Letter from La DePaulia: It’s time to invest in the education of Latinx journalists


Kiersten Riedford | La DePaulia

NAHJ DePaul members hoist the trophy they won at the NAHJ and NABJ Conference and Job Fair.

In August, DePaul’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) won the first ever Student Chapter of the Year Award at the 2022 NAHJ and NABJ Conference and Career Fair in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Our achievements span further than a national award. We have accomplished this and more without sufficient resources for Latinx journalism students at DePaul. 

The need for full-time Latinx journalism professors and advisers that specialize in bilingual media coverage and are able to support the needs of future media professionals is imperative to guide students as they emerge into their journalistic careers. 

Up until this fall, there were no full-time Latinx faculty members in the program or advisors to our Spanish-language publications and chapter. The university hired Assistant Professor of Sports Communication and Journalism, Vincent Peña this year. NAHJ DePaul welcomes Professor Peña and looks forward to working with him. 

This new hire marks the beginning of the strenghtened diverse leadership needed within the university. Yet there are still not enough courses or professors to correspondingly represent the proportion of Latinx students at DePaul.

There are currently no courses available to help students to write for our two Spanish-language publications. This inequity hinders bilingual students’ experiential learning opportunities that writing for a publication could offer. This creates more barriers for Latinx students as they try to create a pathway from the classroom to the newsroom. 

In contrast, students at DePaul have the option to take courses that contribute to the university’s English publications, and get academic credit for doing so, through a “Writing for The DePaulia,” “Writing for 14 East Magazine” or “Good Day DePaul” class. 

The university has yet to hire a dedicated bilingual Latinx journalism faculty. One that is as representative as the emerging Hispanic Serving Institution DePaul strives to be. 

Nearly 20% of our students are Hispanic, according to our 2020 university enrollment summary. Latinx individuals have also become the second largest minority group in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 62.1 million of us in 2020.

Our numbers continue to increase in the classroom yet remain low in our journalism faculty.

Despite a lack of faculty mentors and coursework for bilingual reporting, DePaul alumni have distinguished themselves in their newsrooms such as: Telemundo’s National Morning Newscast anchor Nicole Suarez, WGN’s investigative reporter and co-anchor Lourdes Duarte, Chicago Tribune’s bilingual reporter Laura Rodríguez Presa, NBC Chicago’s bilingual sports reporter and anchor Samantha Rivera, Univision Chicago’s assignment desk editor Erika Perez, WISN 12’s News anchor Diana Gutierrez, Chicago Sun-Times’s bilingual transportation reporter Manny Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times La Voz assistant editor Ambar Colón, Telemundo’s Washington D.C on air reporter Rosbelis Quiñonez, and more who are yet to come. 

Former Depaul student and bilingual reporter at the Chicago Tribune, Laura Rodríguez Presa, gives a speech about her experience without Latinx journalism professors specializing in bilingual media coverage when she was a student. (Kiersten Riedford | The DePaulia)

Whether it is in radio, television, or print, their contributions in their respective fields have demonstrated that Latinx individuals belong in classrooms and newsrooms. We bring insightful perspectives and put pressure on the institutions we step foot in to help make our voices heard. 

DePaul’s NAHJ chapter was founded by Latinx alumni Jesus J. Montero, María Marta Guzmán, Richie Requena, Hillary Flores and Jonathan Aguilar in 2019 with advisors Robin Hoecker and Sandra Guy.

These individuals set up the groundwork to bring Latinx visibility to the forefront, and within just three years, NAHJ DePaul has emerged as the largest student chapter in Chicago. We have  grown because our Latinx students crave a platform. 

We started with five students and have grown to eight board members with 20 dues-paying students. We owe it to all of you, and the members of our current chapter could not be more grateful for your persistence. 

Our appreciation also extends to the College of Communication faculty and staff. We are thankful for your financial and strong community support throughout the years. We acknowledge the work has been initiated through College’s DEI action plan and we want to work with you to do more.  

To our journalism professors, your knowledge and experience in the field have helped mold us into the journalists we are today. We will forever carry the foundational skills you have instilled in us, those of an attentive listener; those of an accurate storyteller. Most of all, your purpose as journalists has transpired into our young careers in the way we report objectively in order to uphold democracy. 

