Getting to know Frederick Douglass Boulevard

This week was my first week going out in the field for Harlem News Group and it was a very interesting experience. My focus area for this week was Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Basically, my responsibility was to go to every business on both sides of the boulevard from 154th Street to 110th Street that could be a potential advertiser and sell advertising to them. I’ve never done advertising before, so it was a little bit challenging at first to determine whether or not a business was a potential advertiser. The publisher (my supervisor) gave me some suggestions, but oftentimes, it is very much based on your gut, your intuition. You really have to make a judgment call as far as determining whether or not a given business would want to place an ad in your newspaper. You really just have to go with your gut; it’s a trial and error process. And there are a number of factors that you have to consider. Is it a new business in the area? If so, they may be interested in advertising. Does the organization or company do print advertising? Do they have the funds for advertising? Restaurants tend to be a good place to go.

What I also took away from the experience is that there are so many more businesses in Harlem than I realized. I was surprised to discover that there is so much more that I have to learn about Harlem. The publisher was explaining to me how most people, even people who live in Harlem, aren’t really aware of what’s in the neighborhood because people generally don’t think to venture out and explore. And it’s kind of true. I guess most people know about the Apollo Theater and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, for example, but there are all of these restaurants, bakeries and shops there, too. There’s Harlem Tavern, Patisserie des Ambassades, Levain Bakery, Jacob Restaurant, Manna’s Restaurant, J. Restaurant, the Kumon Center, the Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre Joao Grande, etc.

One thing that I’ve always liked about Harlem is the culture. Whenever I go there, the minute I get off the train, I always see many Africans. It’s nice to see my own people. So I was excited to stumble upon some restaurants and bakeries on Frederick Douglass Boulevard owned by Guineans and other West Africans since I am half-Guinean. I even got to speak French with some of them. It was nice to have that extra connection to them. And this is just Frederick Douglass Boulevard. There’s also Lenox Avenue, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, St. Nicholas Avenue, the list goes on. The publisher told me that she hopes I’ll know Harlem like the back of the hand by the time I’m done with this project. I’ve already got a sort of photographic memory of many of the places I visited this week. I think it might be an interesting challenge to try to do what I did this week in every part of New York City. Maybe I could even document it here in this blog!

 

A belated post-graduate school update

The last time I had a blog was when I studied abroad in Paris during the spring semester of my junior year of college. I wanted to keep track of my experiences and adventures while abroad. While I initially created this website to serve as a digital work portfolio, I always hoped to use this blog to share my experiences as a reporter and to write about things I read about in the news that pique my interest. I’m finally getting into it again.

Interestingly enough, the last time I wrote in this blog, I was still in graduate school, and now I’m in the real world. I appreciate my graduate school experience because I learned a lot and acquired new skills that I did not have prior to attending graduate school — for example, photography, video and basic HTML. I miss school sometimes because it was such a stable, familiar structure. So now, on to the more important question: what have I been up to since then?

Right now, I am working as a freelance reporter for Harlem News Group, a media company that publishes positive news and information. It has newspapers in Queens, Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx. Their motto is that they publish results, not problems. I don’t deny that there are negative events occurring in the city, in the country and around the world. But sometimes it’s good to look at some of the good things that are happening and are being done. And it’s important to make sure that media coverage is more balanced. If there’s anything I’ve noticed since I began working as a neighborhood news reporter in the city, is that there are so many community activists and organizations who are working hard to improve the well-being and quality of life of city residents. Take the BLK ProjeK, for example. It’s a Bronx-based food justice organization that strives to bring about more economic opportunities for women and youth of color. Or Staten Island Arts, an organization that works to make art accessible to all residents of Staten Island and gives grants to artists in the area. Such organizations deserve more attention and recognition for the work that they do. Shedding more light onto underrepresented groups and neighborhoods is a big part of my goal as a reporter, so having the opportunity to work for HNG is a pleasure. I just started and so far, it’s been interesting. I am updating an inventory of all the local businesses in Harlem and I will be going out into the field to personally reach out to these businesses. I’m also working on stories on people, organizations and events in Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens, so it’ll be nice to discover the city a little more intimately.

I’ve also been writing for this news, entertainment and lifestyle website called Examiner.com, covering New York neighborhoods. It’s a pretty broad beat so I have a lot of freedom as far as what I can cover. I try to write about a variety of topics, such as politics, education, crime, health, community events, arts, etc. For example, I covered Mayor de Blasio’s speech on his first 100 days in office. I attended the opening of street artist Swoon’s immersive installation. You can publish your stories as soon as you are done writing them, which is different from what I’m used to. Even more, your pay is based on a variety of factors, such as number of page views, number of subscribers, session length, etc., which means that you have to get a little hardcore with self-promotion. Speaking of self-promotion, take a moment to read my latest stories and subscribe to my feed if you’re interested in knowing what’s going on in the city.

I’ll do my best to blog every couple of days. There’s certainly a lot to talk about as far as the news is concerned. Stay tuned!

-Madina