COMPTON—Students are taught in journalism school that the journalist should never be a part of the story. In the majority of cases, this is true. Report or write what happens as an objective observer. However, there are those rare exceptions, notably when the story in focus is the reporter’s own story.
This happens to have been the case involving a small, struggling newspaper called the Compton Herald, the weekly newspaper of record in the City of Compton that began the fight to succeed in March of 2012.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr., a product of Compton who attended junior and high school there, founded the Herald several years after his tenure as executive editor at Wave Community Newspapers in Los Angeles ended when a new owner acquired the company in 1999 while it was mired in bankruptcy.
It is an understatement to say that print publishing in Compton is an uphill struggle. Acquiring enough sustainable advertising while a newspaper is in it’s infancy is always a major challenge. Still, Fellows managed to gain ground, publishing a 16-page broadsheet newspaper practically on his own — writing, editing, paginating, selling ads, and distributing the newspapers — albeit in spurts on the strength of know-how, faith, determination and extraordinary work ethic.
The work-ethic part of this story is the most remarkable. Fellows, 62, suffered a stroke in November 2013 that paralyzed his left extremities — hand, arm and leg — landing him in the hospital for eight weeks.
During confinement, he had to learn how to walk all over again and to use his left hand and arm. Of course, Fellows could not use a computer to compose stories and he was confined to a wheelchair.
But, being the 40-year newspaper veteran and stubborn curmudgeon that he is, Fellows was not going to simply languish in a wheelchair. He was discharged as an in-patient from Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif., one of the foremost in the nation, on January 3, and remanded to outpatient rehab. The state of the art rehab hospital conjoined with Fellows’ determination had the stroke victim up and walking two months later. By June 2014, Fellows was sufficiently strong enough to return to work, picking up where he left off, resuming publication of the Herald in August of 2014.
That Fellows was able to again perform the editorial tasks — writing, editing and paginating the newspaper with just his right hand, was one thing, but overall management of the newspaper with merely a couple sales execs and no professional journalists to assist him, was quite remarkable.
Then, in March of 2015, Compton Herald found new life as a digital-only publication. ComptonHerald.com came roaring out of the gate reaching more people than the print newspaper ever did. The news Website has been exactly what the hyper-engaged social media community of Los Angeles County needed. Renewed local and regional interest, together with the global readership now enjoyed by ComptonHerald.com has led to thousands of page views every month. ComptonHerald.com is well on the way toward being one of the most visited of the small digital media enterprises in the region.
You have to admire Fellows’ grit, especially after something as serious as a stroke. He hasn’t quit.
To interview Jarrette Fellows, Jr., call (310) 908-9683, or e-mail the Herald at: firstname.lastname@example.org