How did you come to start a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at UNC-Chapel Hill?
A couple months before Julian [Berger] and I decided to start the chapter, I messaged Julian, and I was like, “Do we have an NAHJ chapter?” I was pretty sure the answer was going to be “no,” because I hadn’t heard anything about it—and it was.
Did you feel supported by the journalism school and fellow students?
One of the requirements to be a nationally chartered NAHJ chapter was to have a minimum of 10 people become paying members of the national organization. We sent out an interest form to all the Latinx journalism students that we knew about, and initially, I thought, “Do we even have 10 Latinx journalism students?” We decided to expand our membership to be inclusive of people who aren’t Latinx and people who aren’t in the journalism school: You just have to have an interest in Latinx media to join. We got about 40 entries in our form, and we now have about 20 members.
As for support from the school, we’ve had two or three professors come forward and offer us money to help pay for our students’ membership dues. We had a UNC Hussman [School of Media and Journalism] alumnus offer to pay for 10 membership fees as well, so that was awesome. Honestly, I think that this should have been formed years ago.
Where does NAHJ fit into the ongoing dialogue about the lack of diversity in mainstream newsrooms?
I don’t think it’s an accident that we were formed while this conversation was happening. I would go on Twitter and see that our industry is going through a reckoning right now, and it reminded me we don’t have an NAHJ chapter, which would help Latinx journalism students at UNC in so many ways. Diversity in journalism is important because our audiences are diverse, and the people we’re talking about are diverse. It’s not OK for the white male gaze to be the only gaze we have.
The journalism school is one of the best in the country, but there isn’t necessarily a space to focus on covering Latinx communities. Our organization is a way to find resources that cater specifically to us. For example, a lot of people assume that because we’re Hispanic we all speak Spanish, but many of us are on different levels of Spanish literacy. Working through that issue, and in the future, learning about how to cover topics like immigration, what do you do if someone doesn’t want to give you their name—working through those scenarios are things on our radar. The reason we exist is to provide a space on campus for our members.
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