BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Two teens are pounding the pavement in Brooklyn to find the stories that matter to their community.
Brothers Rusty Fields, 17, and River Fields, 14 of Bedford-Stuyvesant, launched neighborhood newspaper The Bainbridge Times as a way to help solve issues affecting their area.
Whether it’s spotlighting a business or profiling members of the block association, the pair look to create a platform to give voice to local residents, Rusty Fields said.
“We wondered, what could we do right now if we invest ourselves and our time into the community, and get other people in the community to do that? We can make change right now,” he said.
“We’re trying to make it engaging and inclusive so all the community can be involved," he continued. "The goal is to bring people together, different ideas and the problems they see, and with everyone’s idea we can up with a solution we can apply. It’s really a way for us to start a conversation.”
Among the siblings’ concerns were literacy rates, particularly in black communities in New York City and around the nation, Rusty Fields said, along with littering and green space in their neighborhood.
The first issue of The Bainbridge Times debuted on May 5, and the Fields held a launch party on Thursday to hand out hard copies of the 12-page paper to their neighbors.
A nine-person team, including the brothers’ aunt and cousins, contributes to the news outlet, with Rusty Fields serving as editor-in-chief and River Fields as managing editor.
The goal is to get more input and submissions from residents, according to the brothers, and neighbors will be featured in each issue with their concerns and brief bios.
“We want it to be a real community source,” Rusty Fields said. “And we also want it to be free.”
The paper comes as the two focus on community improvement projects as part of their new nonprofit, The Rusty and River Fields Foundation, which concentrates on local education and youth.
The pair fundraised for the publication with church events, according to their mother, Michelle Fields.
“I thought it was important that they did this themselves, that it was their project and they executed it,” she said.
“It turned out to be pretty exciting, I think I saw a more disciplined side of them from this experience, and I saw them beginning to understand that things are not so simple, which is one of the goals I thought it was important for them to learn.”
A total of 150 copies were distributed since the beginning of the month, and future editions will be online.
Articles touch on the founders’ interests, including a primer on how to get started in tennis — the brothers traveled the country training to go pro, their mother said — and the health benefits of Vitamin C.
It’s not their first foray into reporting — during a tennis academy in Maryland, they contributed to a community newspaper on the sport where they wrote about fitness, exercise, and more.
The Bainbridge Times’ leading feature, titled “A Woman of Distinction,” pays tribute to the brothers’ grandmother, who Rusty said is their motivation.
Their coverage area spans the length of Bainbridge Street, where the family lives, from Lewis Avenue to Broadway, and the surrounding blocks to Fulton Street.
But it’s not just Bed-Stuy that they’re looking to focus on, as they hope to expand with international topics.
The family’s travels have taken the brothers to Paris, Dubai, Japan, China and India, where Rusty Fields said they were able to explore different viewpoints.
“We have so much opportunity living here in America. Now, what can we do and what can we apply immediately to help our community and make it better?” he said.
Both brothers are hoping to become neurosurgeons, they said, and while Rusty Fields will contribute from abroad as he takes a gap year next fall, River Fields will man the project in Bed-Stuy.
“I hope that it becomes very large and expands throughout the community,” River Fields said. “And we want it to grow throughout the United States.”