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The Rapidian welcomes new Managing Editor

Kiran Sood Patel joins The Rapidian this week, excited about citizen journalism as an in-depth way to pursue engagement with the communities we live in.
The Rapidian's new Managing Editor, Kiran Sood Patel and her husband, Amar Patel

The Rapidian's new Managing Editor, Kiran Sood Patel and her husband, Amar Patel /Andrea Boller

Underwriting support from:
The Rapidian's staff: Briana Ureña-Ravelo, Kiran Sood Patel and Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

The Rapidian's staff: Briana Ureña-Ravelo, Kiran Sood Patel and Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard /Linda Gellasch

Sood Patel exploring ArtPrize and Grand Rapids in the fall of 2015

Sood Patel exploring ArtPrize and Grand Rapids in the fall of 2015 /Amar Patel

Kiran Sood Patel joins The Rapidian as its new Managing Editor this week. Sood Patel recently moved to Grand Rapids from Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she worked for The Gazette for three years. Sood Patel studied journalism for both her Bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Master's degree from Northwestern Univeristy.

"I have always loved journalism. I’ve been in journalism for the past six years. I’ve worked in small to medium-sized communities and I love communities that I can really wrap my arms around and get to know. I think it makes your coverage richer and it makes your experience in that community richer. I love getting to know people, I love to know what makes them tick and sharing that with others and finding out what’s at the heart of someone’s journey, putting that in words. That’s what I think storytelling is and that’s what I’m excited to help be a part of here at The Rapidian," says Sood Patel.

When asked what interested her in transitioning from traditional journalism to a citizen journalism platform, Sood Patel replies, “I think the next horizon of journalism is engagement with communities. It is right there, it’s happening. It’s a matter of do you want to embrace or do you not want to embrace it? It’s not enough to just fact-find and put information out there, but you need to take it that next level and say, ‘What do you think?’"

Sood Patel notes this simple back-and-forth helps us better understand our communities and produce richer work.

"After all, we’re doing what we’re doing for the people in our communities, we’re serving the people. So without their input, I don’t think we’re doing as much of a service as we can be. This opportunity to be Managing Editor at The Rapidian was a really exciting combination of those things-the storytelling, the fact-finding and the information distributing, but also that engagement that I think makes it more fun. When you get to talk to someone about your work, or you get their input on your work, or you get to be a part of a conversation, you both grow as a result of it. You can get to new places together," says Sood Patel.

She is applying this in her personal life as well, as she just moved to Grand Rapids this spring. "I really love enjoying the different neighborhoods here. I live in Heartside right now and I love the ability to walk where I want to go. I love exploring what’s right around me. I’m enjoying the water and the bridges, I find them to be relaxing. I think it’s going to be fun to explore on foot, that’s something new for me. Cedar Rapids was primarily a car town and I usually only saw walkers there during weekday lunch hours. Walking down Wealthy Street, meeting people, finding out what they love about this town because I want to be a part of that and experience that, too. I want to make my own connections and develop my own favorites in town."

Sood Patel grew up in Naperville, Illinois, 40 minutes from Chicago. Her family spent a lot of time exploring the city and she brings that enjoyment of really delving into a place to Grand Rapids.

"I love the Midwest. I find the people and the cities to be friendly and accessible. They’re willing to give tourists the time of day. Chicago especially is a friendly city. You can make your own path, but you can still be surprised by what the city has to offer. I find myself attracted to accessible places that allow you to kind of make them your own and I think Grand Rapids is a place like that."

Sood Patel notes that she visited Grand Rapids for the first time last year when she and her husband were still dating.

"We had a chance to explore. I went to my first ArtPrize last fall and enjoyed it, we went salsa dancing. We’ve explored Frederick Meijer Gardens, I've been to the Civic Theater where we saw "Avenue Q" and later a play Halloween weekend, "Sleepy Hollow," and I enjoyed that. All of my experiences here with the arts and culture community have been enriching and I cannot wait to spend more time exploring the wealth of cultural institutions this town has to offer."

When asked what excites her about working for The Rapidian, Sood Patel says, "I’m so excited about opportunities to engage with our readership and to develop relationships. When you take the time to get to know someone on their turf, in their neighborhood, in their coffeeshop, and you sit down and you listen without any presumptions or assumptions, you will walk away growing. And you will now have that person’s story in your back pocket to share. And then hopefully you get a chance to share your story too and I find that experience to be so incredibly fulfilling."

For the second half of Sood Patel's time at The Gazette, she was involved in journalism and community engagement which is how she came to where she is now.

"We began to experiment with really in-depth story-telling that involved meeting with community members affected by a particular issues, say affordable housing, and then telling stories as we uncovered them along the way, and then at the conclusion having a final story, but also having a small group conversation focused on finding solutions. So this was a totally different approach to journalism and how I’ve come to embrace what I embrace today in terms of engagement and storytelling. How the two intersect and support one another and just result in richer stories and more solutions."

Sood Patel also emphasizes citizen journalism as an opportunity for everyone to tell their own story. "Or at the very least listen to each other and make the community a better place as a result of it. I bring an open ear, a willingness to listen, a desire to learn and contribute and the tools to help people tell their stories to the best of their ability. There’s a lot of opportunity too, in terms of cultivating the communities, and uncovering yet-to-be-told stories. That potential excites me quite a bit."

She is very eager to get to know the Grand Rapids community and learn from her new neighbors.

Sood Patel says,"I want to hear from people. I want people to tell me what’s on their minds and what they care about, what they’re worried about and how we can help. I want to hopefully provide people with something new that they didn’t have before, that helps them, that allows them to be better citizens, better informed, better engaged, and hopefully more active in our communities."

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