Zita Arocha is a Borderzine contributor and its founder. Cuban-born, Arocha worked for over 20 years as a reporter for the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, The Miami News and the Tampa Times. She was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Hall of Fame in 2016.
I write today to personally request your continued support for Borderzine by participating in our year-end NewsMatch campaign that doubles your contributions to support student-produced border journalism. I’d also like to share a bit of personal news. Some of our recent journalism graduates already are making a difference, thanks to your support over the years. You may have seen them or read their bylines at news outlets like The Washington Post, ESPN, Texas Monthly, Dallas Morning News, Al Dia, Politico and Univision, among other notable media outlets. Last summer during the horrific mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it was gratifying to watch some recent journalism graduates and current students on the ground in the parking lot asking questions and reporting alongside the pros from CNN, Telemundo, The New York Times, and Washington Post.
It’s been a challenging year for storytelling on the border. A mass shooting at a local Walmart killed 22. Migrant caravans were intercepted at the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez crossings. Thousands of migrant children separated from their parents. A rising crescendo of hate-filled anti-immigrant political speech that goes on and on.
This year is marked by a major NewsMatch fundraising campaign to expand student journalist training, launch of a cross-border community engagement project; and expanded reporting about the borderlands. A 10th anniversary celebration showcase of student photography Nov. 19, 5:30-7 p.m. at UTEP’s Centennial Museum. Please join us. Dear friends, queridos amigos,
As this year of polarizing, fear-mongering political discourse about the border comes to a close, I bring you good news about Borderzine, the online magazine we launched a decade ago to prepare new generations of bicultural news professionals and ramp up coverage of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.
The new year starts soon with a bang as a new unpredictable Republican president, downright antagonistic toward news media, the border and immigrants, takes office. And Borderzine’s editors and student journalists are ready for the challenge of reporting the non-headline-making reality of the border region and share it with the wider public, the politicians and decision makers in Washington. Among new ventures in the works for 2017 are a journalism partnership with a major Spanish/English news outlet with increased focus on in-depth reporting by our students and professional staff about the economy, business, education, immigration (yes, the wall!) and the environmental needs of the U.S.-Mexico border region, as well as our signature storytelling – relating the unique culture and contributions of 20 million border residents to the rest of the nation. During 2016, Borderzine student reporters dove into story coverage of Pope Francis’ first-ever visit to Ciudad Juarez and the border, reported thoroughly on the effects of cross-border air contamination in a multimedia package that was presented at a national Communication conference in Philadelphia, and a collaborative effort with the New Mexico In Depth news site and NMSU students to report the local impact of the historic and histrionic presidential race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and billionaire Donald Trump for the White House. Next year we hope to continue two long-standing and successful on-going projects – Journalism in July, a multimedia journalism camp for the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez/Las Cruces area’s best and brightest high school journalists, and an annual summer Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy for journalism professors from Hispanic-Serving Institutions as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
This year’s contentious presidential election will most surely be remembered as one that broke new ground on many fronts: first woman on the ballot, first business tycoon/political outsider to run for the oval office, first time hot button issues of immigration and free trade made it to the national debate stage. After election day we’ll also know whether the race for the White House has produced a long-awaited milestone regarding the national Latino vote, which many believe to be a sleeping giant that will soon wake up to vote in large enough numbers to affect the outcome of a presidential election. This remains to be seen. Read and watch border region election coverage by UTEP and NMSU student reporters and online news site New Mexico In Depth here. A question in the minds of many is whether Latinos will be motivated to cast ballots in greater numbers than before because of Republican Donald Trump’s anti immigrant rhetoric and hate speech against Mexicans, Latinos and others, and promises to stop illegal immigration by building a “beautiful wall” between the United States and Mexico. Mexico will have to pay for it, he has said.
This question is at the heart of our special report that we publish today in English and Spanish in Borderzine, entitled Special Report Cuidad Juarez: Fragile Peace, by U.S. investigative reporter Ana Arana, who is based in Mexico City, and a team of reporters from Ciudad Juarez. We are proud that Fragile Peace is a necessary follow-up to Borderzine’s award-winning project, Mexodus, published three years ago. This bilingual multimedia project charted the exodus of Mexican middle class families, businesses and professionals to the U.S. in response to the widespread drug cartel violence and lawlessness raging in Ciudad Juarez and other areas of northern Mexico. While most local and national news media reported the story in incomplete fashion or not at all, we worked with a team of journalism professors from the U.S. and Mexico to edit and publish the student-produced multimedia project. Fragile Peace expands and provides context to the compelling story of a battered but resilient border city.
