September 27, 2007

TIME OUT: So You Want to be a Latino Reporter, eh?

This post was prepared for Hispanic Youth Day's Communications/TV panel
at the University of Missouri - Kansas City
, Sept. 28, 2007

Advice for Aspiring Journalists:
Take Charge of Your Journalism Education
Regardless of their field, passionate people seek training -- always

Journalists know that when we wait, we want. When we snooze, we lose.

We're constantly moving. We
race to get the most accurate sources, race against deadlines, race to publish the news first. But we're also racing against ourselves. Like any competitor, we can't win races if we don't train.

Here are a few essential tips for Latino student journalists:

Join the staff of the campus newspaper
Whether its a class, a student club or independent of the college, Latinos need to join the staff of the student newspaper.

A recent article from Campus Progress notes that many college newspapers are neither diverse nor racially sensitive.

My experience tells me that Latino students and instructors will go out of their way to read your work -- even if they don't agree with it.

You'll also educate your instructors, advisers and fellow student journalists on how to work in a multicultural environment. Let's face it, for some students, working on the campus paper is the first job they've ever had.

Become a student member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
NAHJ offers access to scholarships, student training programs, student chapters and national conventions. Every four years NAHJ joins with three other journalism organizations to produce a super-conference called UNITY.

Next summer, UNITY will be in Chicago, Ill.

NAHJ student members may apply for special programs that include travel, hotel and registration for the conference. For some the $25 student membership fee seems like a lot, but its worth it. Besides, how much will you spend this weekend?

Find mentors
Just as a journalist never wants to write a story with only one source, student journalists -- especially Latino students -- should never have only one mentor.

Mentors can be other students, instructors or professional working journalists.

A mentor offers a unique perspective and the more mentors a student has, the more diverse and richer the perspectives are. Experience has shown that sometimes students can teach old journalism watchdogs new tricks.

Also remember that mentors don't give -- they offer. And students shouldn't take but instead receive.

This means a mentor doesn't owe students anything. It also means that he or she cannot make a student do anything. It should be a respectful relationship.

Self publish
Student media helps provide clips and a traditional newsroom experience but that's not enough these days.

Students should also create blogs, Wikis, or podcasts. Use YouTube, iTunes or their cellphones.

This is where student journalists have the advantage over the professionals.

Students can easily self publish by using new technologies and adapting the latest social networks. Mastering these new systems can only boost your ability to report and to get a job.

Ethics and integrity
Before a student writes for the campus paper, joins a professional journalism organization, finds a mentor or self publishes, he or she must have a clear understanding of his or her ethics and integrity. That understanding will guide the student on what kind of journalist he or she will be or if he or she should even be one in the first place.

I define ethics as the rules one lives by and integrity as how one acts on those rules.

Here are a few questions students should answer:
Do you keep your word? Have you ever kept you word even when it ended up hurting you? When was the last time you broke your word?
Are you fair? Describe the last time you treated someone unfairly. How did you apologize?
What tempts you? Describe what someone could offer to buy you off. When was the last time someone sold you out?
How do you handle fear? How do you handle lies? How do you handle the truth? How do you handle praise? How do you handle stress?