Since the pandemic began, Documented has intensified its efforts to create immigration news immigrant communities in New York. Our approach has led to incredible results in pageviews and growth in the trust we’ve built with undocumented Latin American immigrants.
We’ve been able to integrate those insights into investigations that have uncovered valuable information for our Early Arrival email newsletter audience of professionals in the immigration field. Some of those stories have been published in collaboration with national news outlets. In short, we are gathering information at grassroots levels to then publish and recirculate to the communities we report with while informing decision-makers as an added benefit.
We are doubling down on this community-centered approach: we aim to spend more time learning about the information needs and habits of immigrant New Yorkers, to then produce journalism that is useful, actionable and impactful for them.
For this reason, we are announcing the expansion of our community coverage to the Caribbean and Chinese communities of immigrants that live in New York.
To do this work, we’d like to introduce our immigrant “community correspondents” for the existing Latin American WhatsApp product and two new hires that will develop new products for New York’s Caribbean and Chinese immigrant communities.
Rommel Ojeda: Spanish-speaking Latin American immigrants
Born in Ecuador and now a resident of Queens, Rommel started working with Documented as an intern in 2021 and, in 2022 became our natural hire for this position.
He holds a master’s degree in Bilingual Journalism, with a specialization in Documentary Filmmaking from Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and has also published in Queens Chronicle, Bklyner, Queens Daily Eagle, Univision, and Telemundo.
April Xu: Chinese-speaking immigrants
April has more than 8 years of experience reporting on the Chinese communities of New York. She joins Documented after a long and fruitful career at Sing Tao Daily, one of the world’s largest overseas Chinese-language newspapers. She endeavors to use her bilingual reporting skills to bridge the gap between the Chinese community and the rest of New York.
April has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Emerson College (Boston), and was a journalism fellow at USC Annenberg. She has won multiple Ippies awards and has published with City Limits, Ethnic Media Services and Sina.com.
She also launched a personal blog at the start of the pandemic to educate the public about COVID-19, which attracted more than 700k views on WeChat and on Chinese social media. You can read her work here.
Ralph Thomassaint Joseph: Haitian Creole, French and English-speaking Caribbean immigrants
Ralph is a multimedia award-winning journalist with more than ten years of experience in journalism. Originally from Haiti, Ralph co-created the news section of Ayibopost, one of the most competitive Haitian digital media sites. He then worked as the site’s editor-in-chief for three years.
His work includes documentaries, podcasts, investigative reporting, motion graphics, and photography.
With a Master’s degree in Digital Journalism from New York University (NYU), Ralph also studied Law and Sociology at the Haitian State University (UEH). He speaks Haitian Creole, French, and English.
Community Correspondents and Immigration News
Our correspondents will be our eyes and ears in three of the biggest groups of immigrants of New York City. A community correspondent differs slightly from a typical reporter. For instance, a community correspondent is required to:
– Become the representative of Documented within the community.
– Use journalistic skills to serve the community.
– Regularly engage with Caribbean or Chinese New Yorkers and the organizations that aim to serve them.
– Share insights on what the newsroom should be covering based on engagement efforts such as digital or in-person conversations, events, protests, surveys, or research.
– Write stories that could take the form of service journalism aimed at helping the community, feature stories, investigations or spot news.
In short, they have the job of creating immigration news with the communities, instead of on the communities.
In 2019, Documented created a WhatsApp news service to better communicate with New York’s undocumented Latinx community.
Since then, we have spent more than one thousand hours talking to immigrants. From these conversations, we conducted two rounds of audience research, experimented with audio clips, made a short documentary (that is still being shown at festivals), published more than 30 explainers and 10 investigations. Our journalism also helped people get legal representation, apply for visas, be accepted for the Excluded Workers Fund and recover financial aid that was stolen from them.
Just like we did with our WhatsApp product for Latinx communities (read How we used a people-centered approach to build trust and become part of a community), we want to create a bridge between our newsroom and the Chinese and Caribbean communities we aim to serve.
For this, we will conduct user research to understand audience pain points and needs in their neighborhoods, their lives as immigrants and their relationship with the media. With this knowledge, we expect to use agile methodologies to prototype and test solutions that will result in a product that becomes our channel of direct communication between Documented and the Chinese and Caribbean communities of immigrants.
The correspondents will be working in this process to then launch each vertical with vital immigration news. Also, Documented commits to making our findings public, so that others can learn from our work.