A new online site aimed at providing hard-hitting news and covering the issues most important to the community has launched in Austin.
The Westside Source, which is black-owned and operated, will be a platform for news and information not only for the community but also for other community publications already providing content, said Terry Dean, co-founder of the publication and former editor of Austin Weekly News.
“We have a lot of stuff going on in the community . . . but there’s a lot of stuff that can’t get covered, and I think that’s where that community outcry comes from,” Dean said.
That’s why he and co-founder and editor Frank Latin, executive director of The Westside Writing Project, came together to develop the online site that will be written by people from within the community.
“We will have a team of journalists put together high-quality information that we feel can be useful (for) everyday residents,” Latin said.
The official launch party for the website, which went live a few weeks back, will be 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 11 at Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave.
The idea to launch Westside Source came after Dean and Latin said they found local residents wanted more of a focus on community news and more balanced reporting.
“When we look at our community, we are more than just a crime statistic,” Latin said, noting how Austin is often portrayed in the media as one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
“(We’re) more than just another stereotypical story of an African-American community,” he said.
By focusing on issues within the community, from the perspective of people in that community, the new media outlet hopes to set itself apart from other publications reporting on Austin, Latin said.
“We feel that we’re better at reporting in on our own neighborhood than an outlet coming in to tell the news,” Latin said. “And focusing on issues we feel are impactful in our lives.”
But the new online site isn’t here to oppose the current news outlets already operating in Austin, Latin said.
Malcolm Crawford, founder of the Austin African American Business Networking Association and owner of Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, provided community insight to Dean and Latin during a series of meetings leading up to the online site’s launch, the founders said.
The purpose of this new publication will be to focus on the community news that’s often overlooked, Crawford said.
He expects to see coverage of important figures in the community, as well as events that would not be covered by larger media outlets,
Crawford said it’s important to note that just because the online site is black-owned, it won’t focus on just black issues, but rather community issues.
“When you’re able to (cover news) from a community perspective, you get a better view of what’s happening,” Crawford said. “It’s not necessarily a black perspective but a community perspective.”
Suzanne McBride, editor and founder of AustinTalks, which has covered Austin since 2010, said she welcomes the new site. There are so many stories that need to be told, she said.
“I think a community as rich, diverse and large as Austin should have as much news and information about it as possible,” McBride said.
Christopher Denson, co-publisher of the The Windy City Word, a black-owned and operated weekly newspaper that has been in the community for 25 years, says the West Side is becoming more diverse. He called the neighborhood a melting pot; that’s why his publication tries to reach out to everyone in the community, he said.
If the founders of The Westside Source believe there’s a need for coverage, their efforts are encouraged, Denson said.
“If they feel that they are fulfilling a need, I welcome them to place their product within the market,” he said.
Austin Weekly News Publisher Dan Haley shared similar sentiments.
“Austin is a fascinating neighborhood with lots to write about,” Haley said. “I consider Terry and Malcolm to be friends and colleagues, and I welcome them to join in.”
“Austin deserves the best coverage possible from whatever news sources are here to cover it,” he said.
Issac Jones, publisher of the Austin Voice Newspaper said, it’s ultimately up to the public to decide if it wants more news and information about the community.
“If (Austin residents) feel another publication is needed and they are receptive to it, then so be it,” Jones said.
The Westside Source will be funded by donations, ads and grants, Latin said.