It’s no accident that Richmond’s city hero is Rosie the Riveter — one of the most durable symbols of American resilience in the face of insurmountable odds.
It seems like no matter what the challenge on the American stage – the loss of manufacturing jobs, the rise of drugs and gangs, the foreclosure crisis — Richmond bears more than its share. Still, we survive and thrive. For every depressing story in Richmond, there are scores of inspiring ones. And, more often than not, when our city exposes a serious problem, we try to work together to fix it. The problem is, there are fewer people telling these stories.
Richmond has become a news desert, one of a growing number of mid-sized American cities without a daily newspaper dedicated to that community. Thirty years ago, the West County Times operated a bureau inside Richmond City Hall staffed by two seasoned reporters, Michael Cabanatuan and Dan Reed. Today, the West County Times has morphed into the East Bay Times and there are more stories about Antioch and San Jose than there are about West County.
That leaves Richmond residents to get their news from a patchwork of sources with major challenges or weaknesses. The Richmond Confidential, a blog produced by UC Berkeley journalism school students, sometimes produces excellent content but regularly loses all of its reporters to graduation. The Richmond Post only publishes weekly and focuses on national and local news for the African-American community. Mayor Tom Butt’s e-forum is a regular blast email sent to thousands of residents. While often informative, the bias of the e-Forum is obvious: Butt often writes about himself in the third-person and the emails increasingly feature unflattering stories about his political rivals. The Pulse, a bilingual newspaper, like the Post, provides news to a subset of the populace.
Regardless of your opinion on the Chronicle’s recent exposé on the Richmond Housing Authority — some long-time political observers say it was based on outdated information and stale data; others think it exposed a long-ignored source of suffering for some of Richmond’s poorest residents — the series was an all-too-infrequent kick-in-the-pants for an increasingly out-of-touch City Hall majority.
As former Times reporter Robert Rogers’ excellent piece in the Contra Costa times pointed out, too many regional and national publications were lavishing the certain council members with coverage for noble, but ill-considered policy experiments, while urgent city problems are ignored.
The truth is, we’re all to blame. We all need to look around in our community and start talking about the things that aren’t right. We can’t expect that investigative journalists are looking out for us. The housing authority series is proof. Chronicle reporters didn’t even write it; it was a one-off special project produced by the Center for Investigative Journalism, a foundation-funded 800-pound gorilla of experienced journalists from papers around the country. They probably won’t be around to blow the whistle about the next crisis under our noses.
That’s where Radio Free Richmond comes in. We’re people who live and work in Richmond who want to tell the stories about the city — both good and bad — that aren’t getting out. Some of us, like Don Gosney, are ex-journalists with years of Richmond experience. Others, like Felix Hunziker, are neighborhood activists who are trying to make Richmond a better place to work and live.
We’re inviting other Richmond citizen journalists to join us and to submit story ideas, finished articles, photos and videos about Richmond. We want to feature local stories and — with your help — expose problems in our community. We’ll never be able to compete with professional journalists and news organizations, nor is it our intention to. Instead, we want to draw attention to the stories that aren’t being covered in our community with the hope that they’ll be picked up by the pros.
Here are our ground rules:
We’re middle of the road — We’re trying to put together an information source that focuses more on facts and less on political ideology. We don’t believe business is inherently bad and we’re not going to blame Chevron or big business for every problem in the city, nor will we shy away from calling out Richmond’s business leaders, political groups or politicians if there’s proof they're not doing the right thing.
Editorials are encouraged as long as they’re clearly marked as editorials and never try to pass themselves off as news.
We won’t endorse candidates — Not long after area newspapers starting gutting their staffs, Richmond politicians and political groups started publishing “news” favorable to themselves and their candidates.
We’re going to steer clear of this by not endorsing candidates.
Come election season, Radio Free Richmond will invite candidates to post statements and headshots—using their own words—so the community might get to know them better.
We are looking for input — We want stories and story ideas from every corner of Richmond. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio Free Richmond will never ghost write an article or editorial nor will we edit what has been written. The exception will be that we will work with authors to clean up or polish their submissions but ONLY with their blessing.
Radio Free Richmond reserves the right to dismiss trolling, slurs, bullying and vulgarities from our Facebook page.
We’ll try to have fun — We’re going to try to line up the best group of volunteer writers and editors we can and have fun while we do it. We’re serious about our love for Richmond and our desire to make it the best possible place to live, work and raise a family, but we won’t take ourselves too seriously.
We want to help tell Richmond’s story without fear or favor. With your help, we can do it.