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Digitizing Northeast LA's community newspapers

Decaying community newspapers
Decaying community newspapers
Courtesy Kate Dundon / NELA Newspapers Pilot Project
Decaying community newspapers
A digital copy of The Highland Park Herald

Some may see hyperlocal news as the future of journalism, but it's really nothing new. Ever heard of The Mount Washington Star-Review? What about the El Sereno Star? These tiny, local papers stopped circulation long ago and covered stories that larger papers wouldn't. 

But now, a group of organizations will bring some of these small papers into the historical record. With a $35,000 grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, the Highland Park Heritage Trust and Occidental College library have come together to digitize as many Northeast LA community newspapers as possible in what they call the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project. 

The ongoing work of preserving NELA community newspapers previously fell to volunteers. Now, archivist and project manager Kate Dundon works to keep the project going, thanks to the Haynes Foundation grant, which then Councilman Eric Garcetti helped the project receive. 

The organizations involved in the pilot project house a collection of community newspapers, some of which date all the way back to 1906, in a temperature controlled storage unit somewhere on Colorado Boulevard.

But Dundon doesn't have to spend all of her time scanning dusty, crumbling newspapers — for that they hired a company that can digitize better and faster. "There's a lot of looking at spreadsheets, getting a handle on what we have and what's missing," Dundon says. 

According Dundon, the pilot project also works with UC Riverside — eventually, the newspapers they collect will be keyword searchable on UCR's California Digital Newspaper Collection website. "Scholars will be able to use the website and some of the information found in the papers can work its way into the historical record," Dundon says. 

You can follow what's going on with the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project here