The 6-year-old online Border Life magazine, Borderzine, crosses another milestone this month with a redesign, enhanced digital features and visuals to better reflect its mission to publish rich relevant content about the borderlands by multicultural student journalists. A few of the exciting changes include a responsive design that allows readers to easily navigate across computer platforms and mobile devices, an updated logo, new story categories covering “Immigration and Fronteras” and “Diversity and Ideas” as well as a snazzier portfolio page to showcase the multimedia journalism of our student reporters. Here are some highlights of what we’ve added:
At the core of the new Borderzine.com is the responsive web design, which makes the site look good across computer platforms and on mobile devices. We’ve updated our look with a fresh, new logo inspired by the sunrise over a Southwest landscape – the vibrant glow of a new dawn in multicultural America. New category sections on the home page showcase our unique and varied content.
I blinked in disbelief when the message that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba flashed across the top of my iPhone screen. How do more than five decades of Cold War strife between Cuba, my native country, and the U.S., my adopted one, come crashing down with a headline flash on a sunny midweek December morning? At first I was doubtful it was true but after listening to simultaneous announcements by Obama in Washington and Raul Castro in Havana, the impact of what I had heard hit me and I began to sob. They were tears of joy at the good news and long suppressed grief over a homeland lost in time and memory when I was four and my penniless guajiro parents immigrated to Florida in search of una vida mejor, a better life, a tired cliché but true nonetheless. I imagine most Cuban exiles residing in the U.S. and throughout the world –the so called Cuban Diaspora – felt similar mixed emotions when they learned that se acabó lo que se daba, the party’s over, after five decades of U.S.-Cuba enmity.
It’s time to shatter the myth that young Latino journalists won’t leave home for jobs in news media. This thought and others flashed in neon across my mind as I sipped white wine recently in a San Antonio ballroom to celebrate 30 years of tilling the soil to transform newsrooms into diverse work places by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. As the speeches and awards played out on stage, I recalled the offensive words of a top news media recruiter not so many years ago. The recruiter, in his early fifties, had come from Washington, DC to UT El Paso, where I teach journalism, to meet with our journalism students. We thought he was coming to talk about jobs and internships. Instead he lambasted me and my journalism colleagues for producing journalism graduates who “aren’t aggressive enough, do not speak up and refuse to leave home for jobs elsewhere.”
Old stereotypes linger among recruiters
While we were all too stunned to respond, his insensitive comments didn’t surprise me.
EL PASO — Writing in his personal journal shortly before newsman Ruben Salazar was killed by cops during a 1970 Chicano Anti War march in Los Angeles, the now legendary Mexican-American journalists asks: “Why do I always have to apologize to Americans for Mexicans and to Mexicans for Americans?”
His question sounds almost innocent against the turbulent anti-establishment tone of the times. Yet it still resonates for most U.S. journalists with hyphenated identities, myself included. As I watched the PBS documentary, “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle,” a few weeks ago at a packed auditorium on the University of Texas El Paso campus, it felt like I was looking into a mirror and witnessing my own ambiguity about my Cuban and U.S. identities. It seems to me that ambiguity about identity frames the existential experience of most immigrants to this country. Where do we belong?
As we begin 2014, I’m delighted to share with you changes and opportunities that are ‘a coming.’ They include a collaborative education-news media venture that builds on the successful McCormick funded Immigration Reporting Institute held at UTEP last fall, as well as a new look and redesign for our website and continuation of two successful grant-funded training workshops. The Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy for journalism teachers from Hispanic serving colleges returns to the UTEP campus for a fifth year, and Borderzine will host an 11th annual Journalism in July workshop for high school journalists, also supported by the Dow Jones News Fund. We are also excited by plans for Borderzine to provide a weekend of training for local media professionals on how to use digital media production to create journalism content. Watch for details soon. McCormick Immigration Reporting Institute
Before going into more detail for 2014, I’d like to reflect on the successful Immigration Training Institute for 19 professional journalists and freelancers from the U.S. and the El Paso community. The journalists (which included two UTEP multimedia journalism students) engaged in hands-on training in how to use research tools for immigration reporting, learned the ins and outs of immigration policies and efforts at reform, took a tour with the Border Patrol and visited the border fence that divides the Anapra community near downtown El Paso. Although the training was important, to me the real impact began after the journalists left town and started writing immigration stories about their hometowns. Their articles, as well as those written by UTEP students in an investigative reporting class last fall, are being republished in Borderzine.
