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There are no small stories (but there are small newsrooms)

By Cirien Saadeh, the Education, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Reporter for North News

This is the second 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.

Working for North News is the best job I have ever had. I have the freedom to report on stories no one else is telling, to explore issues in ways I could never do otherwise, and to meet new people every day. I spend so much of my days out-and-about in North Minneapolis. Every day, I travel to Northside businesses and schools, from the Davis Center to coffee shops to yoga studios, grocery stores, and local high schools. And I hear stories, I see much of what makes North Minneapolis great, despite its very real challenges.

North News is a small newsroom, two staffers and a whole slew of amazing interns, students, and volunteers. I believe that our paper says so much more than our capacity says we can. I believe our newspaper is also symbolic of North Minneapolis, small & generally under-resourced, but mighty.

North News Editor/Publisher Kenzie O’Keefe visits with Houston White, Curator of the Be the Change pop-up shop, co-hosted by West Broadway Business & Area Coalition. A North News priority is to engage community and to be present in community, as reporters and as fellow community members.

We are everywhere we can be and more, running across North Minneapolis. And the one thing I have learned above all else is that there are no small stories. My story about young people releasing an album at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School was no less important and impactful than my continuing coverage of Minneapolis Public Schools’ budget cuts at Patrick Henry High School. One story might require less work, but the passion and effort we bring to our coverage cannot be less.

I’ve learned so much about being a reporter through this job. And it’s so different than any other job I have had. Our newsroom is small, but I think we feel a responsibility much bigger than ourselves to be present and bring so much more of our capacity to our stories than I think would typically happen in another newsroom. For me, and for us I believe, this means attending community meetings not for reporting purposes, but for relationship-building purposes. I don’t work out of local coffee shops because that is the best way for me to get work done, I do it because people need to see me present in the community, so they feel they can connect with me where they are at and where they need me to be. I call it full-service reporting. I not only write my stories, I deliver newspaper to interviewees, talk about the reporting with community members, and act as a conduit for people, answering their questions and connecting them.

As part of our ongoing coverage, North News regularly spotlights a locally-owned small business. Our May “Small Business Spotlight” is Lovely’s Sewing & Arts Collective, a nonprofit founded (in 2009) and managed by couture fashion designer Keiona Cook. Cook teaches sewing, painting, yoga, and entrepreneurship to Northside youth. Lovely’s Sewing & Arts Collective is hosted out of Homewood Studios, another locally-owned small business. Past spotlights include DOCs Gym, a judo and jujitsu academy and The Yoga Room & Northside Center for Emotional Wellness, owned by longtime Northsider Laurie Schlosser.

I’m proud of our newspaper and the ever-growing stack of North News’ issues that I have written for sitting on my desk. I’m proud of how we balance our news coverage, working in ways that allow us to be most present in the community and consider the perspectives of community members. I’m proud of how we balance the newsroom, the small business, and the journalism training and mentorship. I also don’t know how we do it. It sometimes feels like a marathon with an end-point constantly being pushed further away, sometimes by us and sometimes by circumstances we cannot control.

I know that as the only newspaper serving all of North Minneapolis and only North Minneapolis, we feel responsible to be present in North Minneapolis in all of the ways we can.

Cirien Saadeh 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 also 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. According to Cirien, “Working for North News is the dream, however, and I am so grateful to be working in a community I love, for an organization I love, doing work I love.”

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