Top Latina Journalists Tell Their Stories

From left to right, Maite Junco, Mireya Navarro, Blanca Rosa Vilchez and Carolina González at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

From left to right, Maite Junco, Mireya Navarro, Blanca Rosa Vilchez and Carolina González at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

Some of the city’s esteemed Latina journalists gathered December 4 at the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to discuss the past, present and future of Latinos in the media.

In the panel discussion entitled “Journalism in Spanish, New York Style,” Voices of NY editor Maite Junco hosted Mireya Navarro, a New York Times reporter, Blanca Rosa Vilchez, a correspondent for Univision, and Carolina González, producer at Latino USA. The discussion was conducted entirely in Spanish.

“So many things have happened that you’d think we’re 150 years old instead of how old we actually are,” Vilchez said. “When I started working there weren’t cell phones, no Google, we had to send everything by fax to Miami.”

Audience listens to the panel. (Photo by Jehangir Khattak/Voices of NY)

Audience members at the panel. (Photo by Jehangir Khattak/Voices of NY)

“We’re talking about the stone age of Univision,” Vilchez said.

Shifting from a playful tone, Vilchez, who hails from Peru, became somber while describing her first experiences in U.S. broadcast television.

“When I started working at Channel 41 [Univision] I was the first South American. The people in the first week called to complain about my accent.”

Vilchez, who had begun her career in journalism in Peru, left during the nation’s bloody civil war in the ’80s.

“The wars in Peru were very serious. They killed eight of my colleagues, they decapitated them.

“When I decided to leave Peru I thought I was coming to live in the United States for a time,” she said. “If I had said to myself I’m moving to the U.S., I’m leaving my country, maybe I wouldn’t have done it.”

Vilchez’ comments elicited nods of understanding in the audience.

While a conversation began around the idea of being the first Latina in their respective workplaces, it grew to encompass how to pitch stories of importance successfully to Latinos in mainstream outlets, racial diversity of Latinos represented on TV, and new ways for the media to reach out to Latino millennials.

Social media fluency, panelists agreed, was an invaluable tool. González said that Twitter and Google help her find unique voices for her radio stories that she may not have found otherwise.

“[They’ve] always been extremely useful for finding non-traditional media, that aren’t mainstream,” González said. “Fresh and original voices with interesting points of view.”

Junco wrapped up the panel with a final piercing question for the three journalists: With all the challenges the journalism industry faces would you still recommend it as a career path for a young adult?

“It’s a wonderful career, and despite the fact that the industry is in complete transition,” Navarro said, “there are going to be platforms for good journalists and what we need are good journalists.”

Vilchez added her own encouraging remarks.

“We don’t know where [the profession] is going. I’m worried about the next generation, of course I’m worried because we don’t know what to expect,” Vilchez said. “But no one can take away your passion.”

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