The Pivot Fund’s journalism experts support community-led media

Lisa Galarza started Pasa la Voz–an independent Spanish-language newspaper serving coastal Georgia and South Carolina–as a Facebook page in 2018. With support from The Pivot Fund, a media nonprofit, Pasa la Voz transitioned from a Facebook page to a news outlet.

As the child of immigrant farm workers, founder Lisa experienced many hardships growing up. But her challenging upbringing instilled a passion for representing marginalized identities. That commitment led Lisa to develop a community resource serving her Latinx community.

The Pivot Fund founder Tracie Powell saw this dedication in Lisa from the get-go. Tracie, a Heartland Fund grantee, recently shared the story of her early investment in Lisa’s organization with other grantees.

Local changemaker gets grant support

When she first met Lisa, Tracie asked why Pasa la Voz’s founder was taking on the work of informing her community via Facebook.

Tracie remembered Lisa explaining: “I try to understand why the system doesn’t work for everybody. And then I tell the community so that they can help me change it.”

“That gave me goosebumps all over,” Tracie recalled. She had hesitations about investing in Lisa, since the budding journalist didn’t have a high school diploma, let alone a journalism degree. “But what I saw in her was the passion and the mission. And she was already doing the work.”

With The Pivot Fund’s backing, Pasa la Voz acquired a Latino-led newspaper based in South Carolina and expanded its reach, growing the audience by 35% in the first year as a Pivot Fund grantee. The Pivot Fund also helped Lisa diversify into a website, a WhatsApp channel, an events strategy, and strategic print media.

Pasa la Voz’s many community-driven resources, like a Spanish-language hurricane guide, have provided substantial benefit to Lisa’s underserved community. Advertisers who want to reach Pasa la Voz's audience have followed, ranging from local businesses to the state Public Health Department. Last fall, the outlet hosted a Día de los Muertos event that drew 10,000 people.

The future of journalism

For Tracie and her colleagues at The Pivot Fund, investments like Pasa La Voz present an opportunity to heal relationships between marginalized communities and the media. Tracie and her colleague, Jean Marie Brown, explained that rural audiences and people of color often have

good reason to distrust some media outlets. Because of historical disenfranchisement and ongoing discrimination perpetrated by media sources, some journalists have caused substantial harm to the communities they should be representing.

Because of these realities, The Pivot Fund offers a different way to bolster news media that truly benefits rural communities. The group advocates for communities to build relationships with journalists who look like them and understand their lived experiences. These journalists, who are embedded in the communities they serve, listen to their community members and report alongside them, not just about them. Revolutionizing the way journalists conceptualize their intentions–focusing on audience rather than outlet–is another way Tracie and Jean advocate for better, more accurate coverage.

“We tend to do media coverage in the sense that we focus on population centers,” said Jean Marie. “Well, rural areas are huge population centers. They’re just spread out, and ignoring them isn’t constructive for anybody who lives in them.”