How Enlace Latino NC and Southerly partnered to cover the rural Latino community

By Brianna Atkinson

The partnership between Enlace Latino NC and Southerly started at the community college in rural Robeson County in early 2020.

In that room, the two news organizations hosted a listening session with the Latino community of southeastern North Carolina to learn about their information needs. Among the concerns that emerged: hurricane recovery information, jobs and issues with housing.

The need for more news coverage was clear, and Paola Jaramillo of Enlace Latino NC and Lyndsey Gilpin of Southerly decided they could do more by working together. For the past year, the two organizations have provided critical information and highlighted the perspective of the rural Latino community, which has traditionally been ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media. Among the stories produced from the collaboration are coverage about the lack of hurricane alerts in Spanish (Spanish version) and the founding of a Latino-owned and operated farming co-op (Spanish version).

Paola Jaramillo, co-founder and executive editor of Enlace Latino NC

Jaramillo, co-founder and executive editor of Enlace Latino NC, said people in rural North Carolina have limited access to information, especially when compared to people in urban communities.

“(They have) no information in English about what happened with their own community and no information in Spanish, because the other newspapers concentration in the urban areas,” Jaramillo said. “We need more information about what happened in the rural areas.”

The partnership combines aspects of both Southerly and Enlace Latino NC – focusing on environmental issues and the economic mobility of rural Latino workers. Gilpin, founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly, said the collaboration has given both publications the opportunity to produce content that reaches their communities, whether through print, digital, audio or events.

Lyndsey Gilpin, founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly

“Enlace and Southerly both have this mission to reach people that are harder to reach by traditional means,” Gilpin said. “Digital has become the traditional means of information-sharing.”

One way the partnership makes content more accessible to the community is through bilingual reporting by Victoria Bouloubasis, a shared journalist between the publications. English versions of her work are published by Southerly, while Spanish versions are published on Enlace Latino NC.

Victoria Bouloubasis, a shared journalist between the publications. Headshot credit: Stef Bernal-Martinez

“Last year, I had people tell me… ‘Thank you for that story. I sent the Spanish version to my mom, and we were able to read it in our respective preferred language and talk about it,’” Bouloubasis said. “The access is within the same multigenerational bilingual homes. It’s creating a conversation, because it’s accessible.”

The two organizations also both embrace solutions journalism and community-centered reporting – writing with and elevating the community.

“It is very important to listen to our community,” Jaramillo said. “When you listen to your community, you have the opportunity to serve this community with the information that the community needs – not the information that you think the community needs.”

Not only do the two newsrooms share similar missions; they are both in the fourth cohort of UNC-Knight Foundation’s Table Stakes, an education program for local news organizations dedicated to providing them with tools to excel in the future of journalism. Gilpin said participating in the Table Stakes program with Enlace Latino NC has benefited the collaborative elements of their partnership.

“Enlace and I have worked together before Table Stakes, but we’ve been on a similar track, where by the time we were in the program, it strengthened our relationship in general and trust in each other as news organizations.” Gilpin said.

Esmeralda’s kids face the infamous Mexican birthday cake “mordida” in Mount Olive, North Carolina. Photo by Bridgette Cyr.

The latest collaboration is a multimedia journalism piece by Bouloubasis that tells the story of Marta and Esmeralda, a mother-daughter duo from Duplin County. The pair hosted vaccination events and dispelled vaccination misinformation when the local poultry plants didn’t provide ample resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among employees.

The audio journalism piece and article, which was voiced by the mother-daughter duo in Spanish, was also made available in English through a written article published on Southerly. Bouloubasis said that by using bilingual reporting in this story, Esmeralda and Marta were able to tell their story in their own voice, without the process of using voice actors for overdubbing.

Esmeralda leads a meeting with fellow community health workers at the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry about their outreach impact in rural Latino communities over the course of spring 2021. Photo by Bridgette Cyr.

“I don’t think it’s a truthful way of storytelling,” Bouloubasis said about dubbing. “Hearing someone’s voice is the beauty of audio and hearing someone’s emotion. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language – you can feel that. I wanted the folks who I’m asking to share an intimate story to be able to do it fully.”

The next collaboration for the two news organizations furthers this sense of connection for the long term: A shared community coordinator, funded by a Solutions Journalism Network grant.

In this part-time position, the community coordinator’s focus will be reaching currently inaccessible audience members. The coordinator will work with the community to determine coverage needs by hosting events and using Whatsapp and SMS texts to answer community questions.

“When you listen to your community, you can produce better stories,” Jaramillo said. “When you involve your community, you have better journalism. We think this is a collaboration to the long-term – with grant or no grant.”