Dear readers of the Boulevard Sentinel,
After a 26-year run, the Boulevard Sentinel is closing. In the weeks to come, we will be finalizing details of the closure, including reaching out personally to many of the readers, sources and advertisers who have been the backbone of this long adventure in hyper-local journalism.
Bill Hendrickson, the publisher of the Boulevard Sentinel (and my husband), is retiring; a well-earned, richly deserved milestone. Ditto for Mary Lynch, who has worn every hat at the paper, from chief financial officer to administrator, from reporter to copy editor. I will continue writing and teaching. I especially look forward to expanding the writing workshops I conduct annually at Yale and other institutions.
Bill and I, along with my brother Tim Tritch, took over the Sentinel from its founder, Tom Topping, in late 2015. When Tim was sidelined by illness a year later, Bill and I carried on. Our involvement with the Boulevard Sentinel dovetailed with our return to the Northeast Los Angeles area. I grew up in Eagle Rock but had lived in New York City since graduating from UCLA. Bill is a native New Yorker who had dreamed of living in California since his days at Stanford and became enamored with L.A. during our many trips here to visit my family.
We are pleased with what we have accomplished at the Boulevard Sentinel.
One of our aims was to find a business model that would support local journalism. Bill developed a healthy roster of advertisers in print and online. At its peak in early 2020, advertising in the Boulevard Sentinel was a lively, profitable mix: Several of the advertisers were local businesses that had advertised in the paper since its founding; several others had been with the paper for over a decade. Bill added more local businesses as well as regional, nonprofit, government and corporate advertisers.
Then came the pandemic lockdown, which wreaked havoc on advertising. In April 2020, we had to pivot to publishing online only because most of the 300 locations where we distributed the print edition were shuttered. The economics of online advertising are not nearly as favorable as print. Moreover, the lockdown understandably caused many advertisers to pull back. At the same time, event advertising dried up and has been slow to resume.
Yet, we created some of our best journalism during and after the lockdown, including our coverage of the pandemic’s impact on NELA, Metro’s plan for bus rapid transit in Eagle Rock, the local elections of 2020 and 2022, anti-Asian hate in NELA, the establishment in NELA of tiny homes for the homeless, Scholl Canyon and the sale of the Eagle Rock Plaza.
These stories are in addition to others we brought to our readers over the years. We exposed and thereby helped to waylay backroom dealings among city and neighborhood honchos that sought to build a huge storage facility in Eagle Rock over the objections of just about everyone. We also covered the sagas in Eagle Rock of the Bekins estate and Pillarhenge. We covered the escalation of burglaries on Colorado Boulevard, the gentrification of Highland Park, the downfall of Jose Huizar, high school graduations, local real estate and the concerns and achievements of NELA’s students, artists, senior citizens, volunteers and business owners.
Much of the journalism we have provided in recent years is thanks to the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, a professional collaboration between the Boulevard Sentinel and The Occidental, the campus newspaper of Occidental College. Under the partnership, Oxy student journalists pitched, reported and wrote stories about NELA (often in English and Spanish) that were co-published in the Boulevard Sentinel and The Occidental. The Oxy students and their faculty adviser, Barbara Thomas, have been invaluable partners, resourceful and responsive, dedicated to fact and committed to local journalism.
Which brings me to my final point: This is a tough business but a rewarding one because local journalism enriches communities. It provides information and context, fosters debate and civic participation, raises questions and issues and, in that way, lays down markers by which readers can hold elected officials and other local leaders accountable.
Take my word for it. What the powers-that-be want you to know is just the surface of what really goes on. We’ve scratched that surface for seven years. We didn’t crack the code on a forever business model for local journalism, but we had notable success with our pre-pandemic print-plus-online advertising strategy and our partnership with Oxy.
And, most important, we succeeded in bringing you news and features that you would not find anywhere else.
Teresa A. Hendrickson