EL PASO – Twenty journalists from all regions of the United States gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso this fall to learn strategies and tools for reporting about immigration in their home communities. The workshop, “Reporting Immigration: From the Border to the Heartland,” was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation and Borderzine. Borderzine is proud to re-publish the online, print and broadcast stories that the journalists are reporting from New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, areas of Texas and other parts of the nation. The topics they explore include the deaths of undocumented immigrants on the Texas-Mexico border, increased scrutiny of abuses by immigration agents, growing asylum requests from Mexicans who say they are victims of persecution in their country, immigration enforcement at the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border, and coverage by U.S. women journalists of the deaths of hundreds of girls and young women in Ciudad Juarez. Their stories, published first in the journalists’ local news outlets, are part of the complex and ongoing story of immigration to the U.S. from Latin America and other parts of the globe.
Editor’s note: What is this territory we call the U.S.-Mexico border? We read frequent alarming stories and see media images about la línea, the borderline, a 2000-mile stretch along the Rio Grande and beyond, separating the U.S. from Mexico. It’s often portrayed as a no-man’s land rife with drug smugglers, vicious criminals, gunrunners, anti-immigrant militias, and undocumented or impoverished immigrants, all portrayed with some degree of accuracy and ample amounts of hype in the FX TV series “The Bridge.”
But what’s the real storyline of the border region beyond the sensational headlines? Who are its citizens, a majority of them Mexican American? What is their piece of the American dream? Borderzine invites you to follow Texas journalist Sergio Chapa and University of Texas at Brownsville Professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera on their nine-day road trip along the dusty byways and highways hugging the Texas-Mexico border.
EL PASO – Winning a national prize for an outstanding piece of journalism like the one awarded to Borderzine’s Mexodus project last week by the Online News Association goes way beyond public recognition for a job well done. To me the classy, foot-high triangular glass trophy that UTEP student Nicole Chavez brought home to El Paso is confirmation of what great work journalism students can produce when educators bust open traditional journalism classroom walls to create a teaching newsroom within the academy. That’s how we did it at our school on the U.S.-Mexico border five years ago when we created Borderzine, a web magazine by students about borders that is the capstone class in our multimedia journalism degree program and is run like a professional newsroom. While some journalism education programs continue to resist technological and news industry changes, we’re proud to be in the company of major-league journalism schools that have adopted similar “teaching hospital” models. Our teaching newsroom produced Mexodus, a semester-long reporting project about the exodus of Mexican middle class families, businesses and professionals fleeing drug war violence in Mexico. The project broke linguistic, national and even professional-student boundaries by including nearly 80 students from four universities, two in the U.S. and two in Mexico, journalism faculty and news professionals like Lourdes Cárdenas, who has run newsrooms in the U.S. and Mexico. The collaboration produced 22 professionally edited print stories and various multimedia, all of it translated and published in English and Spanish. Trainers from Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE) came to UTEP to teach professors investigative reporting techniques that they in turn taught their students who used them to report and write the project.
Awareness of Borderzine continues to grow with this story in Columbia Journalism Review about the five-year-old multimedia website that publishes stories about borders and assists Latino college journalists in honing their multimedia skills and landing internships and jobs in 21st century news media. Please read the well-reported story and pass it on along to friends and others who share the vision of a future where the nation’s newsrooms adequately reflect the dynamic demographic diversity of our country and the world. Adelante,
EL PASO — This Sunday Borderzine goes to press with Mexodus, an unprecedented bilingual student-reporting project that documents the flight of middle class families, professionals and businesses to the U.S. and safer areas of México because of soaring drug cartel violence and widespread petty crime in cities such as Ciudad Juárez. We believe Mexodus sets the bar for future collaborate investigative journalism that builds bridges across academic, national and language borders, in this case English and Spanish, the U.S. and Mexico. The web and digital technology facilitated the collaboration, as well as expertise from professional trainers from Investigative Reporters and Editors and research by Fundación MEPI in México City. The project received funding from Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The result is more than 20 stories in two languages, videos, slideshows, photos, info graphics and charts produced by participation from nearly 100 student journalists from four universities, University of Texas El Paso, California State University Northridge, and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Chihuahua and México City. Although it was difficult for students to quantify the dislocation of México’s middle class due to the violence –– researchers and demographers estimate the Mexodus at about 125,000 –– more empirical studies will likely reveal a larger number of refugees pushed out by growing violence, perhaps twice as many, according to some.
