Wick Communications

The immigrant project

In journalism on 13 Apr 2017 at 12:39 pm

That smiling woman up there is Petra Polakovicova. When I met her several years ago, she had just achieved the title advanced sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. It is a very rare distinction and makes her one of the world’s true wine experts. She is also an immigrant from Slovakia.

Which is why I mention her here. You see, immigrants like her might not come immediately to mind in the current debate over immigration.

Last week, during a pair of conference calls with editors, I heard again and again about Wick editors who were planning in various ways to highlight immigrants in their communities. That would probably be a worthwhile effort at any time, but these efforts come in a particular context. Immigrants and immigration generally are probably the enduring hot topic in the nation today.

Those discussions got me thinking. What if we did something epic?

Here is what I propose: An endless series of profiles, interviews, portraits, recordings and videos of immigrants in our communities. Frankly, we are going to do this at the Half Moon Bay Review whether anyone wants to play with us or not, but it will be so much more interesting if we work on this together. …

I envision a mosaic of all the many kinds of people who have come to our shores for their own reasons. I decidedly do not want it to be solely Mexican immigrants working in our restaurants, though I want to tell their stories too. I want Italian shoemakers, Polish police sergeants, Russian poets, Guatemalan farmworkers, and professors from France. Some “stories” might be told in a series of pictures of the immigrant at home. Some might be a three-minute video. Others might be a 2,000-word story with no art at all. I can see recipes that people bring with them, their own photos, perhaps in gallery form. Maybe there will be first-person pieces relaying their idea of the American dream. There are endless possibilities.

Now, this idea differs from literally all of my others in one key way: I’m suggesting we do it together, across our newspapers, across state lines. I have argued at every turn that we should all be local all the time. I still believe that, however, I think it’s possible that right now our readers would benefit from learning about other readers in other parts of the country. This is my little salvo across the divide, you might say.

What I propose is anyone who wants to participate simply do so. Begin collecting these parts and then when we have a critical mass of them, we will decide what to do with them. This will be the focus of our next editors’ call later this month. One possibility is that this will become a standalone website, perhaps supported by advertising. Maybe this becomes something we print as an insert into our papers, with an ongoing web portal so that people can share their own stories.

You do not have to participate. This is not your second-quarter project. This is something for all of us, but only if it truly resonates with you.

Two final thoughts for now:

  1. Make this something that makes us proud. If you want to be included, I want you to do your best work. No half-assed contributions just so you can say you participated.
  2. In our shop, photographer Jamie Soja has created a Google sheet to track people we want to highlight, whether we plan video, audio, photos or stories, and when we plan to complete it. After we talk later this month, perhaps we will share that Sheet with others so that this comes together in a cohesive way.

More to come. Let me know what you think. Call me if you like.

— Clay




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