The website for “Los Angeles Times” will soon feature a new section devoted to race, immigration and multiculturalism.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist and undocumented immigrant, will be the driving force behind this progressive and increasingly necessary move. Vargas has been an immigrant activist for several years and a writer and reporter for more than a decade.
According to CNN, the unusual partnership was announced on Tuesday and will be called #EmergingUS.
Austin Beutner, the publisher and CEO of the Times, said #EmergingUS is the first of several “verticals” of news coverage the newspaper will establish in the months to come. It can be read two ways: “Emerging Us” or “Emerging U.S.” for the United States. Beutner won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for breaking news reporting while working at the Washington Post.
Vargas said the new site is “a multimedia platform that, through articles, original videos, shareable data and graphics, will focus on the intersection of race, immigration and identity and the complexities of multiculturalism.”
Immigration is more complex than just border topics
Both he and Beutner agreed immigration is much more than issues about the border. The new venture will try to capture those complexities.
Most of the content will be found on the web but some of the written work will eventually make its way to the newspaper as well. The venture will produce videos and hold events.
Last August, Beutner, a former investment banker, was appointed the publisher and since then, has spoken of “unburdening” his journalists from print formats.
The Times’ web traffic shows “really high engagement” at the 100-word level and the 1,000-to-2,000-plus-word level, he said.
“You find the dead zone in the middle, 500-700 words. That form factor, which exists in many newspapers, doesn’t exist because Steve Coll and the Columbia Journalism School thinks 500-700 words is the best form factor. It’s because five of those stories fit on a printed page. So we’re unburdening our journalists from that format.”
Vargas moved to The Huffington Post in 2009. After he revealed his undocumented status in a 2011 essay for The New York Times Magazine, he created a nonprofit group called Define American aimed at “elevating the conversation” about immigration.
Because Vargas lacks citizenship, it has been a unique challenge to figure out, legally, how to make it work. “The Los Angeles Times” can’t hire Vargas directly, “but we can become a business partner with him,” Beutner said. “So that’s what we’ve chosen to do.”
#EmergingUS will include other staff members, some of whom may work directly for Vargas’s production company.
Beutner emphasized that Vargas is coming on board as a journalist, not an activist.
“The point of view” of the venture, he said, “is that this is an important topic to be talked about. It’s not meant to be advocacy, and it won’t be advocacy. But the mere fact that we’re telling more stories will change, we think, the way people view the topic.”