Connecting with Community Means Finding Niche Interests

Vicks VapoRub took the spotlight in the News Leaders Association session “Being a Strategic Partner with Your Community.” This salve cured a disconnect between Los Angeles Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez and a portion of her readers when she published a column about the Latino community’s love of “Vivaporu.” Bermudez, along with her fellow panelists, advocated for more reporters to discover their community’s niche interests— even if it happens to be a menthol rub.

Esmeralda Bermudez presents her video previewing her VapoRub story.
Photo by Eric Pritchett

Executive editor of Columbia Missourian Ruby Bailey moderated a discussion of community engagement among Bermudez, Executive Editor of Journal Star Dennis Anderson and reporter at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tony Norman. Each presented their philosophy on engaging underrepresented minorities and connecting with readers. They all preached the importance of being present in the areas they want to impact.

“The best way to be out there and serve is to be a presence,” Norman said.  “Just to be seen walking about and just to be identified is important both for the paper and your personal brand.”

That’s exactly what Bermudez aims to do. She goes into the office one day a week. She spends the rest of her time reporting on the streets— and sharing her experiences on Twitter.

Bermudez presented a tweet with a video of her explaining the VapoRub story. The room erupted in laughter as attendees heard a VapoRub rap Bermudez found. Her Twitter posts promoted her column and resonated with the Latino community.

“Once you get in the cycle with community, they give to you, you give to them. It becomes cyclic,” Bermudez found.

To get the partnership of a community, a reporter has to be accessible. Anderson holds meetings in the south side of Peoria to get input from the Journal Star’s underrepresented population.

Dennis Anderson explains how he established community meetings.
Photo by Eric Pritchett

“People see us as an avenue not only to get news in the paper but also tell us about problems they’re facing,” Anderson said.

Bringing reporters and the community together, whether through meetings or beat reporting, was echoed throughout the session.

Annelise Hanshaw is a senior at Ball State University, studying magazine journalism with a minor in interior design. You can reach her at or at her website,

Photographer, Eric Pritchett is a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, majoring in Photojournalism and minoring in scuba. He graduates in December 2019 and can be reached at or on his website


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