Maye Primera and El Tímpano staff receive McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism

A group photo of El Tímpano staff.
Maye Primera (back row, third from left) and El Tímpano staff. The group is celebrated for their coverage of healthcare access for the Latino and Mayan immigrant population of the San Francisco Bay Area. (Photos: submitted)

Maye Primera and El Tímpano staff receive McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism

April 29, 2024

Maye Primera and El Tímpano staff have been named the recipients of the 2022 Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism. The award recognizes the group for their multi-part series on healthcare access for the Latino and Mayan immigrant population of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The McCommons Award, established by Grady Thrasher and Kathy Prescott to honor Pete McCommons, publisher and editor of Flagpole Magazine in Athens, annually recognizes impactful coverage on issues that affect a community. 

“When Grady Thrasher and Kathy Prescott endowed the McCommons Award, we could not foresee how quickly the Grady College committee would develop it into a vehicle of national scope for spotlighting innovative local news practitioners,” said McCommons. “This year, they have taken it to a new level, reaching across the country to the San Francisco Bay Area to recognize Maye Primera and her colleagues who make up El Tímpano.”

“It is an honor for El Tímpano to be recognized with the Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism,” Primera said. “This recognition encourages our team to continue innovating to find new ways to bring information and resources to empower our Latino and Mayan communities and improve their daily lives. Produced during a time of growth for our organization, this project also helped us to test and build our capabilities as a community-centered newsroom, powered by our service journalism platform and supported by new editorial partnerships and collaborations.”

Through producing in-depth coverage, collecting first-hand data and compiling useful resources, Primera and El Tímpano were able to explain and counteract the inequities and barriers surrounding the lack of access to healthcare for the area’s immigrant communities. 

“The multi-part series on healthcare for which they were nominated is typical of how Ms. Primera and El Tímpano are redefining local journalism through their emphasis on direct, two-way communication with the community they serve,” said McCommons. “Their guiding principle seems to be ‘anything that works’ to reach the people they serve. I am thrilled that this year’s McCommons Award recognizes their vital work.”

“This is journalism at its finest, reporting that helps citizens understand a complex, multifaceted story that really matters,” Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College, added. “It’s imperative that community media outlets delve deeply into issues surrounding healthcare. It’s the kind of work that the McCommons Award was designed to recognize.”

Primera and El Tímpano’s timely reporting occurred as California was in the midst of expanding Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented, low-income immigrants. The team was able to provide pivotal healthcare enrollment information to more than 2,500 non-English-speaking immigrants by way of a pioneering text-message-based reporting platform and amplified their stories via social media and the publication’s website. 

Primera has worked as a reporter and editor for more than 20 years, covering politics, immigration, borders, human rights, and violence in Latin America and the United States.

“This is a wonderful example of the power of niche-market community journalism and how news outlets can identify and engage with a specific group within a larger population,” said Kyser Lough, chair of the McCommons Award Committee and an assistant professor in Grady’s Department of Journalism. “Healthcare is a complex topic, but their reporting covers the complicated nuances and challenges in an accessible way. They used civic engagement and community listening to help shape not only what they covered, but how they could best reach the population.”

Jon Peters, the head of the Department of Journalism, agrees. 

“I’m so happy for Maye and El Tímpano,” said Peters. “Her work is a powerful reminder of the importance of community journalism, and in this case it helped an entire population navigate challenging personal choices about healthcare and government resources. This is exactly what community journalism is all about, and this recognition is a credit to Maye’s vision as a reporter.”

This pride is echoed by Madeleine Bair, Founding Director of El Tímpano. 

“Community journalism is truly a community effort,” said Bair. “This award is a testament to the collaboration of so many individuals who have believed in, supported and worked to achieve El Tímpano’s vision of journalism produced with and for Latino and Mayan immigrants. We are thrilled to receive this recognition of our team, our work and the impact of community media.”

The Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism, sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, goes to small- or niche-market media outlets that have produced single or packaged stories on issues affecting their community and can offer how these stories may have impacted their community. These media outlets can create bonds with its citizens, increase diversity, offer greater depth and context, and find ways to capture local priorities, concerns and perspectives.

This year’s McCommons Award honors reporting conducted in the calendar year 2022. Likewise, next year’s award will recognize reporting conducted in the calendar year 2023. Awards are spaced out so that direct community impact can be evaluated. Nominations are now open for the 2023 award, and can be submitted on the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism webpage.

Author: Jackson Schroeder,