Impact Journalism: How Longbeachize (and Streetsblog) Helped Create Beach Streets
(Note from Damien: I wanted to run this piece last week during our pledge drive, but decided against it because there’s some praise for Robert Garcia, and I didn’t want to be seen pushing an electoral result. Brian Addison did not see or know of this piece before publication because he is far too modest to allow me to publish it. But now that it’s up…)
Longbeachize is different than other publications.
Because we rely on reader donations (if you missed our May pledge drive and want to help us out, consider donating right now by clicking here) and sponsorship more than advertising, we don’t publish articles that are designed to chase page views.
You won’t see updates on Justin Bieber or Donald Sterling. You will see quality journalism that discusses transportation reform, open space expansion, public health issues and the urban design of Long Beach.
Sometimes people ask us why have a separate news website when our editor, Brian Addison, is also the executive editor of the larger Long Beach Post. It’s because Longbeachize is different than the Post—not just in our beat but in how we cover said beat.
So how do we measure success? We embrace a style of journalism called Impact Journalism, where we measure the impact our work has in shaping the discussion and moving public policy.
Last week, Longbeachize celebrated a major victory with the announcement of Beach Streets. When the streets are closed to cars and opened to people one day next Spring, we’ll be able to close the books on one of Brian Addison’s signature campaigns: to bring a ciclovía-style open streets event to Long Beach.
So how did Addison and Streetsblog/Longbeachize make an impact? Let me tell you the rest of the story.
Despite what some think of Brian, I know he’s far too modest to tell it himself and since I know he was up late on the Post’s election night desk, I figure this piece will stay up at least a couple of hours before he complains.
In 2011, I spent some time in Long Beach studying the impact of a L.A. County Public Health Grant on the transportation planning in Long Beach. Having just experienced the second transformative CicLAvia in my home city, I asked Charlie Gandy, then mobility coordinator, “If CicLAvia can make such an impact in L.A., why not have one for Long Beach?”
“We’ve been focusing on infrastructure,” he explained. “When you build first rate infrastructure, special events just aren’t as necessary.”
While that is a perfectly reasonable explanation, I thought Long Beach was missing out a little. CicLAvia was amazing on so many levels, not the least of which was proving that there is demand for safe bicycling and walking in L.A.
When Brian joined the Streetsblog Los Angeles team as our Long Beach writer in 2012, one of the first things we discussed was a ciclovía for Long Beach. He was excited to tackle the issue. It was a dream of his as well to see Long Beach liberate its street from cars, if just for a couple of hours.
The strategy was three-fold. First, we wanted to push the issue with elected officials and make them answer, “Why not us?” Second, Addison took opportunity to highlight the desire for a ciclovía style event when there were other events where large portions of the street were closed to traffic such as the Long Beach Grand Prix. Third, we were going to talk about how awesome CicLAvia was when it happened in L.A.
The strategy was a success from the earliest days. Addison’s Long Beach Grand Prix stories were major successes in readership and social media impact. Some of the more visionary and aggressive Councilmembers, one of whom had a very good evening last night, got on board. Vice Mayor Robert Garcia even created the word CicLBia, which unfortunately was pronounced “sick labia.” This term was promptly discarded and never mentioned again.
Even as the city planned, and completed exploratory rides (with Addison as a ride leader), the issue of funding remained an obstacle. L.A.’s CicLAvia costs a quarter of a million dollars per event to program. That’s a lot of bike lanes, and Long Beach remained focused on improving the bicycle infrastructure as a top priority.
However, there’s no rule that you can’t have top infrastructure and open streets events.
So, when Metro announced that it would have an open call for cities to get funding for ciclovía style events, Long Beach was ready and at the front of the line. The City Council and staff had already done some of the work and as a result Long Beach had two of the best applications.
When a report was released with the staff’s recommendation, Long Beach was the only city in-line to win two separate grants. Metro’s board still needs to approve the plans. The proposal will be heard at Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee on June 18th and then at the full Metro Board meeting on June 26th. Find the Metro meeting agendas and supporting materials here.
When we talk about “Impact Journalism”, the effort that we (mostly Brian) put in to making Beach Streets a reality is a prime example. From “not a priority” in 2011 to fundable project in 2014 to amazing event in 2015 is a pretty fast time line. Especially when Addison was one of the few loud public voices making the case for the event just a couple of years ago.
That’s Impact Journalism.
That’s what we strive to do at Longbeachize.
That’s why it’s so important for readers to help us keep doing what we’re doing. Brian doesn’t just shine a spot light on urban design decisions, he also helps makes some major important decisions happen.