Louisiana has been hit hard by disasters the last several years—the pandemic, hurricanes, tornadoes, a deep freeze, historic flooding. These have exacerbated food insecurity and the housing crisis, and many residents are left wondering where relief money is being spent.
We are spending six months on a pilot project tracking, documenting, and reporting on disaster prep, response, and recovery in Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish.
Visit the Southwest Louisiana Journal to stay updated.
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.
Tasha Guidry is program coordinator for Lake Charles Documenters. Tasha is the owner of Cycles Life Solutions. She has 25 years experience in the criminal justice system. Tasha lives in Lake Charles.
Contact Tasha: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyndsey Gilpin is the founder and executive editor of Southerly.
Contact Lyndsey: email@example.com
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Interested in being a Documenter? Fill out this form:
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, LDEQ, the RESTORE program, FEMA, emergency preparedness, housing, fossil fuel development, recovery and relief funding, school systems, infrastructure, and more.
Can I remain anonymous?
No, you must use your name publicly for this program.
What will this 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 September 2022, 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.
And here’s some more resources about community-powered journalism, by folks across the South.
Can I ask others to get involved?
Of course! Send them this form. We want a diverse and representative group of participants. However, to keep things organized and manageable for our small team, this first cohort will be working through the end of the year, and we’ll hold another series of trainings in January 2023.
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 community around this program.
What do I say if someone asks why I’m at a 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
Help! I have a question about my assignment.
For problems or questions, contact Tasha Guidry: firstname.lastname@example.org
What happens when I submit my assignment?
1. SUBMISSION: Email your assignment to email@example.com
2. REVIEW: Lyndsey or another Southerly editor will edit the document. If there are questions, we will reach out to you.
3. COPYEDIT: Once the edit is complete and questions answered, someone at Southerly will copy edit the document.
4. PUBLIC: Southerly will publish the document on Southwest Louisiana Journal, which is part of southerlymag.org.
5. FEEDBACK: Tasha sends an email to you with any feedback.