It's a tough time to launch a newspaper, given how many ones across the country have been shutting their doors. Why launch the
Queens Daily Eagle
For years, there was a serious gap in coverage of the Queens legal justice system, which in some way affects all 2.4 million borough residents.
Eagle publishers Dozier Hasty and Michael Nussbaum decided to fill that gap and in May 2018 they approached me to work as managing editor for the Queens Daily Eagle.
It happened to be an amazing moment to start a new newspaper in Queens. We published our first issue on Monday, June 25, 2018. The very next day, June 26, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for NY-14. The movement that fueled candidacy just keeps growing and gaining influence.
A few weeks later, the Queens DA race got underway. That race has elevated radical reform proposals and generated national attention, and we were the first paper covering it intensely.
So we had the good fortune of starting the paper just as Queens was becoming the site of so many exciting political and justice reform developments, and I think we have seized the opportunity.
What differentiates the Queens Daily Eagle, given that there are a number of local papers in Queens to begin with?
There are some historic, important newspapers in Queens, but we differentiate ourselves as the only print daily. We publish a print newspaper every single weekday, plus a weekend edition.
We also specialize in our coverage of the legal justice system, with a particular emphasis on justice reform. I'm often the only reporter in the Queens Criminal Courthouse and we cover a lot of developments in Civil Court, as well.
Tell us about your background - it wasn't always in journalism?
I am relatively new to the field after gradually changing careers over the past few years.
I am a licensed social worker and I earned my Masters in social work from NYU a few years ago. I worked for several years as a case manager at a Harlem supportive housing site for people who used to be homeless, as a counselor at a high school in Canarsie and even as a therapy intern at a drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ young adults.
I got my personal trainer certificate and developed programs fusing fitness and mental health treatment for low-income New Yorkers. I have worked for nearly a dozen organizations and I have worked in every borough but Staten Island.
Through these jobs, I learned a lot about different communities and nonprofits. The roles helped me better understand other people's experiences and gave me insight into mental health, trauma, the effects of poverty and the direct impact of city, state and federal policies.
What led you in this direction?
I was freelance reporting a bit, especially while working as a consultant doing my fitness/mental health programs, but I knew I was suppressing my real goal of a career in journalism. I wanted to tell people's stories. I wanted to investigate and expose the exploitative, discriminatory, racist crap that my clients and often my coworkers encountered every single day. Around late-2016, I allowed myself to pursue my dream and go hard for a full-time reporter role.
What was your first taste of journalism?
I wrote a couple articles for my high school paper, but my first real taste of journalism was when I walked into the office of the
Daily Free Press, the independent student newspaper at Boston University, my freshman year. I was really nervous and I asked what I had to to do try to report for the paper.
The ad staff were the only ones there early in the day, but they took my information and share it with the editorial department. An editor called me that night. He assigned me to cover a slam poetry event and it was so exciting to visit the office late at night, write the story, sit for edits and then see it in print the next morning.
They kept calling and assigning me to cover events in parts of Boston I had never visited. Sometimes the assignments were boring, but I ended up learning a lot about city government and university administration that I never would have before. It was cool.
What stories excite you?
I value stories that expose the inequities affecting low-income New Yorkers, predominantly people of color. Stories that wake everyone else up by explaining that, Yes, this horrifying, unfair, brutal, exploitative crap is really happening to people who don't live too far from you and me. And not only do we not know about it, we may even be playing a role in making it worse.
I remember a New York Times story from 2015 about the bureaucratic nightmare that older New Yorkers face when they have to renew food stamps. This amazing story by Ese Olumhense for City Limits (she now works THE CITY) about the obstacles NYCHA tenants face when they seek safety transfers also stands out.
Relatively wealthy people have no way of learning about these things without great journalism. And journalists need to be turned onto these stories by the people doing the work.