CityWatch, July 10, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 55
NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS - Jim Newton’s recent editorial in the LA Times
paid tribute to a decade of Neighborhood Council struggle and stirred
two responses from those embroiled in LA’s civic engagement battle.
folks were tickled to find LA’s Neighborhood Council system given a nod
by Newton, a longtime observer of LA’s Charter reform movement and LA’s
grassroots efforts to activate its “95 neighborhoods in search of a
Others were quick to criticize Newton, exclaiming “A column on NCs and
no perspective from any one on an NC? Really?”
There are a couple
of kinds of complaints that are common when it comes to coverage from
the local press, “How come we can’t get any press?” and “You call that
When Newton takes a look at Neighborhood Councils
and the last decade of civic engagement, he opines “they have yet to
prove either as revolutionary as their backers hoped or as
obstructionist as their opponents feared.”
He might have added that Neighborhood Councils are simply not good press.
critic of Newton’s editorial takes him to task saying “To be blunt, I
understand that rolodex reporting, strawmen conflicts, and he said/she
said commentary is part and parcel of daily journalism; it is also why
paid circulation of dailies has crashed.”
I would contend that if
Neighborhood Councils want better press, they need to be better press
and here are three ways to make that happen.
First, be available.
A journalist with a deadline is hard pressed to quote Neighborhood
Council leaders if they don’t take phone calls. Granted, there are
typically email contacts on each Neighborhood Council website but print
media works a little faster and anyone with a story to tell has a
spokesperson who will take calls and forward information.
Neighborhood Councils that want great press need to be available.
be quotable. Journalists, even the “he said/she said” variety, simply
need quotes that want to be read. Neighborhood Commissioner Douglas
Epperhart has been quoted more than a few times on many topics and he
attributes it to his ability to speak in full sentences that include an
interesting word. “It was great!” is not a newsworthy but “They were
feisty and opinionated!” will turn up in print.
Neighborhood Councils that want great press need to be quotable.
be good press. Journalists love great stories, ones that feature a
hero, a struggle, the risk of failure, and an against-all-odds outcome.
If Neighborhood Councils want great press, they have to be great press.
Be the story, tell the story, and cultivate a relationship with local
journalists so that they call you when they are digging for information,
when they need a quote, and when they are in search of the next big
In other words, some stories write themselves and if
Neighborhood Councils want to get credit for their hard work, it is
imperative that they become great press instead of simply standing by
and wondering why they get left out.