Daniel Hernandez, the former Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly staff writer now working for the LAT bureau in Mexico City, is not a fan of The Entryway. That's the journalism project I mentioned recently in which two white women decided to embed themselves with an immigrant family in the Westlake district, supported by donations. It's not journalism, says Hernandez, who also criticizes what he calls fawning praise by LAist that said The Entryway could become "one of Los Angeles' [and the country's] most important journalistic efforts." Hernandez disagrees:
The Entryway is not about the immigrants living there but about how two "white people" intrepidly enter an unknown space -- what I'd call the home of any regular working real-life Angeleno, nothing more, nothing less -- and manage to 'survive' there....
With eight diary entries so far, The Entryway has established no connections between the lives of the people in the house and the issues facing the immigrant community at large. They're busy mentioning how they have to "put the toilet paper in the trash can next to the toilet."
A day ago, I sent The Entryway to a bunch of young SoCal contacts, among them white, black, Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Argentine, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan professionals, all of them journalists, academics, or lawyers. The uniform response was "Ugh"...Journalist Eileen Truax, who reports for La Opinion, sums up the "Ugh":
Latinos are half of the population of L.A. but they still see us as an uncomfortable appendage, as if we were a tumor that grows on and invades half the body; it is occupying the space but it is not the body itself.
Hernandez suggests it might be better if Spot.us, which is helping pay for The Entryway, and the Knight Foundation, which supports Spot.Us, "could fund a project where aspiring journalists like Juan or Maria might move into a wealthy white home 12 miles from MacArthur Park, maybe in the study or sitting room, and report for us on the ticks and quirks of that 'other L.A.'"
In my commentary on KCRW last week, I said I'll be interested in seeing what the Entryway journalists come up with, but I noted "this style of immersion journalism is always open to criticism as inauthentic or patronizing. After all, there are plenty of experts already on L.A. immigrant culture – hundreds of thousands live it every day. They could just be interviewed, or hired to report it themselves."
* Edited to fix reference to Knight Foundation