In the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, as communities grappled with the multifaceted challenges it brought forth, one organization emerged to serve as a beacon of hope and empowerment. 

Epicenter-NYC, based in Queens,  addressed systemic inequities by guiding more than 15,000 people through vaccinations. Through their work they actively engaged with the community, raised awareness about vaccine disparities, influenced policy changes, and connected with vulnerable populations, emphasizing the transformative role of community-focused media during a crisis.

The pandemic’s impact was far-reaching and deeply unequal, disproportionately affecting BIPOC and immigrant workers. As a publisher, Epicenter-NYC adopted a unique approach that not only spotlighted these issues but actively addressed them, raising awareness about systemic inequities tied to vaccine distribution, with a particular focus on Black and Brown communities.

Their message was clear: in the face of a public health crisis, media organizations and institutions should not remain distant or objective. It was an opportunity to act in solidarity with science and advocate for the marginalized communities hardest hit by Covid.

Epicenter-NYC’s reporting had tangible effects on policy and practices. The organization recognized that traditional information dissemination channels often fell short in reaching the most vulnerable populations, including those with limited internet access and non-English speakers. Notably, the outlet’s investigation into Walgreens’ vaccine protocols, which revealed that a doctor’s note was not required for vaccination, prompted changes in the pharmacy’s policies. This influence extended to other media outlets, as both USA Today and The New York Times followed up on the adjustments driven by Epicenter-NYC’s reporting.

Epicenter-NYC’s system integrated technological proficiency, language expertise, cultural fluency, community relationships, and real-time updates on eligibility criteria. This approach went beyond conventional media engagement, illustrating the power of a holistic strategy that embraced the challenges faced by diverse communities.

Epicenter-NYC also forged partnerships with ethnic media outlets, including the Haitian Times and Documented NY, expanding the reach of their advocacy and support efforts. The collaboration with NYU’s Studio 20 class, which conducted profiles of small businesses in Queens impacted by the pandemic, was part of a grassroots approach to reporting, storytelling and community work around navigating the pandemic. Some of those same businesses then reached out to the student reporters for help with vaccine access. One, an Indian restaurant along Jackson Heights’ renowned 74th Street corridor, sent an Excel spreadsheet of employees in need of vaccines.  
Epicenter-NYC’s journey during the pandemic epitomizes the power of community-focused media engagement. Their ability to facilitate transparency and accountability within the vaccine distribution process, spotlight issues and directly impact policy with their reporting, reach vulnerable populations, and act as a catalyst for change serves as a testament to the potential for media to serve its communities in times of crisis. By bridging gaps in information and support, Epicenter-NYC showcased the pivotal role that media can play in redefining community engagement and fostering a sense of collective responsibility. Their approach set an example for how media organizations can engage meaningfully with their communities.

A network created to
uplift, respect and love
the communities we serve.