This is part six of our series about us and our company. We take you behind the scenes of our local news startup and show you how we make decisions.
In this episode, you meet Natalya Dreszer, our community engagement intern. Natalya shares how she came to Santa Cruz Local and why she’s doing this work. Plus, we share how and why we want your help to create stories that are meaningful and valuable to you.
Read our community engagement mission statement.
Editor’s note: Usually transcripts are only available to Santa Cruz Local members. But we want everyone to know about Natalya and our community engagement efforts, so we’re making this transcript available to all. (But for the best storytelling experience, we think you should give this episode a listen.)
KARA MEYBERG GUZMAN: I’m Kara Meyberg Guzman.
STEPHEN BAXTER: And I’m Stephen Baxter.
KMG: And this is Santa Cruz Local.
Today’s episode is the sixth part of our series “Meet Santa Cruz Local.” We’re going to talk to Natalya Dreszer, our community engagement intern. Natalya joined our team in August and has been representing Santa Cruz Local at community events.
Since then, she helped us put on our official launch party in September and we’ve got big plans for 2020.
NATALYA DRESZER: Hi Kara. Hi Stephen.
KMG: Natalya, why don’t you share with us the story of how you came to Santa Cruz Local?
ND: I reached out to Kara in ー what was it, August? ー when there was a survey that came out asking people how old the general population listening to Santa Cruz Local was. And I heard about Santa Cruz Local from my dad. So, he fit the perfect age demographic of it, which was 90% 40 [years old] and over.
And I thought that that’s really sad because we should have more young people listening to news and more people, more young people, involved in local politics.
So I reached out in hopes to be involved in helping expand the readership and listenership into more young people like myself.
SB: And you grew up here and graduated from high school here?
ND: Yeah, I was born here and I went to [Pacific Collegiate School] high school and then I left for four years to go to school in Montreal. I got my bachelor’s degree in environment and gender studies.
And then I moved back right after college because it’s really hard to be away from Santa Cruz.
KMG: And most recently you were working at the city attorney’s office.
ND: Yes. So I spent almost a year working at the Santa Cruz City Attorney’s Office as a legal assistant. So I was helping with the Public Records Act requests.
And I learned so much about law and why I’m not ready to go to law school.
KMG: Yeah, tell us a little bit about your interest in journalism and why you wanted to work with Santa Cruz Local.
ND: News is so important in holding our institutions accountable and local news is really important and holding our local politicians and government accountable. And I want to see more of that in Santa Cruz.
And I listen to podcasts, so it was a really easy way to get caught up on the local news instead of watching 12 full hours of city council meetings.
KMG: What keeps you in Santa Cruz?
ND: I lived here almost my whole life. And my friends and family are here.
And it’s so beautiful. It’s just ー you know, coming home from a vacation or coming home from being at school every time it was like, this is the place I want to be.
KMG: The nature?
ND: Not just the nature.
The vibe. Really, the vibes.
KMG: What local issues affect you?
ND: Our city’s relationship with sustainability and development holistically. Like, how are we going to confront this changing world and the climate crisis?
KMG: Yeah, tell me a little bit more about that. How does that affect you?
ND: Am I going to be able to live in a place in Santa Cruz where I don’t need a car to get around?
Is there going to be sustainable transportation?
Is there going to be a place for me to live?
Am I going to be able to afford it?
Will I have a job in order to have a fulfilling career, but also be able to afford a place to live in Santa Cruz?
Will my friends have the same opportunities?
And … what are the oceans going to look like?
What are the forests going to look like?
What about the fires? And, yeah.
It’s really scary to think about what can happen to this town if we’re not really intentional.
KMG: Got it. Thanks Natalya.
KMG: We actually asked you, our listeners, those same two questions: What is it that keeps you in Santa Cruz? And what local issue most affects you?
About 50 of you have answered our survey and we’re taking what we hear from you to create a graphic art series. Natalya’s been working on this along with our graphic artist Haley Williams.
So look for this new series in our newsletter. We’ll start publishing it at the end of the month.
[MUSIC FADE OUT]
KMG: So Natalya, you’re our community engagement intern. Let’s talk a little bit about what exactly community engagement means.
