After 26 years of reporting news for the Northeast LA (NELA) community, the Boulevard Sentinel is closing. The editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, Teresa Hendrickson, who grew up in Eagle Rock, announced the permanent closure of the newspaper Jan. 18. Tom Topping started the Boulevard Sentinel, and after his retirement from the paper in 2015, couple Teresa Hendrickson and Bill Hendrickson along with Teresa’s brother, Tim Tritch, took over. Although Tritch was sidelined with illness a year after they assumed leadership, the couple carried on their work with the newspaper.
Before taking over the newspaper as the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, Teresa Hendrickson said that she was on the editorial board for the New York Times, and had spent her entire career working in journalism. After being involved in national publications, Teresa was interested in becoming involved in hyper-local news. Teresa Hendrickson said that when she and Bill Hendrickson took over the Boulevard Sentinel, they brought with them a belief in the importance of supporting local news.
“One thing I had not done in my career was local journalism,” Teresa Hendrickson said. “Everyone who does journalism on the national and international level that I was on is aware of the crisis in local journalism, and how important it is. A lot of people at the biggest networks and biggest publications came up through local journalism.”
The decision to close the newspaper coincides with Bill Hendrickson’s retirement, and comes after a growing difficulty to keep the paper afloat during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teresa Hendrickson said.
“Ever since the lockdown, it’s been really hard to make money doing the paper, and the reason for that is that we had to shift to online only,” Teresa Hendrickson said. “Most of our revenue had come from the print publication.”
Teresa Hendrickson said that when the pandemic hit and the businesses that normally carried the Boulevard Sentinel in print had to shut down all around NELA, the paper had no choice but to run exclusively online. According to Teresa Hendrickson, the economics of online advertising compared to print are not as favorable, making it difficult to continue the paper.
Back in 2017, Teresa Hendrickson and Bill Hendrickson began to work with student journalists at Occidental’s student-run newspaper, The Occidental. In 2020, the newspapers formed an official partnership called the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, Teresa Hendrickson said. According to Teresa Hendrickson, the partnership with The Occidental enabled students to report for the Boulevard Sentinel and get trained by professional journalists.
“I think the most important partnership we had was with The Occidental,” Teresa Hendrickson said. “When we formed the partnership, that opened our paper up to a lot of important people who were learning the trade, and who were very good at it.”
According to Teresa Hendrickson, working with the student writers at The Occidental allowed her to get hands on with teaching reporting and writing techniques. When students reported for the Boulevard Sentinel and submitted articles, they were getting an early education on how to have a career with a professional publication, Teresa Hendrickson said.
“It was a win-win situation because I think the students did get an education by working with me,” Teresa Hendrickson said. “I would edit their work, and would talk to them about the stories; I would explain my edits, which was a teaching opportunity.”
Matthew Reagan ‘21 is a former editor-in-chief of The Occidental newspaper; he said he was one of the students who helped actively form the working relationship between the two publications. According to Reagan, during his sophomore year at Occidental, he began participating in freelance assignments and attending neighborhood council meetings, which allowed him to connect with the Boulevard Sentinel.
“After speaking with Teresa Hendrickson and Barbara Thomas [The Occidental’s staff adviser], we had identified the need of the Boulevard Sentinel to have writers, and people out in the community doing work, attending meetings and asking tough questions,” Reagan said. “Simultaneously, The Occidental had this stable of writers who needed opportunities to write, grow, learn and experience.”
Reagan said that having a partnership of co-reporting and co-publishing between the two newspapers was helping to solve the Boulevard Sentinel’s need for writers and The Occidental’s desire to connect student writers to the professional world of journalism. According to Reagan, the partnership was born out of a need to bolster community news and help students, which benefited everyone. As the pandemic continued, the Boulevard Sentinel took more and more of a hit, Reagan said.
“Like many small, local publishers in California and throughout the country, the pandemic exacerbated a lot of the pressures that they were already feeling,” Reagan said.
Before 2020, the Boulevard Sentinel printed thousands of papers for the NELA area which allowed community members to stay updated on news that directly impacted them, Reagan said.
“It’s really sad and it’s really scary on a larger level, because hyper-local news, especially like what the Boulevard Sentinel was producing, is one of the ways newspapers and journalists can have the biggest impact on folks’ lives,” Reagan said. “What’s happening around the corner is probably more relevant to you than what’s happening nationally or in Congress.”
Pablo Nukaya-Petralia ‘20 worked as an editor for The Occidental, and was also involved in the partnership with the Boulevard Sentinel. Since graduating from Occidental, Nukaya-Petralia said he has run the Boulevard Sentinel’s Instagram account. According to Nukaya-Petralia, the closure of the Boulevard Sentinel shows how important it is to support local journalism is in today’s world.
“It’s absolutely a loss,” Nukaya-Petralia said.
Contact Olivia Correia at email@example.com