NAHJ to launch longform journalism platform to host members’ original content

Members from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association attend the J-Expo and career fair during the 2019 Excellence in Journalism Conference in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Jackeline Lizama/The Latino Reporter)

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is launching a news platform for longform journalism by its members in an effort to help distribute work from freelancers and emphasize investigative and narrative storytelling, officials said.

It’s an unusual move for an organization that has long limited its involvement in original content production to its annual conference, newsletters and The Latino Reporter, a publication written and produced by members of its Student Project.

Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, the public editor for PBS and a longtime NAHJ member, has led the charge on the new project, which will unveil its new website in October.

He said the organization plans to announce its plans to members at the NAHJ Journalism Awards Gala late Saturday.

“We’ve long been denied and not had a place at the table,” Sandoval-Palos said. “So maybe it’s time we build our own damn table.”

NAHJ President Hugo Balta offered a teaser during a general meeting with NAHJ members on Saturday afternoon, calling the effort a “game changer.”

Though longform work will be published on the new platform, NAHJ will also seek to collaborate with news organizations — radio, television and print outlets, among others — to publish members’ work. Leaning on the resources of an organization with roughly 3,000 members from news organizations around the world will better enable freelancers to get their work seen and published, Sandoval-Palos said.

Angélica Serrano-Román, a freelance journalist from Puerto Rico, said a website for longform journalism and investigative work would allow freelance journalists like her opportunities to reach organizations, editors and readers that they may not have in their own community.

“I think that it would be nice to have several options,” she said.

Sandoval-Palos said the effort has been an effort to “do something for” freelance journalists, who have long complained about being overlooked by professional news organizations.

“Our goal here primarily is to show legacy media, show the established media, what our people can do and provide them an avenue to get their best work across and getting published,” Sandoval-Palos said.

NAHJ Executive Director Alberto Mendoza said the idea for a longform platform came up as NAHJ officials brainstormed ways to keep the organization relevant.

“I think what I’ve realized is that [NAHJ] this is almost the last linkage for some folks to be a journalist. Because they’re a lifetime member or the longtime member and maybe they’ve been pushed out of the industry, or maybe they got forcibly retired, or maybe they just couldn’t make enough money anymore. So we are losing a lot of members out of the industry, which, ultimately, I think affects us,” Mendoza said. “And so we want to focus on making sure we can extend that lifespan.”

Mendoza said the effort will also contribute to the organization’s “more Latinos in news” effort to up representation in the media.

“If we’re not telling our stories, who is?” he said. “That’s what’s been missing. I think we have the opportunity to leverage all the talented people that we have a part of the organization that can now potentially have a home to display their work — and that we can promote.”

To maintain the journalistic integrity of the platform, Sandoval-Palos said, the organization has declined to accept sponsorships from private companies that might pose a conflict of interest — or the perception of one.

Sandoval-Palos said he signed on to help six months ago after ensuring NAHJ would be “applying a strict independent journalistic standard to the content,” he said. The platform will be competitive and selective in the journalism it publishes, he added.

The organization will share a glimpse of what the site will look like at the NAHJ Hall of Fame Gala, the penultimate event of the 2019 conference.

Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez is a 2019 Student Projects participant. She is a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. She interned for KUNR in Reno, where she reported stories in English and Spanish, and freelances for the Nevada Independent. Reach her at jorozcorodriguez@nevada.unr.edu  and on Twitter at @jazmin1orozco.

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