With the support we have received and our determination, a year after NAHJ DePaul was founded, students created two Spanish-language publications. 

La DePaulia, the sister publication of The DePaulia became a Spanish-language student-run newspaper established by Hillary Flores, María Marta Guzmán, Izabella Grimaldo, Jonathan Aguilar and advisor Marla Krause in 2020. Since its founding, the publication has obtained notable collaborations with Hugo Balta’s Illinois Latino News Network and has made contributions to Univision Chicago. La DePaulia also garnered press coverage from local news organizations, including from: The Chicago Tribune, The Lenfest Institute, NPR, Fox 32 and WTTW

14 East Magazine’s bilingual platform, Pueblo, was founded by Richie Requena and Julian Martinez with support of Amy Merrick and former editor-in-chief Marissa Nelson. 

In the past five years, NAHJ has awarded more than $44,000 in scholarships to students at the local and national level. Nearly half of the students awarded scholarship money were Latinx journalists from DePaul, earning $22,000 collectively.

Choosing to invest in the education of Latinx journalists would not only pave our way to success. It would fulfill DePaul’s section 2.3 of their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) 2020-2024 action plan.

Their goal is to “increase the diversity of DePaul’s fulltime and part-time faculty in each college and ensure an inclusive, welcoming community for all faculty” by 2024. 

The future of journalism is evolving and the need for bilingual media is increasing as more than 28% of Chicago’s population come from Latinx descent. It is more than just seeing ourselves represented, it is about keeping up with the population changes in the city.

As student journalists we are at the forefront of this change. Universities across the country like San Francisco State and the City University of New York have already established graduate or  undergraduate bilingual reporting programs. Other universities nearby such as Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism have also responded to the growing Latinx population by creating bilingual reporting courses that will help them tell the stories of our complex culture and identity. 

Nadia Hernandez, the president of NAHJ DePaul gives a speech on the importance of having Latinx journalism faculty and advisors at DePaul on September 29. (Kiersten Riedford | The DePaulia)

It is time DePaul becomes more receptive to our Latinx students’ needs as it will only continue to set the bar higher as a national role model in higher education. 

As DePaul marks its 125th year, we ask the university to reflect on  ‘what must be done?’ to ensure the future of Latinx journalists are in good hands for generations to come. We must dedicate resources to staffing the journalism program with Latinx professors qualified to teach classes that focus on reporting on these communities. 

As NAHJ DePaul brings home this award, it will be remembered as a celebratory moment and an invigorating win for Latinx journalists at the collegiate national level. 

Over the years, various notable Latinx journalists have walked and will continue to walk out of DePaul’s journalism program with their diplomas held proudly over their heads, many of them carrying the dreams our parents could never imagine for themselves and achieving fruitful careers. 

To the university, this is emblematic of our success.

To Latinx journalists, this milestone is another marker of the countless times we must prove our education is worth investing in. 

We must prove Spanish-language publications are essential. We must prove we deserve the same opportunities as our other classmates. We must prove this land of the free is also ours to thrive in. 

Rather than asking Latinx journalists to prove themselves, we demand the university “uphold the dignity of all members of its diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community” as proclaimed in their mission statement.

As we say this, we cannot afford to think of only our present selves. Just as the pioneers of NAHJ, La DePaulia and Pueblo thought of us, this generation of journalists thinks of those that come after us, in hopes that their path is easier.

DePaul’s support is needed to hire more bilingual and Latinx journalism instructors for the program. Let our accomplishments foster those goals of change. 

It is time the university acted upon our requests and for this award to be received as much more than a shiny token. 

Trophies collect dust, they rust, they break. 

It is time to leave an imprint on the education of Latinx journalists for generations to come.

Jefa de redacción de La DePaulia, Jacqueline Cardenas y presidenta de NAHJ DePaul Nadia Carolina Hernandez se abrazan después de dar su discurso sobre la importancia de tener profesores latinx en el departamento de periodismo en la universidad. (Kiersten Riedford | The DePaulia)