Independent, citizen, and blog dwelling journalists of today could lose protection because of the Free Flow of Information Act 2013. (©

I am not Feinstein with this

EL PASO – Recently Senator Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein (D-CA), a well-known career politician, thought it would be appropriate to apply new definitions to what is required to practice journalism in America. She did this in her amendments to the Free Flow of Information Act 2013 (FFIA), which consists of the shield laws journalists would use to protect their sources. The proposed law passed through the Senate judiciary committee on September 12. Feinstein has always found herself on the opposing side of issues regarding freedom. Voting to extend the feared Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the loathed Patriot Act.

Border reporters, Angela Kocherga and Hugo Perez, reporting from Boquillas, México. Kocherga was part of a panel of border journalists that shared their experiences covering immigration. (Courtesy of Angela Kocherga)

Experienced border journalists share tips for covering tough immigration stories

EL PASO – Radio journalist Mónica Ortiz Uribe related how she was deeply moved when she witnessed the detention of a an undocumented woman from Guatemala who had crossed the border into Brooks County in South Texas with her two small children. “I had never seen an apprehension… that really struck me immensely,” said Ortiz Uribe. “She looked at me and I was standing with my microphone and my headphones, and she’s pleading saying ‘please tell them not to send me back’ and all of a sudden all this imagery exploded in my head… what has this women had gone through?”

With a chuckle, she added that she would never make it as a border patrol agent because “I’d probably have said to the woman, ‘No, no, váyase señora, váyase. It’s O.K. I didn’t see you.’”

Ortiz Uribe, who reports for the public radio news outlet Fronteras Desk, was one of four local journalists who cover immigration on an ongoing basis and discussed their experiences during a training workshop Immigration from the Border to the Heartland last week at UTEP for 20 radio, broadcast, online and print journalists. The workshop was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation and hosted by

Father Bob Mosher, from the Columban Mission Center, Melissa López, from the El Paso Catholic Diocese Center for Immigrant and Refuge Services, Fernando García, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, Katie Anita Hudak, director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. (Aaron Montes/

U.S. journalists seek to learn from immigration advocates and get an earful: We didn’t invite you to darles una regañada… but you need to earn back the public’s trust

EL PASO – The American media still has a lot of work to do. It has not fulfilled its responsibility covering the stories of the millions of immigrants that live in the United States, and has not fully challenged the narrative that has dominated the immigration debate for the last decade and a half, a panel of border activists and immigration experts agreed this last weekend. In front of the five panelists, a roomful of journalists listened to their concerns and ideas as part of the first Specialized Reporting Institute on Immigration Reform held in El Paso, TX and sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. The twenty reporters from all over the country and a dozen journalism students sat in silence inside the auditorium of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe on Sept. 28 as they listened to the concerns of the immigration advocates.

José Luis González, a photojournalist for El Norte newspaper, risks his life every to cover murder scenes at Ciudad Juárez as do most of journalists in one of the most dangerous cities of the world. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/

Reporters can experience ‘vicarious trauma’ when covering violent events

WASHINGTON – Journalists are regularly put into emotional situations, covering murders, natural disasters or wars. They watch as a family member grieves over a lost loved one and as protesters speak out against their violent government. Many put themselves in danger when they cover these situations. When the violence erupted in Egypt on Wednesday, journalists were among the dead. Reporters and news organizations have started to recognize and talk about the effects of covering traumatic situations on journalists.

Aspiring reporter learns a hard lesson in the rules of journalism

EL PASO ­– Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was in high school I was a student who constantly got into trouble for various things, and once an angry teacher asked me what I was going to do with my life. I thought he wanted to open up and talk and I answered him that I wanted to be a writer. He laughed at me and stated: “The way you’re headed, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see you asking for money in the streets and living under a bridge.”

Those words always stuck to me, that is until I enrolled in college. I never finished high school and began working, eventually got married and had a daughter.

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.

Frank Smyth, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, discusses reporter safety during a panel Wednesday. Smyth said one of the most important ways journalists can protect themselves is by having insurance. Kathleen Reen of Internews moderated the discussion. (Chris Jessen/SHFWire)

New guide seeks to protect journalists in the field and online

WASHINGTON – Sometimes journalists need to act a little outside their job description to protect themselves. “Honestly, it feels a bit like pretending to be a spy,” said Danny O’Brien, the San Francisco-based Internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. To help journalists assess and prevent threats to themselves and sources, CPJ released its Journalist Security Guide on April 26. A panel discussed the guide Wednesday at an event hosted by CPJ and Internews, both non-profits that promote free press. The deaths of  New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid and The Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin earlier this year in Syria are examples of the risks journalists take.

José Luis González, a photojournalist for El Norte newspaper, risks his life every to cover murder scenes at Ciudad Juárez as do most of journalists in one of the most dangerous cities of the world. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/

Chasing Death

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Everyday journalists from all over the world make a pilgrimage to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Ciudad Juárez, to try to document the city’s daily terror on its people. I have gone into Juárez before to try to document that for myself, but this time I wanted to tell the stories of the journalists. Journalists who risk their lives to cover the thousands of murders that happen every year. This was my attempt to try to get a small glimpse into what it takes to cover Juárez in a day’s shift. For one day this past summer, I rode along with two fixers, and met a news crew from Sydney, Australia, a couple of photographers from El Norte newspaper, and visited the local state bureau of investigation.

Investigative reporters Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto receive the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award on Tuesday for their courageous work covering the violent crimes that have overtaken the city of Juarez, Mexico. (Hope Rurik/SHFWire)

Examples of courageous journalism are not so far from home

WASHINGTON – I strongly believe in the common phrase “everything happens for a reason,” and entering the fall internship at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire fits the expression perfectly. Not only did I arrive here during Hispanic Heritage Month, making the transition from El Paso to Washington a little easier, but I also got the opportunity to witness two brave female reporters from El Diario de Juarez receive the Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists. Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto earned master’s degrees in journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso, my hometown university where I am majoring in multimedia journalism. We also happen to share a mentor, Zita Arocha, senior lecturer and director of the university’s online magazine, Gallegos and Nieto’s passion for journalism has led them to risk their lives every day, living and reporting in Juarez, a city ruled by corruption and impunity.

Juárez journalists win the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award by exposing the epidemic of violence and fear brought on by the drug war

EL PASO – Juárez journalists, Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, were awarded the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award last week for their investigative work on El Diario De Juárez, in the world’s most violent city. The award symbolizes a “valuable recognition” of the work of journalists in Ciudad Juárez, Rodríguez said. She hopes that it also will change the commonly believed notion that Mexican reporters on the border have been silenced by the lawlessness in the embattled city. Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalism said, “These extraordinary journalists dare to tell stories that few have the courage to address. Because of them, we have an essential understanding of the tragedies faced by citizens in México.”

Rodríguez’ and Gallegos’ investigative reporting has done much to expose corrupt government officials and the ruthless drug cartels battling for control in Juárez and other parts of México.