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Richmond Man Helps Young Voices Be Heard Through Community Newspaper

RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- Young people in Richmond are discovering the power of writing, thanks to this week's Jefferson Award winner.

People stop Malcolm Marshall on the street with ideas for the Richmond Pulse.

He founded the youth-led community project with now defunct ethnic news agency New America Media ten years ago to give Richmond's underserved residents a voice.

"I call it inside-out journalism," Marshall said. "It's not folks from the LA Times parachuting in."

His journalists are students aged 16 to 24 years old. They know Richmond well, because many live there.

"They just tell stories in a unique way. They give an insight into their lives that's often missing in the media landscape," Marshall said.

Young reporters get a stipend -- and the project is funded -- through the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

Marshall prints 5,000 copies of the bilingual Richmond Pulse in English and Spanish each month.

More than 70 students have seen their bylines in the newspaper and online over the years. For many, it's the first time with their name in print.

"Once you get a taste of that, it just changes you. It transforms you," Marshall smiled.

One of the students, Juan Mendoza, considered a career in construction until Malcolm fueled his passion for writing.

"They just allowed me to see a different future for myself," Mendoza said.

The college student is building new skills through the Richmond Pulse. He has interviewed a local mural painter and profiled the homeless.

He even followed up on Malcolm's idea to publish a love letter to his girlfriend.

"He's a guiding light. He's more than a mentor, more than a teacher," Mendoza said of Marshall.

Marshall says he's giving back the support he received as a student when he started out in ethnic media.

"My greatest joy is seeing that come full circle: knowing what an impact it had on me. Now I'm able to do that for other people," he said.

He's been a DJ, worked for New America Media, and he's produced Street Soldiers Radio on KMEL with his father, Dr. Joseph Marshall.

Malcolm Marshall's mentor, Ethnic Media Services director Sandy Close, applauds Malcolm for illuminating the stories of Richmond residents who've felt invisible.

"He is somebody who represents a sign of hope for all of us in the media field," Close said.

Some Richmond Pulse reporters have continued on in journalism, with jobs at the Napa Valley Register, the Guardian and the Houston Chronicle.

So for empowering a new generation of Richmond Pulse writers who give voice to the city's underserved, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Malcolm Marshall.

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