The Commercial Appeal expands coverage in Frayser as part of push to better cover city neighborhoods

·4 min read
Mark Russell
Mark Russell

More than a year ago, The Commercial Appeal expanded its coverage in Memphis' Whitehaven area, part of our effort to better cover a city neighborhood we had long under-covered.

The effort was both a recognition that we should be telling a more comprehensive story in Whitehaven and a direct acknowledgement of a longstanding institutional neglect in not telling those stories. The Whitehaven work led to The CA greatly improving its coverage and providing a pipeline for neighborhood leaders and residents to send us story ideas.

From the editor: CA to boost coverage in underserved communities like Whitehaven

Now we are turning to Frayser, an equally historic community with a legacy of community involvement and activism. We want to reflect the issues that are driving Frayser, from housing development to education.

Although the 180-year-old CA was once called the newspaper you could trust in the Mid-South, we have too often failed to cover the full spectrum of life in predominantly Black communities.

And, as an institution, we lacked credibility in those areas. The coverage in those areas lacked the texture and fullness of the coverage of East Memphis, Germantown, Collierville or Bartlett.

With this Frayser coverage push, we are continuing that transformation in our focus.

Similar to our choice of Whitehaven last fall, we are picking Frayser as part of our evolving plan to craft a long-term strategy to sustain better city coverage. The earlier effort in Whitehaven was part of a national journalism program where local news organizations form partnerships to boost coverage and trust in underserved communities.

We picked Frayser because it is a sprawling city neighborhood that had long been considered a gateway community. Its retail-and-service core is a shadow of what it was three decades ago. The area has great potential, however, and is filled with residents who are committed to making Frayser a better place. Similar to Whitehaven, we expect to find compelling stories about entrepreneurs, restaurants and individual citizens who are shaping a better future.

Frayser Exchange Club, a civic and service group formed in 1967, hosts weekly community meetings with area leaders and newsmakers ranging from Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris to Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn (C.J.) Davis.

Edward Shelly Rice, president of the Exchange Club, notes, "It's important for folks who live elsewhere in Shelby County to know about the good things happening in our community." He said that because of Frayser's size — 25 square miles and 45,000-50,000 people — "communicating what's happening in our community can be difficult."

The Commercial Appeal: CA diversity stays flat as newsroom focuses on coverage of South Memphis and Whitehaven

We want our journalism to reflect that optimism as well as the reality of the challenges in Frayser and the work underway to address them.

In the coming months, The CA plans to host community meetings in Frayser around topics that residents and leaders tell us are the most relevant and pressing issues.

As I have previously said, we think better coverage from all of Memphis will make our content more valuable and introduce readers to people and institutions that are important to the region's success.

This community commitment builds on the journalism we are already doing to make The CA your choice for news about Memphis.

For example, we want to help you better understand the rich cultural and human capital in Memphis as well as how its public officials and leaders operate.

Stories such as Bob Mehr's story on longtime public-information officer Chip Washington's "Real Talk Memphis" radio show and Tonyaa Weathersbee's profile on the Black Chickasaw Nation, which showed how the group is surviving amid the pandemic.

In a series of reports, government and watchdog reporter Sam Hardiman has chronicled how the city of Memphis took the unusual path of paying severance to the director of the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance after the department director was put on administrative leave amid employee complaints about management of the office.

Meanwhile, our food and dining reporter, Jennifer Chandler, will make you feel as if you are an insider in the local restaurant scene. Two recent examples: Her story on Bala's Bistro in Whitehaven and a subscribers-only story on Memphis restaurant groups rallying to save historic local restaurants destined to close.

While you may have at least heard about those stories, you may know little about The CA’s role as a community contributor. The CA last year donated $10,000 to efforts to erect a statue on Beale Street honoring the late journalist and civil rights icon Ida B. Wells. Earlier this month, the newspaper also donated $2,500 to Girls Inc., a Frayser-based service and advocacy group that nurtures the development of girls.

From left, Kendra Bowlex, Kendall Cooper and Alzalea Braxton, with Girls Inc., talk about their products during a tour of the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday, June 22, 2019.
From left, Kendra Bowlex, Kendall Cooper and Alzalea Braxton, with Girls Inc., talk about their products during a tour of the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday, June 22, 2019.

To produce such journalism — and donations to Memphis nonprofits — we need your support. We want you to consider becoming a digital subscriber, and we are offering you a special deal to do so. You can access the best deals here.

Our journalists know Memphis and strive to tell authentic, compelling stories about what it’s like to live, work and play in this vibrant community. I'm asking for your support to continue telling those stories.

Mark Russell is executive editor of The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at mark.russell@commercialappeal.com, 901/288-4509. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MarkRussell44

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Commercial Appeal expands Frayser coverage: Part of communities focus

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