To highlight the wide diversity of journalism innovation projects proposed by our A long-time journalist and founder of the recently launched digital media company

#Journo100 Finalist: Peter Kiefer of L.A. Currents

To highlight the wide diversity of journalism innovation projects proposed by our 100% Journalism finalists, we’re running short Q & As with our ten finalists.

Peter KieferA long-time journalist and founder of the recently launched digital media company L.A. Currents, Peter Kiefer proposed a five-part series called “What Life in Los Angeles will be like in 20 Years?” The project aims to explore L.A. through demographics, infrastructure, political economy, environment and education in the hopes of understanding where the city and, by extension, the country is headed. Kiefer wrote in his proposal, “This project would be an innovative 100% reporting project on the future of urban living in America as predicted through the lens of the future of life in Los Angeles.”

Kiefer recently discussed his vision for journalism innovation with Ebyline. Excerpts of that conversation follow.

What was your inspiration for this project?

The inspiration was a series of conversations I’ve had with some professors, urban planners, friends, long-time Los Angeles residents. It struck me that the city is going through a real makeover, a renaissance in a lot of ways. I think it would be very fascinating to harness all this available information that’s out there now and to sort of get a lens into the future.

What’s your connection to the city?

I was born in San Diego but my parents moved into Los Angeles when I was two years old, so basically my entire upbringing was in Los Angeles, grade school, high school. I went to college at Berkeley and came back and was working as a journalist here for six years and then I left. I moved to Europe. Then, I was in New York for a few years working for a newspaper that no longer exists, The New York Sun.

So I had a gap period where I’d left the city. I’ve always loved Los Angeles. I didn’t want to leave, but I had an opportunity to go live abroad, so I took it. When I came back, I had fresh eyes on the city, in a way. It created a whole engine of journalistic creativity where I’m seeing stories and seeing how things are changing, how the demographics are changing and the look of the city and how people are interfacing  with the city.

When that occurred, I had this idea to start L.A. Currents because I thought the media landscape in L.A. could support another smart voice. So that started down that path of ‘what would be the novel way to approach covering the city that’s not being done effectively?’ Then, it was through my exploration of that, that I really started diving into the history of L.A. and then thinking about where L.A. was headed, it struck me as a perfect match.

What do you think is going to be the most challenging part of the project?

It’s very ambitious and it’s very broad, so I think the first challenge and probably one of the toughest ones is just really identifying and isolating the scope of the reporting that may be necessary. Ideally, it would be a lot of public records, talking to the regional planners, politicians, filmmakers, academics, long-time residents, real estate agents and teachers.

When you bite off something as big as this, you’ve really got to try and restrain yourself and isolate what it is exactly you’re going to need to report on and that’s getting the documents necessary and then, isolating the necessary interviews to give the story the sort of depth and richness it’s going to need.

Who do you think will be your target readers for the finished product?

Anyone who’s interested in thinking about where American cities are headed, where the country is headed in a lot of ways. If you look back, historically California and Los Angeles in many ways have led the way for various policy initiatives, some good, mostly good. I think there’s been some bad ones, but I think California’s reputation is sort of on the forefront.

So I think with that in mind, somebody who’s really interested in how cities are developing, where they’re headed, would be very interested to know, and very interested to read what this sort of expansive reporting project is going to produce.

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