Charles Ndeki, Bourama Seydi and Lamine Fati all stepped on land mines on their plantations in Senegal, West Africa. In his interview with Brinegar, Bourama said, "Journalists, they come and they ask us questions, take our picture and they write and then they leave and nothing happens." (©Felipe Jacome)

Seeing poverty and seeking to change the world, word by word

Editor’s note: This blog is part of a series of first person essays about identity written by UTEP Liberal Arts Honors students during the spring 2013 semester. EL PASO – Last summer I was standing in front of the Martyr’s Monument in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  There was this being, an old man, lying on a thin mat. He looked like he was dying there as people walked around him, unchanged. One, two, three…I could count his ribs. His arms and legs were as thin as a broomstick, bones jutting out like knobs in wood.

Al Día editor Carbajal – Journalism today must consider language, culture, identity

EL PASO – As a reporter prepares to write an article, he tweets his audiences informing them how the story is going to develop and then rushes to write a short-short piece for online publication. That’s not your old man’s journalism – that’s today’s reporting. “That’s a story, short story, kind of what we call an AP lede. They are just telling us what happened right away. That’s all we need to know,” said Alfredo Carbajal, Editor of Al Día, a weekly Spanish language newspaper in Dallas.

UTEP student, Nicole Chavez, shows Mexodus' Online Journalism Award. (©Stacey D. Kramer)

Borderzine’s teaching newsroom produced award-winning Mexodus

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.

Joselyn after obtaining her master's in mass communications from CSUN. (Photo courtesy of Joselyn Arroyo)

The road toward citizenship: The plight of the undocumented

College graduate recalls the hardships she endured while obtaining a bachelor’s and a master’s degree as an AB 540 student

She has vague memories of the day her parents packed up and brought her and her sister to the U.S. One of them is her arriving at an “airport” though in reality she’d arrived to Sun Valley after crossing the border illegally at the age of three. Growing up, Joselyn Arroyo, 29, would accompany her mother, a janitor at the time, to the KNBC studios in Burbank. She remembers watching the broadcasters and deciding then that it was what she wanted to do when she grew up, oblivious to the hardships she’d face living in the U.S as an undocumented resident. Born Joselyn Ontiveros in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on April 26, 1982, she stands at about 5 feet 5 inches with medium length black hair, tan skin and an athletic build and has always considered herself a citizen of the U.S. despite her illegal status. “I knew I was from Mexico but I didn’t know the logistics of not being and being a citizen,” says Joselyn.

El Paso, a border city considered by some as part of Mexico. (Raymundo Aguirre/

Learning journalism in El Paso opened my window to the world

EL PASO – Every time I’ve gone on vacation with my friends, people ask us where we are from. The conversation usually goes something like this: “We’re from Texas.” “I love Texas! What part?” “El Paso.” “Oh, so like, Mexico?” Yes, that’s right, at least once in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, and even in Europe, people thought we were basically from Mexico. This used to bother me because I will always pride myself on being a patriotic American citizen; however, I started to see how it would be easy for people outside of Texas to think that El Paso was just this forgotten part of the United States that somehow belonged to Mexico also. If you look at reports about border violence in Mexico, El Paso is almost always mentioned as the sister city to Ciudad Juarez.

Journalism students say they prefer the glitter to the hard news

EL PASO – As journalism students graduate from colleges into a tough job market every year, more and more of them are straying from hard news and are instead pursuing careers covering sports and entertainment. According to Dr. Thomas Ruggiero an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso campus, “…reporting on breaking hard news has become lost.”

A scenario for the new bred of entertainment reporters could look like this: Microphones in hand and cameras on record, numerous reporters anxiously wait behind velvet ropes for the first celebrity to step on to the red carpet. The first interview of the night dressed in a long, tight-fitting gown and sparkling stilettos, poses for the flashing cameras, then makes her way toward the screaming requests as they point their microphones in her direction. They yell over each other’s voices to get the first interview after the star’s stint in rehab. One reporter with a single letter logo on his microphone lands the interview and immediately riddles the troubled movie star with question after question.

My intern advice: if you don’t ask questions, you never learn

EL PASO, Texas — As a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at UTEP I knew I had to obtain some work experience in my field to get my foot in the door after I graduate. This semester I was able to land an internship with KVIA ABC 7 to learn how to become a producer. Being a news junkie I thought I had this in the bag. This was not the case. Although I eventually got the hang of it, I first had to learn how to overcome obstacles.

Sam Donaldson — The new media wields a double-edged sword

EL PASO, Texas — Innovations in technology —more specifically the Internet— have changed every aspect of media, transforming journalism into a swift double-edged digital sword, according to veteran ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson. Donaldson told students at his Alma Mater, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Tuesday that, “Everyone today thinks they are a journalist. Everyone shoots off their mouths on the Internet. To some extent this is a problem. I would prefer to listen to someone who is presenting stuff that is factual.”

The borderland native attended Texas Western College, now UTEP, and began his TV career in 1977 as a correspondent for ABC News.

No chUTEP without chU

WASHINGTON D.C. — Hey, there’s a brave new world out there! It’s been almost two years since my graduation from college and I was very happy to have a chance to walk around the UTEP campus and run into Ms. Esther Barragan last week, who was a major part of ensuring that my experience at UTEP was filled with internships. We talked about a lot of concerns that she has been hearing from students who are a little shy about doing things like taking an internships or studying abroad, which sounds like basically a fear of doing anything outside of El Paso. I would like to spend the next couple lines sharing how doing just those things made me able to have a “Why not?” attitude, which has really helped me to find a fun life in Washington, D.C.

When I was a junior at chUTEP, do you guys still call it that? Hopefully somebody will put that on a t-shirt, which can be very lucrative for clubs.

Borderzine nominated for Top Hispanic Digital Media Innovation award

Dear BZ Fans, 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,

Zita Arocha,