A Pew Research study released earlier this year says employment in America’s newsrooms has declined by nearly a quarter in just under 10 years. Much of that decline is happening in the newspaper industry, with employment dropping by 45 percent between 2008 and 2017. This has hit some local papers especially hard, leaving behind the journalism that once stood as the bedrock for local news and information. But in one Texas town, a group of journalism-minded citizens are hoping to fill that gap.
Tasneem Raja, a former senior editor at NPR, is currently the executive editor and co-founder of The Tyler Loop, in Tyler, Texas. She and her husband, who also comes from a journalism background, came up with the news organization shortly after moving to the city for family reasons. They started the publication around 18 months ago when they were both still working at their regular news jobs. But it became Raja’s full-time job a year later.
The Tyler Loop is a digital magazine that’s meant to be complementary to the town’s daily newspaper, the Tyler Morning Telegraph. One way the Loop differentiates itself from the Telegraph is through investigative reporting. Raja says the daily paper answers the who, what, when and where of a story, but the Loop dives deeper into the hows and the whys.
“I’ve lived here for about two years, and I saw that there was just a need to kind of go beyond the surface-level reporting and deal with issues that Tyler, like a lot of cities in our country right now, is certainly experiencing,” Raja says.
Raja says she hopes the enthusiasm the community has shown for the Loop’s work will be enough to help it survive as a publication long term.
“You know, this thing is an experiment,” Raja says.”It is kind of a challenge, both to us and to the community, to say, if we all value this kind of work here in Tyler, here in East Texas, what is it going to take to sustain it?”
Its most popular stories so far have included a transgender woman who was able to change her name and gender on her driver’s license, thanks to a crowdfunding initiative. Additionally, it held the The Tyler Loop Taco Project, inviting members of the community to venture out to a variety of community taquerias.
“It was about eating delicious tacos, but it is really something more than that,” Raja says. “It is really about just engaging with the segregation in our community and kind of finding new ways of just meeting each other as neighbors here in Tyler.”
Written by Acacia Coronado.