David Plazas sees many things in life as a marathon — not a sprint.
His active membership in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference began in 2000, soon after he switched from a pre-law track to journalism. Having arrived with no prior internships or experience, recruiters told him try again once he learned more.
In 2005, he returned. This time he was an editor of the Fort Myers, Fla.-based Gaceta Tropical, an award-winning Spanish-language newspaper published by The News-Press. Plazas was able to showcase the work he and his team were producing to serve the Latino community, beginning his commitment to return every year.
Over the next two decades, Plazas, 45, has returned again and again. He served the conference as a Student Projects’ mentor for eight years, including running the program in 2012, 2014, and 2015, and has made strides in his own career. He returns often as a speaker, panelist and staunch supporter of student programs.
Plazas is the director of opinion and engagement at the USA Today Network in Tennessee.
Outside of the newsroom, Plazas takes conquering things mile-by-mile more literally. Plazas is an avid runner and was excited to hear that the 2022 conference, hosted jointly by the National Association of Black Journalists and NAHJ, would offer a 5k marathon for attendees.
“Conventions are as much about professional development as they are about building friendships and networks,” Plazas said. “This is something that builds more trust and humanity.”
Early Saturday, Plazas lined up with the rest of the racers and stretched his legs, a paper number pinned to his chest.
Plazas finished the race in 14th place — out of more than 150 participants.
“My role here was to survive, I wasn’t here for speed, just for a sense of accomplishment,” he said, smiling wide. “Running with fellow colleagues from across the country makes me really feel good. We’re capable of more than writing on deadline. We can run!”
Natalia Fernández-Sandoval is a sophomore at New Mexico State University. She started to pursue journalism after producing a winning public service announcement for a coronavirus vaccination campaign competition during her senior year of high school. Reach her at nferna35 [at] nmsu [dot] edu and on Twitter at @nfdzsandoval.