ND: Engaging with the community. So, going to events and asking you what you need to know and what kind of news do you want us to provide.
So then we go back we do that news coverage and we hope that that will help you have more meaningful conversations, specifically about local politics and local policy.
So that’s super cool. I just get to talk to people and say, “What do you need from us? How can we help you?” And then we get to try and do that.
KMG: We actually came up with a community engagement mission statement. This is Innovative, actually. No other local news organization that I know of has ever done this. And, yeah. It really defines what it is.
So our community engagement statement is: For Santa Cruz Local, community engagement means building a trust-based relationship with you. We want to understand your needs to guide our reporting, then connect you with information to strengthen our community.
Community engagement is different from outreach where we’re not trying to get stuff from you, the community.
It’s really us trying to work together to create something that’s valuable.
SB: Outreach is kind of more promotional, like “Hey, you should know about Santa Cruz Local.”
Community engagement is more about helping us generate stories, like “What information you need?” And then we do the reporting and get back to you.
It’s sort of like a circle of information. It’s different from what, you know, traditional newsrooms do because those stories are generated by the reporters and editors, whereas these are more generated by the listeners and the readers. So that’s part of the distinction.
ND: How cool is that?
KMG: Yeah. We’re not inventing this by any means. This is an entire field of journalism that’s emerging. When you look at local independent online news organizations across the country, many of them are trying this approach because it’s a way to restore trust between news organizations and the community.
SB: Yeah. After we put up our community engagement statement on our website this week, we did get a little shut out from the Solutions Journalism Network, just ’cause we’re one of these pioneering groups.
Shout out to @theSCLocal who recently published a *community engagement mission statement* to be transparent about why they’re doing the work, why people should care, and how the community can hold them accountable. https://t.co/qR4jDwCJAD— Solutions Journalism Network (@soljourno) January 7, 2020
KMG: So let’s get into the next few weeks of community engagement for us. We have a packed schedule. Natalya, can you share a little bit about our plans for January?
ND: So in January, we’re going to be at 12 different locations, 12 different times, trying to reach out to people to ask the same question about the upcoming March 3rd elections.
Which is: What is it that you want candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?
SB: There are many races on this ballot. We’re focusing on the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
So our plan is to take all that input that we get from you, and then really use that to guide the questions that we ask the candidates. That’s the difference in the way we’re doing it.
KMG: Enough about the elections. Let’s end on a fun note.
Natalya, you had a great idea. Let’s do a speed round of questions.
ND: This segment is called “We are Fun” to prove that we’re fun. So my first question that I want to ask you is, “What’s your favorite surf spot in Santa Cruz?”
SB: Yeah, I nixed the surf spot.
ND: What, you don’t want to ー ?
KMG: Stephen is “decline to state.”
ND: I like boogie boarding at It’s. Does that count as a surf spot? Yes.
KMG: Sure. I like Cowells when it’s empty.
SB: Oh, so never?
KMG: Well, I shouldn’t say on the podcast …
ND: Don’t tell us when.
KMG: OK, nevermind.
SB: Natalya, what’s your favorite food?
ND: Um, Coconut aminos and nutritional yeast.
ND: Coconut aminos. It’s like sweet soy sauce, kind of.
SB: You really are from Santa Cruz.
KMG: That’s funny ’cause my favorite food is actually popcorn with nutritional yeast. I have it every night.
ND: Every night?
KMG: Every night.
ND: That’s wonderful.
KMG: What’s your favorite food, Stephen?
SB: Anything and everything? Mexican food.
KMG: What’s your favorite podcast?
ND: I like Two Dope Queens. What do you like, Kara?
KMG: Non-news podcasts, I like Reply All.
ND: Oh, I love Reply All. That’s so cool.
SB: I like the housing crisis podcast, Gimme Shelter. You know that one. They’re like Car Talk for housing. And that’s very apt, I think.
KMG: Thank you to all our members.
Thank you especially to our Guardian-level members,Elizabeth and David Doolin, Chris Neklason, Patrick Reilly and the Kelley family. Thanks for listening to Santa Cruz Local.