EL PASO – It had been a year since I’d last visited Juarez, considered the most dangerous city in the world because of unrelenting drug violence. After crossing the international bridge from EL Paso, I drove into a city under siege, past armed Mexican soldiers and army trucks lining the principal avenue leading to Juarez’s once-bustling central business district. Later at lunch, at Barrigas restaurant, a friend very much in the know shrugged and put down his fork as he explained, “The city government thought a strong military presence in this area would bring the businesses back,” he said, matter-of-factly. “And?” I asked. “It hasn’t worked,” he said, flashing an ironic smile and returning to his shrimp and steak. While he and the other friends my husband and I had lunch with last week seemed unfazed by this in-your-face show of military force on Juarez streets, the sight of so many soldiers with BIG guns left me feeling uneasy, queasy and anxious about the future of a once booming border city and important gateway to the U.S.
When I saw the soldiers strolling along with their M-16’s, a sign I’d seen on a wall in El Paso flashed across my mind like a news ticker on a TV screen: “Warez,” said the block-letter sign, a reference to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, a battle many politicians insist is not a war or even an insurgency, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has called it in public.
At this holiday time my mind turns toward reflecting on the road that Borderzine traveled this past year and where it’s headed as it marks its second anniversary this month. There are many accomplishments to celebrate. Viewership of the website is steadily climbing, hitting more than 11,000 unique views in early November with the Borderzine coverage of the murder in Juarez of two UTEP business students. Page views for all visitors rose from 5,000 for the month of January to 20,000 for the month November. Student-produced content from UTEP and other partner universities is growing (over 350 stories have been posted (read and commented on) since March 2008, and we’ve seen similar increases in Spanish language stories, as well as videos and audio slideshows. Each well-written and reported feature story contains digital photos produced by the story’s author. Borderzine students did live blogging of a national journalism conference at UTEP about the growing danger to Mexican journalists covering the drug violence.
El Paso, Texas –– A team of UTEP student reporters working with an experienced bilingual journalist will develop and publish a multimedia project for Borderzine.com examining the exodus of middle-class Mexicans and businesses from the northern border and other parts of Mexico because of increasing levels of crime and drug violence. The project, called “Mexodus” and funded by a $25,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, examines the economic, education and cultural impact of the growing out migration from Mexico to El Paso and other areas. According to one estimate, more than 400,000 Mexican citizens have fled the country in the last three years. Mexico recently reported more than 28,000 drug war-related deaths since 2006. “We are proud to support projects like this one at UTEP which reinforce best practices in investigative journalism and multimedia in a university classroom setting and set a high standard for similar student projects elsewhere,” said Bob Ross, President and CEO of Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
EL PASO, Texas — A major border news daily published a jaw-dropping front page editorial this week that seems to call on drug cartels, or whichever entities are in control of crime-plagued Ciudad Juarez, to tell them what the newspaper should publish to prevent further attacks against its staff. The September 18 editorial in El Diario de Juarez, prompted by the recent shooting death the paper’s 21-year-old photographer Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco outside a shopping mall, said, in part: “Tell us what you want from us, what you want us to publish or not publish, so we will know what to do?”
In typical knee-jerk fashion, quite a few journalists were quick to condemn the feisty border newspaper for scrapping its journalistic responsibility and caving in to the drug lords, a charge the newspaper denies. It troubles me that the major media, on both sides of the Rio Grande, did not take the time to carefully analyze the fine points of the editorial, but instead focused on the attention grabbing and alarm-raising message to “drug cartels.”
It seems that most missed the point of the long and nuanced editorial statement. Narcos, like ghosts, are unlikely to visit newsrooms or call with an offer to negotiate a public truce. They use subtle tactics instead to get what they want, like threatening to kidnap a Zacatecas editor if she didn’t publish a story about a young man who was killed by the army.
Borderzine.com is a contender for Top Hispanic Digital Media Innovation for 2010 by Portada magazine. Help share our success with the rest of the world. Cast your vote here today. It may help put us over the top, and mark yet another milestone for the best in multimedia journalism by Latino students. Adelante,
EL PASO, Texas — This is not a diatribe against employers who abuse unpaid interns – promise. But an entreaty for the news industry, media companies and others to step up to offer more internships – the kind that pay students to leave home for a few months every summer, learn to navigate a new environment and obtain advanced work skills. The subject is on my mind because of a recent story in the New York Times about employers who bring on interns and ask them to answer routine email, sweep or polish doorknobs instead of letting them do substantial work assignments. The story notes that some states and the federal government are cracking down on employers who “are illegally using” interns for “free labor. While the story doesn’t offer hard data on offending employers or the prevalence of unpaid internships, it does quote a career development officer at a nationally ranked university who “sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming.”
