By: Nu Yang
The Pasadena Star-News and San Bernardino Sun in Southern California are inviting the public to sit back and relax in their newsrooms. Both newspapers hosted open houses in March to introduce their communities to their news lounges, which are open to the public during normal business hours and are equipped with computers, Internet access, tables, and a sitting area.
Digital First Media, parent company of both the Star-News and Sun, has opened more than 20 similar community media labs across the country as part of a community engagement initiative. The two Southern California lounges have been less than a year in the making, according to Los Angeles Newspaper Group vice president and executive editor Michael Anastasi.
Anastasi said the two papers were chosen to host news lounges because of their respective locations and renovated offices. The Sun had just moved to a new building next to San Bernardino city hall last November, and the Star-News had been renovated with new office furniture. Mariel Garza, LANG opinion editor and head of community engagement, said each publication is located downtown where there is a lot of foot traffic and surrounding businesses.
The Sun reported almost 100 community members attended its open house, while Garza said about 50 people were at the Star-News open house. Anastasi said that kind of turnout signals to him that “at the end of the day, no one else can step up to replace our role in the community.”
Garza said there are plans to host community events in the lounges, such as computer training classes and seminars presented by editors and reporters centered on local issues. Anastasi said he foresees city council debates and forums hosted in the lounges. “Newspapers have always been the hub for community discussion,” he said.
For example, Anastasi said that at the Sun’s open house, Latino group leaders voiced concerns that they wanted the Sun to be more of “a facilitator in (their) community.”
After hearing this, the Sun is taking steps to arrange a meeting with the individuals at the paper’s office. “At the first meeting, we will listen, and then we can go from there.” Anastasi said news lounges are the perfect forum for readers to make this kind of connection with their local newspaper.
“The news lounges are not only a physical place, but it’s also an idea,” he said. “It shows we are a much more aggressive, proactive member of the community.