On Wednesday June 1st, the Decibel team headed out to Live Oak Brewery in Del Valle to celebrate the community we’d spent the past year with. With live music by Stephanie Bergara and food provided by Fatboi Slims, over 60 members of the community turned out to celebrate the end of our project in Del Valle. With an unusually high turnout for our event, we got to say goodbye to the community and the families we’d gotten to know over the past year.
For these large community events, it can be difficult to get people to turn out. With busy lives of their own, we sometimes only end up with a handful of people who are able to show up. This event was a success with over 60 community members attending as well as bringing their children and friends. We also got to partner with five organizations, which we think helped spark a larger turnout. These organizations included the Central Texas Food Bank, the East Travis County Gateway Library District, CARTS, Integral Health and the Del Valle Community Coalition. While our work in Del Valle for now is done, we hope showcasing the work of other local organizations helped community members see and connect with other important work happening in Del Valle.
We got the opportunity to interview members of the community and ask how they felt about the work Austin PBS did in Del Valle. One family that has lived in Del Valle for over twenty years said, “We see the value in this community that is so overlooked, and it’s so nice to see someone put a spotlight on it.”
When asked if she felt the stories Decibel had produced were a good representation of her community, one attendee said she was “surprised about the revelations that came out from these stories.” She went on to explain that as a single woman she has a different experience living in Del Valle than her neighbors with families, and that she didn’t realize these hardships were occurring in her own community. She felt moving forward, she could be more sensitive to these issues now that they’d been brought to light.
Patricia King, who has been a major advocate for Del Valle, spoke to us about how she’d been petitioning for a grocery store in Del Valle since 2011. She explained that H-E-B came out five years ago to the community and broke ground but nothing more, while the company opened nine other stores in the surrounding area. King said, “PBS brought us to the limelight, to let people know we are out here.”
We also got the opportunity to talk to Joseph Vega’s family, the man behind Fatboi Slims and who catered the event. They explained that through PBS they got to know their neighbors much better and that they’ve met other budding small business owners. The biggest impact was the public awareness Joseph had received after being featured on Decibel and how many opportunities he was receiving for his business as well as bringing the community together through food.
After attendees got a chance to grab food, mingle and check out the community partner tables, Decibel Executive Editor Samantha Guzman gave a quick welcome to community members for attending the event. “So many of you, the community members and partner organizations, have helped throughout this entire reporting cycle,” Guzman said. “Our work, honestly, truly, isn’t possible without any of you here today.”
Next, reporter Blair Waltman-Alexin spoke with two people featured in previous stories, Isis Nieto and Cherell Roberts. Nieto shared her gratitude for PBS bringing to light the lack of infrastructure in Del Valle for pedestrians and bikers. Roberts expressed the importance of bringing the utility issue of water in Del Valle to light and now that more people are becoming aware, there is a hope for change in the future.
Following the speakers was Del Valle’s very own Stephanie Bergara performing live music and expressing her gratitude for the spotlight PBS has given the community. Between songs, Bergara explained that she’d grown up in Del Valle and shared stories about her life. She also joked that while we would pause for the planes booming above us, Del Valle residents would just talk over the booming as it became part of their everyday lives.
At the beginning of the Del Valle project we polled community members on how they viewed news media coverage of their community. A majority of respondents rated the coverage “poor” or “very poor.” Now, a year later we asked Del Valle community members to rate our coverage of their community. A majority of respondents rated our coverage “excellent” or “good.” While the sample size for these polls is small, we think it still shows the power of our mission-driven approach of community-led journalism. Del Valle community members in general were much happier with our coverage than coverage they’ve previously seen of their community by traditional news media. We hope the results show that not only can this method lead to more powerful storytelling, it can get community members who have historically been unsatisfied with news media to reinvest in journalistic work.
Even though we are wrapping the Del Valle project, we plan to continue to update the Del Valle resource guide and explore ways to continue building upon our relationship with the community. We feel incredibly thankful for the Del Valle community for allowing us to do this work and trusting us with their time and stories.
We are now moving forward with our next project in Pflugerville, where we will spend the next year getting to know and reporting on this community. Have any questions or ideas for us? You can always contact us at email@example.com.
Got story ideas, advice on how we can improve our reporting or just want to know more about what we do? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you value this type of reporting, then please consider making a donation to Austin PBS. Your gift makes the quality journalism done by the Decibel team possible. Thank you for your contribution.
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