For at least three journalists, establishing their own voice on the World Wide Web has not only given them a chance to tell stories, but also to fill voids when it comes to the kinds of stories addressing niche audiences who may have a tough time finding such stories.
When Margarita Persico founded TheHealthyDish.com, she wanted a site that combined her love of news and its affect on people with her love of food. The Harvard-educated journalist has done most of her site work from her home in Costa Rica.
She had been an IT analyst before becoming a freelance journalist and editor in the Boston area.
“I have special interest in reporting on health and human-interest stories. While working on a diabetes series, I kept coming across the same thing: Latinos especially young, below 40 years old, with type 2 diabetes and its complications,” says Persico.
“It was heartbreaking to see a person in his early 30s barely walking and teens taking medication for type 2 diabetes. I wanted to help. I listened to them and to the doctors I interviewed. All the physicians said type 2 diabetes was diet-related and preventable, and if people changed their diets and exercised they could improve their quality of life. Since I was interested in investigation, human-interest stories, health, diet and food, I decided to pursue a website that would focus on these topics.”
She adds, “What a journalist has to remember, which is second nature to any business entrepreneur, is that any start-up business takes time and patience. For some businesses, it takes about three years to make a profit. So that’s food for thought. As I said before, I would not give up a day job until the website is profitable — unless they have a backer. If there is a business potential, it might take a few years.”
Daniel Hernandez oversees his blog “Intersections” from his home in Mexico City after having worked a few years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the alternative publication L.A. Weekly. Hernandez covers a variety of stories, from breaking news and politics on both sides of the border to the drug war and feature stories. He did not feel he was taking a big risk by launching his own news site after picking up paychecks while working for traditional media.
“I wanted to experiment with other forms, and build a platform where I would have unfiltered interaction directly with my audience, and also a place where I could gather all my work as I went along exploring,” says Hernandez. “My blog was not meant to supplant my paid work with traditional news organizations like the L.A. Times; it’s meant to compliment it. Every reporter, in my opinion, should consider building a personal website.”
Marisa Treviño started LatinaLista.net in 2004 as a basic blog and a way to tell stories that interested her. She says this came about after an editor in the Midwest told her he would not publish her work because the perspective she wrote from was not that of readers.
She says doing her homework before launching the site helped her to define the niche her stories were filling, even though, at first, the site did not provide an income and benefits that would allow her to do it full-time.
“The Internet allows people to test the waters to see if online publishing is the right route for them,” she said. “With very minimal upfront costs, someone can create a site, start creating content and attracting readers — all after they get home from work. That’s how I started Latina Lista,” says Treviño.
“I worked during the day as an editor of a publication for the newspaper industry and came home and worked on my site. When I finally decided to do this full-time, I had saved some money but I had also built up the reputation of Latina Lista to the point that awareness of the site was high and opened doors for me.”
Persico, Hernandez and Treviño all seem to agree that, while their sites may have a Latino-theme, Hispanic readers want news and information that spans the gamut.
“I think the biggest mistake is thinking that only certain topics are geared towards Latinos,” said Treviño. “I’ve seen from my readers that there’s interest in everything — from gaming to archaeology — no topic is off limits. Since maintaining a site takes passion and won’t make a lot, if any, money in the beginning, I would suggest picking a niche topic that you’re interested in where time disappears for you when writing. Chances are there are others who will feel the same way. By virtue of the fact that the publisher is Latina, that unique perspective will seep into the site and won’t go unnoticed by Latino readers.”
Violence in Mexico in the wake of World Press Freedom Day
At least four journalists have been murdered during the past week in the Mexican state of Veracruz. According to BBC News, Regina Martinez had been working for an investigative news magazine for ten years when she was found strangled and beaten to death in her home on April 29, 2012. Only five days later, Al-Jazeera reports that three photojournalists from the same news magazine were found dead as well.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says 51 journalists have been killed in Mexico between 2000 and 2011. The murders of these journalists have occurred only days after World Press Freedom Day.
PBS To Air Documentary Series on Latino Americans
PBS has announced plans to broadcast a six-hour documentary series on Latinos that is scheduled to air on the fall of 2013. English and Spanish versions of the series, which is scheduled to air over three days, are being produced simultaneously, PBS said. The series will focus on the history of Latinos in the U.S.
In 2007, PBS was targeted for protest by several Hispanic groups for filmmaker Ken Burns’ lack of inclusion of many of the contributions of Latino U.S. soldiers in his documentary about World War II.
CCNMA Looking For New Home Following Eviction by USC
CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California, Inc., has been told it must vacate space provided to it by the University of Southern California School of Journalism in Los Angeles, According to media observer Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column.
CCNMA, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year as the oldest group dedicated to journalists of color, had offices that were part of USC for 33 years. CCNMA Executive Director Julio Moran says the group is seeking new space and will consider other college campuses. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) grew out of CCNMA.
(Full disclosure: I was a staffer for CCNMA, which was formerly known as the California Chicano News Media Association, from 1999 to 2001.)
CCNMA Journalism Award Winners
CCNMA’s 2012 Ruben Salazar Journalism Awards have been given to L.A. Times reporter Richard Fausett for his story, “New Latino South,” about the influence and demographic change Latinos are bringing to the American South. And KCET Public TV Los Angeles correspondent Yvette Cabrera and producer Saul Gutierrez were honored for their story, “The Border Between Them,” about one family’s plight over federal immigration policy and how it has torn that family apart.
Carcamo is Livingston Journalism Award Finalist
Cindy Carcamo, a reporter for Southern California’s Orange County Register, is a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for her story about an undocumented person from Guatemala. Cindy chronicled the man’s life from his leaving the U.S. to returning to his small village in that Central American nation. She wrote the story “Return to Sender” for a literary magazine called Slake in which she documented the first 48 hours after the man’s return to Guatemala. Winners will be announced next month.
Varela Awards Offered By Al Dia Philadelphia”
The Al Dia Foundation is offering $40,000 for excellence in American journalism. Awards are for writing, blogging, documentary and photojournalism. Entries can be in English or Spanish. The application deadline: Aug. 31.
On the move
Bailon named editor of St. Louis newspaper
Former NAHJ and American Society of News Editor president Gilbert Bailón has been named new editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that newspaper’s publisher, Kevin Mowbray announced this week. Bailón had been editorial page editor for the Midwest daily and will replace Arnie Robbins, who said it was time for a new chapter in his life.
Bailón has been editorial page editor since 2007. He had also worked at the Dallas Morning-News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Los Angeles Daily News, The San Diego Union and The Kansas City Star.
Al Dia Philadelphia Hires Two Journalists
Sabrina Vourvoulias is Al Dia’s new manager editor. She had most recently been managing editor and Spanish-language-content editor at the Catholic Standard & Times newspaper.
And Luis Carlos Lopez has been hired as a Washington, D.C. correspondent for Al Dia and will be covering the U.S. capitol while working in partnership with Hispanic News Service to cover politics and other issues facing U.S. Latinos.
PBS’ Suarez to Open His Doors For NAHJ
NAHJ member Ray Suarez’ Washington, D.C. area home will play host to “Una Noche con Periodistas” on June 9, 2012. This event is being held to raise funds for NAHJ’s D.C. chapter.