by Cirien Saadeh, Education, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship Reporter for North News
This is the first in a series of blogs written by Cirien Saadeh, reflecting on her reporting work on the Northside. The Foundation has supported North News and Saadeh’s reporting. We have asked her to occasionally take a step back and provide her reflections about what she is seeing, hearing and experiencing as she travels in and around North Minneapolis. These are her reflections, unedited by the Foundation.
North Minneapolis has always been a community I have appreciated. When I first started working in the Northside, I loved it because it reminded me of Chicago and Detroit, cities where I grew up. However, the longer I work in the Northside and the deeper I dig my roots into this community, I have learned to love it because North Minneapolis is a neighborhood where your relationships
matter. When I head out into the streets to report on education, small businesses, or whatever my assignment is, I take with me North News and all the relationships I have built in the Northside.
For me, the Northside is this: it’s a community where trust matters and effort matters and who we are matters. The Northside I know seeks familiarity and connection, and its very atmosphere.
Since August, I’ve had the opportunity to deeply explore several facets of daily life on the Northside. I reported on the state of music education here, in the neighborhoods where Prince got his start. I’ve explored paths to homeownership with those who experience some of the greatest barriers to it. I’ve taken a hard look at the few full service restaurants on the Northside and asked why they continue to struggle despite the tireless work of their staffs. No matter what I report on though, the relationships I build here matter and every interview is an opportunity for sharing North News and digging deeper into the community, and doing more on the Northside.
In addition to the longer form pieces I mentioned above, I’ve gotten into the swing of producing two regular monthly features: the “school board report” and small business spotlights.
The School Board Report is my favorite piece of writing I get to do. It’s amazing to me that I am the only reporter at most Minneapolis.
Public Schools’ School Board meetings. This has caused me to become even more dedicated to North News’ education reporting, because we need to have an eye on the MPS school board. What happens at these School Board meetings is important, even if it’s often communicated in what seems to be a different language. As a reporter, I feel it’s my responsibility to translate those meetings, pulling out and digging deeper into what is important, and then make sure those meetings and their content are accessible to all of us.
I love our small business spotlights, as well. Every business I have interviewed for these pieces is amazed to be interviewed and most have never been mentioned in a newspaper or similar. My first spotlight on Camden Corner Coffee was such a fantastic opportunity for a new. Northside business to get their name out there and, as a coffee shop lover, between Camden, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, and Serendripity Spot, the
Northside has a small, but powerful serving of coffee.
Oftentimes, I read the paper or listen to the news and I find myself thinking: what’s the Northside angle to this story? For me, it’s not just important to report on Northside stories, it’s important to be present. I try not to hang around my office too much, I usually start my days at one coffee shop and end it at another. Journalism too often extracts from community, particularly under-resourced communities like North Minneapolis. For myself, it’s vital that we invest in the community, whether it’s shopping at one of the new grocery stores, or buying our holiday gifts (see our 11/30 issue for our Shop Local Gift Guide), because I believe that journalism does best when it’s a tool we can use for building the community and world we want to see, when it becomes a source for community development and not only a space where other people’s words are shared.
I know a lot of young reporters dream of building a foundation and moving on to the likes of MPR or the Star Tribune, but I would be perfectly content to
report out of the Northside for as long as North News will have me.
I am always open to pitches and feedback on my stories and can be contacted at 612-512-0887 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also open and wanting to sit down to coffee with Northsiders and putt in the effort to build the relationships that matter. Please feel free to contact me.
Cirien Saadeh is the Education, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship Reporter for North News. She has worked in and around the Northside for nearly ten years as a freelance journalist and community organizer, including a graduate internship with Appetite for Change in 2014. As a long-time freelance journalist, she has worked as a member of the Minnesota State Capitol Press Corps (with The UpTake, where she now serves on The Board of Directors) and the Twin Cities Daily Planet as a community journalist. She has written for national and international newspapers and reported for radio, print, and online news organizations. Working for North News is the dream, however, and she is so grateful to be working in a community she loves, for an organization she loves, and doing work she loves.