Jessica Keating wins Community Engagement DFMie for ‘Beyond Bankruptcy’

Jessica Keating of the San Bernardino Sun won the 2014 Community Engagement Project DFMie for “Beyond Bankruptcy.”

The nomination explained:

In 2012, the darkest moment for San Bernardino and its residents arrived. Years of reckless financial decisions by entrenched leaders left this mostly blue-collar city seeking Chapter 9 protection. It was broke.

City coffers couldn’t cover even the most basic services. It was unclear whether the city would even continue to be a city.

San Bernardino Sun editorial writer Jessica Keating saw beyond the immediate crisis the opportunity a bankruptcy reorganization could be for a city whose political structure was almost as broken as its budget. This moment could be the catalyst for the kind of fundamental and essential changes that might finally wrest power from the small group of, as it turns out, negligent stewards. It could be the thing that finally woke up voters to take back their city.

The city’s residents just needed the will, and the way.

Starting in January, Keating launched Beyond Bankruptcy, a year-long community engagement project that looked at some of the underlying problems in the city’s governance and pointed the way to start fixing them. This was achieved not just in editorials but also in a series of related public events in which residents helped shape the paper’s editorials.

Those same meetings also served to connect civically minded residents eager to participate in rebuilding the city — from City Hall to Main Street. Those public events far exceeded our meager attendance expectations and showed not just that people cared, but that they were desperate to find ways to help fix their city.

A Storify submitted with the nomination summarized the engagement project.

Judges’ comments:

San Bernardino’s Jessica Keating did an exemplary job of using the newsroom and her column to help facilitate productive dialogue about San Bernardino’s bankruptcy. The Beyond Bankruptcy project went beyond simply writing articles about the issue and made city residents– whom this issue affected the most – part of the reporting process. We especially love how the newspaper opened up its newsroom to residents, breaking down traditional barriers between reporters and readers.

This is one of two DFMies for the San Bernardino Sun and one of five for the Los Angeles News Group.

About Jessica Keating


Jessica Keating

Jessica Keating

Keating is an editorial writer and engagement editor for the Los Angeles News Group opinion team. She works primarily in the San Bernardino office of The Sun, where she has worked since 2005 in various roles, including stints as a courts reporter, assistant metro editor and features editor.

Previously, she covered city government, crime and courts for the Ventura County Star in Ventura, Calif., and the Medford Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings in Oregon.

Keating is one of two repeat winners. She and Gina Dvorak won the 2013 Live Coverage DFMie.

She is a native Oregonian, and graduated from Southern Oregon University in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Other engagement finalists

Other finalists in the community engagement project competition were:

  • Holly Mahaffey and Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis of the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., for March Pet Madness.
  • Leigh Zaleski, April Trotter and Scott Fisher of the York Daily Record for No Sweat, York.

The staff of the York Daily Record won the 2013 Community Engagement Project DFMie.

Steve Buttry

By Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry is Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media. He oversees our efforts to transform newsroom operations and culture to more effectively pursue our digital goals. His duties include responsibility for social media and community engagement. He has visited most DFM newsrooms personally, leading workshops and coaching editors and other journalists in following the Digital First approach.

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