices had already planned to continue bringing residents and Observer journalists together to transform local news. And this statement, which resonated across the entire room, captured why we must keep doing this work in Charlotte, across North Carolina and beyond.

Ensuring that news and information are rooted in community needs and prioritize a range of community voices and perspectives means that we’re moving toward the creation of a culture where all of us are seen and can thrive.

Check out a few photos from this powerful event below:

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