Sixty-five-year-old Anita Mitchell might be Broward County’s biggest fan. She loves living in Broward County. She loves meeting people from Broward County. But she especially loves writing about people from Broward County.
Mitchell, a former English teacher turned reporter, recently launched “Broward People,” a site that posts profiles of Broward’s ordinary residents. According to Mitchell (who writes all of the entries herself), every Broward resident has a story. Although, she admits, for some people, their story might be harder to find.
“People here are interesting; you just got to find them,” Mitchell tells New Times. “I’m lucky. I’m in a position where I get to see the mixture as part of my work. If I didn’t, I might not see it and miss it.”
Broward County is often overshadowed by its boisterous and metropolitan neighbor to the south, but Mitchell’s light-bulb moment for profiling Broward residents occurred 15 years ago. It was initially a book idea — “something for tourists that was more interesting than a bag of oranges” — but quickly evolved to a blog concept with the advent of the internet. She has thousands of posts of different residents in the queue and aims to write a couple of profiles each week.
Born and raised in Detroit, Mitchell first visited Broward during spring break in college. The beaches, the people, the atmosphere — she loved it all instantaneously. When Mitchell graduated from college in 1974, she moved to Fort Lauderdale and began work as a high school English teacher. Her lesson plans would highlight micro-nonfiction — what Mitchell explains as short, hyperfocused storytelling.
Mitchell always knew her passion was telling true stories. She went to FIU for her journalism degree and then took up an internship at Channel 7. It was her calling. Every day, she’d remind her editors that by the end of her 300 hours, they had to offer her a position.
And they did. Mitchell has worked as a Channel 7 reporter for the past 20 years. Now, she’s working part-time as an assignment editor and courts reporter. Her favorite part of the job? Meeting and talking to Broward’s most interesting residents (even if they don’t think they’re all that interesting).
“All the time, they say ‘I have nothing interesting about me’ and ‘I have nothing to say’,” Mitchell recalls. “And I tell them ‘C’mon, just give me a try.’”
As time passed, the idea to profile Broward residents never went away. But in an era when blogs were sprouting up, her direction focused from a print medium to online. Starting out, she was wary of her technological abilities (Mitchell says she’s not a computer person). But earlier this year, she hired someone to create the website and social media pages.
The site launched just a few weeks ago. She’s written 24 stories so far. Her most memorable have been about Lena Mitchell, her Jewish mother — overbearing, harsh, but with her heart-warming moments. Another noteworthy one was of a homeless man familiar to most people who frequent the Broward County Courthouse. “Everyone knew who he was, but no one knew his story,” she says.
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Mitchell is conscious of keeping her profiles as diverse as possible, profiling Broward residents of all ages, genders, and races. After 20 years on the job and talking to people from Hollywood to Coral Springs, Mitchell has many Broward residents whom she wants to profile.
“Humans of New York is more visual. I only want a headshot,” Mitchell points out. “But it’s all about finding the story, and everybody has one.”
As Mitchell anticipates retirement, she plans to dedicate more time to her site. She has gathered some advertisers and is almost done working through some of the initial kinks. She can spend minutes or hours and even weeks on a story. She has visited places like New York City, Barcelona, and Israel, but Broward County is the only place Mitchell wants to live.
“Other places are nice, but come on,” Mitchell says. “There's the beach and a Nordstrom Rack and a Trader Joe’s. It’s the yin and the yang. What more could you want?"