EL PASO – During virtual panels at last year’s NAHJ conference, Raquel Villatoro took notes. This year she stepped out of her comfort zone and took a chance.
Villatoro hopped on NAHJ’s virtual “lobby” and shared her experiences with anyone who would listen. She told two other attendees in the virtual room about her efforts to bring more diversity to her school newspaper at the University of North Texas.
Villatoro joined the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2019, in search of a community that she couldn’t find in Denton, Texas. She said she felt alienated by the actions of some in her newsroom and didn’t know what to do.
“I thought that wouldn’t be taken seriously,” Villatoro said.
She wanted to find people she could relate to but her local NAHJ chapter was inactive. Instead, Villatoro joined her school’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. She said she met other students who shared similar experiences at the same newspaper.
That’s when it clicked. Villatoro said she felt her newsroom didn’t consider her school’s Latino community.
“It’s important for students in the university to know stories that actually affect them and reflect them,” Villatoro said.
She tried to improve the paper’s reach by offering to translate articles from English to Spanish, but she said she was told there weren’t enough Spanish editors in her newsroom. Her other suggestions were also rejected. Villatoro ultimately left the paper.
She said she doesn’t regret trusting her gut, especially after hearing other journalists at the NAHJ conference describe going through similar situations.
“I think last year it helped so much to hear reporters’ experience and realizing that it wasn’t just me,” Villatoro said.
Now a senior at the university, she aspires to cover immigration as a print journalist. As she navigates the industry, she’s still in search of the kind of community she encounters at the conference, where she feels encouraged to take chances.
Brandy Ruiz is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, where she studies multimedia journalism, marketing and political science. Ruiz is a social media intern for El Paso Matters and the editor in chief of Minero Magazine, the university’s bilingual, student-led publication. She dreams of working for Teen Vogue and going on to become the publication’s first Latina editor. Reach her at brcndy11 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @brcndy.