Louisiana has been hit hard by disasters the last several years—the pandemic, hurricanes, tornadoes, a deep freeze, historic flooding. We are working with Documenters on a pilot project for six months to track, document, and report on disaster prep, response, and recovery in Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish.

This is a case study that can hopefully be replicated throughout the South and U.S. in how we hold power accountable and show up for our communities before, during, and long after a storm hits or emergency happens.

Our team

Tasha Guidry is program coordinator for Lake Charles Documenters.

Lyndsey Gilpin is the founder and executive editor of Southerly.

Interested in being a Documenter? Fill out this form:

FAQ

What will we be documenting?

Our focus is disaster prep, response, and recovery, so we will focus on all the processes, money, agencies, and meetings that deal with this topic. This includes city and parish meetings, DEQ, RESTORE, FEMA issues and meetings, emergency preparedness, housing, fossil fuel development, recovery and relief funding, infrastructure, and more. 

We’ll be deciding the specific meetings and assignments over the next month or so, so attend our weekly Tuesday evening Zoom meeting to be part of that planning and learn more. 

Can I remain anonymous?

No, you must use your name publicly for this program.

What will Lake Charles Documenters pay?

Southerly will pay you $18/hour to go to meetings, do research, report, file records requests, and document/write.

How will we learn how to do this?

Southerly will host a series of trainings starting in late September, with a hybrid in-person/online model. These trainings will cover interviewing, note-taking, social media posts, public records, and more. (Documenters also has a field guide with information)

This journalism is different than I am used to. What’s the theory behind it? 

It sounds radical, doesn’t it? Letting the public do journalism. Historically, journalism has been exploitative and extractive, and it has harmed people by oversimplifying stories, leaving out context, and relying on stereotypes. And those telling the stories have been overwhelmingly white, male, and affluent. But journalism is a tool, and you can learn how to use it. The value of journalism for our communities, our livelihoods, and our democracy lies in what we can give. Stories, so you can see yourselves represented and know you’re not alone. Tools, so you can learn how to get information that should be public, learn how to more effectively navigate bureaucratic systems, put pressure on leaders who should be serving you. Guidance, to help you navigate the difficult and often scary changes to our ecosystems and places, while still remembering that this world is magical and beautiful. Access, to places and people and systems designed to make sure you are kept out.  

Here’s some more background on why Documenters was created, written by City Bureau co-founder Darryl Holliday. It explains really well the methodology behind this practice. 

Journalism is a public good. Let the public make it.

When the Press Is the Public

And here’s some more resources about community-powered journalism, by folks across the South. 

Can I ask others to get involved in Documenters?

Of course! Send them this form. We want a diverse and representative group of participants.

Do I have to commit?

You can take on any number of assignments you’d like, but we encourage you to attend meetings and join in the planning work so that we can build a team around this program.

What do I say if someone asks why I’m at the meeting? 

I am a Documenter trained to monitor public meetings and records in the public interest. My work is made publicly available on Southerly. For more information about the program, visit documenters.org and southerlymag.org