EDINBURG - The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Office of Global Engagement in conjunction with the communications and student media department, hosted a ‘Diversity in Journalism’ panel discussion to celebrate and acknowledge diversity in today’s journalism.
Local media experts were invited as panelists to share their experiences and real world views of diversity in journalism.
Guest media experts included: Ildefonso “Poncho” Ortiz, writer for Breitbart News; Heather Arevalo-Flores, KRGV-TV digital director; Denisse Salinas, Telemundo anchor; Mark Regan, investigative reporter for The Monitor newspaper; and editor and publisher, Steve Taylor from Rio Grande Gaurdian.com
With years of experience in the media bizz, these experts shared challenges they faced based on language, gender and age that still occur in their newsrooms today.
“I was born in Mexico and have lived there for half of my life,” said Denisse Salinas, Telemundo anchor. “And coming to the Valley, it is mixed with mexican-american culture and our job is to educate our viewers and I do that by translating words that do not exist in the spanish language.”
Salinas adds, although Spanish was her first language and had to work hard to learn English, being bilingual is a plus in the industry now.
Other times gender can affect the approach of the story or determine if it will make any air-time.
“We have a woman news director and there’s a lot of stories that she will stray away from,” said Heather Arevalo-Flores, KRGV-TV digital director. “She thinks about the mother-side of it such as sexual abuse stories where we’ll leave the child’s name out,” she said.
For Ildefonso Ortiz, being with a certain gender has relieved him in certain situations.
“There’s been times where I’ve been to shootings with a female photographer and felt more comfortable with her than I have going with a male photographer,” said Ortiz, Breitbart news writer for the Cartel Chronicles.
And like most success stories faced with its challenges, KRGV-TV’s Heather Arevalo-Flores didn’t let numbers affect the demands of her job.
“I was the youngest in the room at 19-years-old,” said Arevalo-Flores, KRGV-TV digital director. “And I remember having reporters who were 26 and older saying, ‘why do I have to listen to you?’ and I grew up fast because I was their boss as a producer by then.”
Now as the digital director who manages the station’s social media platforms, Arevalo-Flores believes in asking for input of those younger than her, important.
For Mark Regan and Steve Taylor who’ve worked in national and international media outlets, see the Valley as a place to tell compelling stories due to its people who make the stories worth telling.
“There is no other place like this (the Rio Grande Valley),” said Steve Taylor, publisher and editor for the Rio Grande Guardian.com “This is the best area for news by a long way and I think why that is, is because the population has always been replenished by generations of immigrants that want to live that American dream; it’s just inspiring to hear the stories,” said Taylor.
The university serves over 90% of hispanics which puts UTRGV in a “prime position to contribute media practitioners to the rest of the country,” said Aje-Ori Agbese, UTRGV communication associate professor and panel discussion coordinator.
The media discussion was inspired by a Pew research study showing U.S. newsrooms had the least diverse groups for the fifth year in a row.
“So why not celebrate what we do here on campus because we have student media organizations that win awards for bilingual journalism,” said Agbese.
Communication associate professor, Aje-Ori Agbese, Ph.D., proposed the media panel discussion for students and faculty to celebrate, acknowledge and learn how diversity affects journalism.
UTRGV’s office of global engagement received a grant from the U.S. department of education known as the Undergraduate International Studies of Foriegn Languages where Agbese and UTRGV’s associate vice president of global engagement, Dennis Hart are utilizing that grant to enhance academics in foriegn languages and diversity on campus.