Jesús Sanchez and The Eastsider provide the Eastside with hyperlocal news, a ‘labor of love’

Atwater Village in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 7, 2022. Ava LeLonde/The Occidental

Jesús Sanchez is an award-winning publisher of The Eastsider, a news publication founded in 2008 that focuses on stories from neighborhoods in the Eastside of LA. According to Sanchez, the goal of The Eastsider is to connect these urban communities by providing them with the kind of daily news that a lot of smaller towns take for granted.

“It’s kind of a patchwork of original stories, looking around to see events related to our neighborhoods, or people who live in our neighborhoods, and then creating a convenient spot on the web where people in our area could find these stories,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez was born and raised in LA and has lived in Echo Park for 30 years, which he said gave him a unique outlook on the Eastside. The Eastside is an urban region that includes several neighborhoods including Highland Park, Boyle Heights, Glassell Park and East LA.

“I do have sort of a historic perspective in a way. This helps me because I can recognize this is not the first time something has happened. Or maybe there’s a connection that was missing,” said Sanchez. “I can add to it by saying this happened back in the 90s, as well.”

Sanchez said he worked as a staff writer at the LA Times for about 20 years. Patrick Lee ’76 is a former associate of Sanchez at the LA Times and said he worked with him on the business staff.

“I think he’s a terrific journalist. Very professional, very energetic. He had great news judgment,” Lee said.

According to Lee, Sanchez and The Eastsider are covering the Eastside with the kind of all-encompassing news judgment that most neighborhoods in LA and Southern California do not receive. After the LA Times, Lee said he worked for Patch Media and that they viewed The Eastsider as a formidable competitor.

“We would follow The Eastsider for news leads of our own. I have nothing but respect for what Sanchez did with that. And the fact that he started it on his own, and it’s still around,” Lee said. “He was providing a valuable local news public service for that part of the city, and this was even before it became super gentrified, or the hipster haven that it is now.”

Colorado Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 7, 2022. Ava LeLonde/The Occidental

Sanchez said that he founded The Eastsider after being laid off from the LA Times in the 2008 recession and was forced to look for a way to keep writing.

“Being in charge of your own business, even though I worked on the business staff, you really don’t know what it’s like, even until you’re doing it,” Sanchez said. “And even on my micro level, you really do learn to appreciate things that in journalism, you really weren’t taught: how to manage people, how to encourage people.”

Monica Rodriguez, a freelance writer who works on assignments centered on education for The Eastsider, said that publications like this are important because they take the place of weeklies from the past. Rodriguez said that even though he keeps a busy schedule, Sanchez is always willing to take time to talk about work.

“He is really committed to the work of serving the Eastside,” Rodriguez said. “He’s really on the ball, he knows what’s going on, and he’s interested in bringing stories to the people of the Eastside, whether they are news stories, features or profiles on people in the community.”

Sanchez said he gets a kick out of telling people something that they do not know about their own neighborhoods, and one of his favorite parts of working on The Eastsider is introducing people that normally would not get much publicity or recognition. The Eastsider covers how major national issues affect LA residents as well. Sanchez said that he is proud of the Eastsider’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Eastside LA communities, for example.

“With Dodger Stadium, we covered the first time there was a drive-up place to get tested,” Sanchez said. “We were the first to report they were using that area and then it became a huge drive-thru test scenario. And then it turned into a big vaccination site. And then, when it closed, we were back for that, so we followed the entire cycle of the pandemic.”

Sanchez said that The Eastsider is a labor of love, and he would like to see it exist past his own lifetime.

“My goal that I envision is a small newsroom where we would stick to covering what we do, which is hyperlocal, community coverage, coverage that is factual and fair,” Sanchez said. “But also one that is not remote or aloof to the neighborhoods we cover.”

Sanchez said one of his goals is to open readers eyes to the power and wonders within the Eastside of LA.

“I think part of our mission is to encourage people to connect and to feel proud of where you live,” Sanchez said. “And I think if you feel proud about where you live, and you’re aware of what’s going on and its history, you’re more likely to get involved and take care of it.”

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