This conclusion doesn’t surprise in light of the recession, depressing job market aggravated in my industry – news media – by the contraction of print and broadcast media newsrooms with the concurrent shift to online news.
NOW ACCEPTING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT NOMINATIONS FOR JOURNALISM IN JULY
DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: APRIL 2, 2010 (Deadline extended to April 16, 2010)
To all El Paso area high school journalism/media advisors:
We invite you to nominate your top journalism students for “Journalism in July” on the UTEP campus from July 9-17. This summer’s 9-day residential workshop trains high school journalists in the basics of news reporting and writing and how to use digital tools (video, audio, photography) to tell stories on the web. Students will also create their own multimedia web magazine filled with news and enterprise stories and featuring digital photography and video. The 20 student journalists will live on the UTEP campus at the Miner Village dormitories. There is no cost to attend the workshop.
EL PASO — She stood five feet two inches tall in her sensible heels. With her short-cropped blonde bob and piercing blue eyes behind rounded spectacles, Esther Cano looked more like a school librarian than a scrappy fighter for human rights for women in crime-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. But Cano, who died of cancer on Christmas Day at age 75, could definitely deliver a mighty wallop and often did, taking aim at political indifference and the lack of legal and police protection for women victims of violence in Mexico. Some who gathered in El Paso recently to celebrate Cano’s life and activism remember her as, “an army of one.”
“She said she was not a saint or Mother Teresa but just a human-being fighting for justice,” said niece Marta Strobach. The diminutive “güera,” or blonde, as some friends affectionately call Cano, was largely responsible for bringing international media attention to the previously ignored murders of hundreds of women and girls in the scrappy border town of 2 million residents, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, TX.
… and gain knowledge of critical new media tools for professional advancement. Join the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Borderzine.com and the UTEP Department of Communication for a day of hand-on skills training in multimedia technology at the UTEP campus Feb. 20. Journalists, non journalists working in media and students will all benefit by learning Final Cut Pro video editing, how to create a blog on WordPress, Photoshop essentials, how to maximize social networking tools, and telling stories using audio.
EL PASO — I know I must sound like an overbearing parent every time I provide this career advice to students. Then I repeat the internship mantra and launch into my usual spiel: Don’t just get one —complete two or three before you graduate, ideally one where you live and another outside the area. Successful internships place you at the top of the prospect list when a job recruiter reviews your resume. You learn to work in a professional setting in your career field. You gain experience solving issues and conflicts that may arise in the workplace. You produce quality work, from writing a press release, to helping produce a news package or promoting a big event.
The AL DIA Foundation is calling for entries to its annual National Award for Excellence in American Journalism on Latino Issues. Two $10,000 awards will presented for the best examples of Spanish-Language Print Journalism and Spanish or English-Language Digital Journalism produced on American Latino issues during 2009 across the 50 states. According to the Félix Varela Award website, the purpose of the awards is to recognize any American journalist covering with excellence Latino issues in the nation today, either through Spanish-language Print, or any digital media outlet, in English or Spanish. The prizes are presented by the AL DIA Foundation, chaired by Hernán Guaracao, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications in the US, and founder, editor and publisher of AL DIA, a print and web-based news media organization with main offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There is no entry fee and the deadline is January 31st, 2010, for work done during the calendar year ending December 31st, 2009.
Borders divide and connect people, places, issues. They can be personal or cultural, political or social. We invite you to use your visual talent to explore your vision of “border” through the lens of digital photography. Borderzine editors will select first, second and third place winners; winning photos will be published on borderzine.flywheelsites.com and receive prizes. The contest opens November 2 and concludes December 18, 2009.
During a challenging year for traditional news media, Borderzine has good news and important milestones to share with readers and supporters. Several new academic and business partnerships will mean publication of more journalism content and personal voces on the topic of borders, be they geographic, personal, political or cultural. With the new partners coming on board, we also anticipate more traffic for the site and increased national visibility for this multimedia bilingual website housed at the University of Texas at El Paso. These accomplishments should also increase credibility for our mission to showcase the best of student journalism about borders while helping to prepare the next generation of multimedia news professionals, and getting recruiters to take notice of student talent with an eye to offering them internships and jobs. Two years after its launch, Borderzine is moving forward on various fronts.