Stories of Impact
The years following the 2016 election antagonized our country’s immigrants – both those already living here and those looking to move to the US – in unprecedented ways. Hateful rhetoric saturated our TV screens, news outlets, and airwaves. Collectively, our eyes were on two places: Washington D.C. and the US-Mexico border. With so much national attention on these epicenters of migration and decision-making, coverage of what was happening locally – even in big cities like New York – fell away.
In response, Mazin Sidahmed and Max Siegelbaum co-founded Documented – a nonprofit news site dedicated to New York City’s immigrants and the policies that affect them. “We felt like there were huge holes in the way immigration was being covered,” Sidahmed explained. “We also felt that immigration reporting is often about immigrants, but never actually for immigrant communities. We wanted to create a space where immigrant communities were not just the subject of the stories, but also the intended audience of the stories.”
Only a few months after its inception in 2018, Documented succeeded in bringing immigrant issues to the fore, amplifying local New York stories through co-publications with The Guardian, The New York Times, WNYC, The Daily Beast, and more. Over the years, their reporting has contributed to significant progress: Documented’s stories have led to the New Jersey State Pension Fund’s divestment in immigrant detention, legislation prohibiting ICE arrests from taking place in courthouses, and compensation for families affected by the 2022 Twin Parks apartment fire in the Bronx.
“We are aiming to fill gaps by providing actionable information in the different languages of immigrant communities, journalism that can hold people in office to account, and news that helps people feel connected and like they belong there,” Sidahmed said.
6,000+ New Yorkers have joined Documented's community-led news service to help guide their editorial coverage and decision making
Brooklyn Org’s support played a huge part in helping Documented get on its feet. As the first foundation to provide Documented with funding, Sidahmed claims Brooklyn Org “transformed” their organization. In particular, BKO’s capacity support, offer of free office space, and connections to pro-bono services helped to solidify the organization’s 501(c)3 status. “Brooklyn Org [also] gave us space to use for 18 months, where previously we didn’t have any office space [and so] a huge financial burden was taken off of us,” he recounted.
Documented’s journalism isn’t only for the people – it’s by the people, too. The news site founded a WhatsApp news service that allows community members to participate in how news about their own communities is being written. Currently, over 6,000 people have joined the news service, providing Documented with guidance about editorial coverage and decision making. “It’s really, completely changed the way that we do journalism and has become a model for other news outlets around the country,” Sidahmed reflected.
We are aiming to fill gaps by providing actionable information in the different languages of immigrant communities, journalism that can hold people in office to account, and news that helps people feel connected and like they belong there.Mazin Sidahmed, Co-Founder
Documented is only getting started, and is determined to grow a footprint in the city through more on-the-ground reporting. With the success of their WhatsApp news service, they’re also launching a similar channel on Nextdoor and WeChat to draw Brooklyn’s Caribbean and Chinese immigrant communities into their work. And as Brooklyn’s immigrant communities continue to grow – especially with the influx of asylum seekers putting down roots in the city – so does Documented’s duty to deliver honest, accountable, and community-centered journalism from their first day here: “We really want to become a clearinghouse for information for asylum seekers, to help them navigate the city when they arrive.”