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Tiny WEQY Radio used to broadcast music and news with a decidedly East Side flavor from spartan studios on E. 7th Street in St. Paul.

It's still on the radio waves. But with its license assumed this summer by the nonprofit Center for Broadcast Journalism — and its move to glitzy new facilities downtown — this low-power FM station has become part of a much grander plan.

The goal? Train and develop journalists of color to better represent the communities that the radio station and the center serve.

If the work of 24-year-old Jasmine McBride is any indication, the station is well on its way. The alternative-high school graduate with a love of creative writing is writing three news stories a week and hosting her own weekly radio show.

"They saw something in me that was worth investing in, and that was my ability to tell stories," said McBride, whose interest in journalism grew as she helped cover the news after the murder of George Floyd.

Founded and directed by independent journalists Georgia Fort and Marianne Combs, the center is merging the radio station into efforts to "transform the media landscape." The radio station was relaunched in September as Power 104.7 FM-WEQY, broadcasting from the Osborn370 building in downtown St. Paul.

The station plays hip hop and R&B and will continue serving East Side residents, Fort said, and it plans to provide free radio advertising to a handful of East Side businesses.

But through a coalition with other community radio stations, the news reports that the Center for Broadcast Journalism produces will air across the Twin Cities. And its studio space will be made available to organizations and individuals wanting to record podcasts as a way to increase revenue.

Shay "Glorius" Martin, WEQY's acting station manager, said the center's grander mission was needed — and welcome — after the fledgling station endured some rocky times.

"Truth be told, the station had been treading water. It was really dead. I had lost hope," Martin said of challenges and changes at Dayton's Bluff Community Council, which started WEQY. "This is a good reboot. Georgia has a vision for it and is going to take it back to what it was going to be."

Messages left with Community Council officials were not immediately returned.

Fort is an East Side native, entrepreneur and eight-time Emmy-nominated journalist who said she is dedicated to changing the racial narrative in news. Her work has appeared on CNN, ABC and CBS affiliates.

Combs has been a reporter, producer and occasional host on MPR News, where she won awards for feature reporting and investigative journalism. In 2021, Combs served as the managing news editor for "Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice," and in 2020 she was named Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2017, she worked with the nonprofit ThreeSixty Journalism to create a radio news camp for high school students.

Fort and Combs came together in May 2022, launching a newsroom to give early-career journalists hands-on experience. They later formed the nonprofit Center for Broadcast Journalism, supported by grants from several area foundations, to boost that work.

Several young journalists have emerged from the center, Combs said. The list includes Feven Gerezgiher at Minnesota Public Radio, Samantha HoangLong of Sahan Journal and Tiffany Bui with Lemonada Media.

McBride and Elijah Todd-Walden are reporters for CBJ News. Todd-Walden focuses on the Legislature.

For many young people of color, the traditional track for beginning reporters — journalism school, internships and then entry-level jobs at small media companies around the country — limits their opportunity and access, Combs said.

"What we do is training for people for whom that traditional pathway might not be open," said Combs, who described her role in the partnership as tending the news side and developing curriculum.

"This is an alternative track," Combs said. "We view their lived experiences and their identity as assets to their reporting. We're trying to eliminate barriers for entry by saying, 'You don't have to leave town. Your expertise is here. Your experience is here.'"

McBride, who attended St. Paul Central and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, said she began writing news stories while a student at St. Paul's High School for Recording Arts. She further developed her news writing chops when she assisted Fort on stories during the community uprising that followed Floyd's murder in May 2020.

At the center, she is working on several stories, including interviewing a man who is working as a "daddy doula," providing counseling to soon-to-be fathers about what to expect in the delivery room. McBride said she loves writing but also enjoys developing a voice through her radio show — the Jasmine Yvonne Show.

"It gives me a little more freedom to express my views and thoughts," she said. "It's really helping me explore who I am."

Giving young journalists the opportunity to develop their skills and voices is the whole point of the center's work, Fort said.

"How do you transform media? That's complex. There are layers to that. I can't come into a newsroom at Star Tribune and say, 'You guys need to transform your culture,'" she said. "We can be a bridge. Our mission is to equip these journalists with what they need to go on and break into this market."