BenitoLink covers an area that is 60% Latino and has the largest undocumented population in California. The Latinx team members are managing interns, building relationships that help them understand their own community better, and finding grassroots stories that deserve to be told.
BenitoLink started by hiring two young Latinx staff members and paid local youth for photography and writing through a United Way grant. In 2018, the project expanded thanks to a grant from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. This allowed BenitoLink to reach deeper for high impact stories and more coverage of the Latino community with a local recent journalism graduate. This team member was raised in the county and attended the local high school as a migrant education student.
In the summer of 2019, BenitoLink brought on five interns who specialized in everything from graphic arts and writing to computer science and marketing. They included college students and a high school sophomore. The computer science intern was funded largely by the Emma Bowen Foundation.
Hyperlocal sites can have difficulty finding experienced journalists. For that reason, bringing on youth can be beneficial. It provides them with job skills, but they do benefit from additional mentorship and experience. Because BenitoLink takes on young journalists, its team had to learn about complex laws regarding youth being alone on the job or getting rides from team members.
Several of the Latinx team members have young children. For that reason, BenitoLink has allowed very flexible work hours. As they are working in their hometown, they can go home easily, if necessary. The freelance reporters can refuse assignments when they have family emergencies or responsibilities. This is helpful to Latinx youth who may have small children or grandparents to care for.
Building trust as a journalist, even within one’s own community and even with a migrant background, can be very difficult and slow. But some stories BenitoLink has gotten have made the project completely worth the effort.