As a person of color, you cannot choose your ethnic background. But if you choose to be a reporter, does that impact your reporting? For some insight, EIJ news spoke with veteran journalist, Sandra Gonzalez.
Whether you’re someone who has been in the industry for a while or someone who is just getting started, Gonzalez discusses how background plays a key role in a journalist’s reporting style.
She asks, “Wouldn’t it be better if we had people from all walks of life?”
Sandra Gonzalez 0:00
My name is Sandra Gonzalez. I currently produce news for Spectrum News based out of Austin, for two different markets, Austin and San Antonio. It’s kind of a unique situation. And it’s kind of new to me. I haven’t been a producer for very long, but I’ve been a long time reporter. My career spanned from radio, into television. And then I’ve always embraced the technology along the way. Then I’ve been pure digital. and now I’m us producer, so I’ve kind of come full circle. So I have had a long career. I’ve been in really cool cities, like New Orleans, Las Vegas, Dallas, and now currently Austin. I’m very excited that coming up in January, I’m going to be celebrating 30 years in journalism.
EIJ Reporter 0:56
Sandra Gonzalez 0:57
Thank you. Thank you,
EIJ Reporter 0:59
As you know, the focus of our conversation is how does your background impact your journalism style? So would you like to tell me, How important is it to have a diverse newsroom?
Sandra Gonzalez 1:11
It is hugely important. If we bring, like just a few little voices or focuses into newsroom and you have this huge community to cover. Wouldn’t it be better if we had people from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, come to the table and bring what they bring to the table? Don’t you think the story ideas and the pitches and the perspectives are going to be bring a better product? That’s, that’s my belief. So I think we we need to hear more from people, not just from different cultural backgrounds, but different upbringings because everything that came into our life throughout our upbringing, is also at the table. We don’t all think alike. We don’t all agree, but we can agree to disagree. But at the end of the day, let’s put together a good reflection, the day’s news. And I think diversity is hugely important. I mean, look what what’s happening right now in our world. The the issue of the children along the border.
Sandra Gonzalez 2:30
The whole immigration issue. I mean, it’s very important that we have diversity at the table to cover these issues, because there is a lot at stake right here. It’s not just one viewpoint. And and it’s hugely important. As for me, what I bring to the table is on my background is I am Mexican American woman, but all identify as Latina Hispanic men, I don’t get caught up on the names, but I’m very proud of my heritage.
Sandra Gonzales 3:00
I come from California. But I’ve lived in New Orleans, I lived in different cities in Texas, I I’ve lived in Las Vegas, all of that makes me, me. My upbringing is my parents are American. But they both have the last name Gonzalez, my mother changed it from a “S” to a “Z.” So I always laugh about as Gonzalez as you can be. But you know, I’m getting into DNA, and my ancestry discovery. And there’s so many stories, I don’t even know where to begin. But it’s just so amazing to find out where you where you come from. And not everybody has a Spanish speaking parent, or parents and spoke Spanish in the house and some do. You can’t paint us all with a broad brush. So you know, but I do bring all of that to the table.
Sandra Gonzalez 4:05
I don’t just do Latino issue stories. I’ve done the fires, I’ve done the floods, I’ve done the hurricanes, I’ve done the earthquakes, I’ve done the heart issues. I’ve done aviation. I am a great reporter and I also can do the stories about the quinceanera’s or the making of the rosca – that’s the bread that they eat on Three Kings’ Day. I understand these things. I can pitch these stories. I understand the community and I understand the features and the traditions. That’s just ice. That’s icing on the cake. Right? Yeah, we all have that we all bring that to the tably.
EIJ Reporter 4:55
Absolutely. Do you ever feel like this understanding of yours is added to an additional responsibility in your reporting career?
Sandra Gonzalez 5:04
What exactly do you mean?
EIJ Reporter 5:07
Having to represent your community and this knowledge of yours, do you think that it’s also added a pressure in terms of only you can cover it and nobody else can?
Sandra Gonzalez 5:15
Oh, no, oh, no. Other reporters can. I don’t think that they should only send their Latino reporters into the Latino community, I think it’s a good idea. But we could send other reporters there, maybe it would be good for reporters to learn how to cover the vast community. I think that we should send reporters into all different types of situations, but also, be wise when you’re thinking about it. If somebody comes from a certain neighborhood, or certain community and something happens there. Maybe it’s a crime, but why would you send just crime reporter? Send the person who can get the story better.
EIJ Reporter 6:03
How would recommend that someone goes about embracing that identity during their reporting?
Sandra Gonzalez 6:12
Remember that they are journalists first. I always have to stress this to younger journalists, I’ve come up the ranks, that you’re not an advocate, you’re a journalist, but the same time be you know, be fair, be balanced. Sometimes, you know, you’re going to get into some struggles with that. For instance, sometimes you get accused that when you’re, you’re Latina, so you can’t cover immigration fairly. Wrong! Youryour identity is there, but you are still able to do the story, you’re still required order. And so BU but you know, be strong about it. And make sure that that you are being a journalist, and not an advocate. There are some journalists that will disagree with me, but that’s okay. But at the end of the day, when you’re in mainstream media, you are reporting to a vast amount of people, you’re not just reporting only to one specific audience. So make sure you are able to tell the story for for lots of people to understand for a vast audience, you know, what are
EIJ Reporter 7:37
What are your three tips for aspiring journalists?
Sandra Gonzalez 7:42
Learn everything you can. You don’t know when that one day, your background is going to become useful. Expose yourself to as much as possible, because you’re going to be thrust into a lot, know a little bit about a lot, you’re going to be covering legal issues, you’re going to be covering scientific issues, you’re going to be covering environmental issues, so have a good vast background, also be you. You’re going to have your own style, you’re going to have a certain something about yourself, it’s okay. It’s probably going to make you soar. And be strong, you’re going to face criticism, not only from the industry, right now, there’s kind of a negativity about journalists in general.
EIJ Reporter 8:45
Have a thick skin, but at the same time, be mobile, be flexible. Be able to handle critiques, and in terms of your strength, be tenacious. Just know that you’re going to make some mistakes, and there’s going to be good days, and there’s going to be sad days, but just keep going, you’re not going to be great at the beginning, because you’re at the beginning. But your journey is going to continue to grow, and you will get better and you will improve. Don’t be afraid of going to a small city, go there. Get out of your bubble, get out of your state, some people lived in different places so that’s easier. There’s some girls, I’ll say even in my culture, nobody wants to get far from the family, “the familia.” You know what? Go. Enjoy life out of your state.
Sandra Gonzalez 9:45
My home state was California, there’s life beyond California, there’s beauty in other states. Go, enjoy it, experience it. And I’ll tell you what, when you go to the smaller markets and towns, you make some of the best friends for life. I’m still in contact with my friends from small market, you become a tight knit community. You’ll find out throughout the years, it is a small, it is a small family. So do good work, because it speaks well of you. Someone knows someone who knows someone who might know you. I could go on and on. But those are just a few little, few little nuggets for anyone getting into the industry.
EIJ Reporter 10:28
Is there anything else that you would like to add? In terms of how to maintain diversity in newsrooms? Or how do you feel like you’re using your background in order to improve your reporting?
Sandra Gonzalez 10:43
Find a mentor. Find somebody that you can look up too, someone who you can bounce things off, because things will come up, you know, that you’re going to need someone with wisdom to talk to about.
EIJ Reporter 11:08
I’ve actually been pretty lucky that way. Because I have found somebody who’s has a similar story as I do. He was an international student, now working here in the US. So I think I can totally relate to that part.
Sandra Gonzalez 11:20
Yes. And that’s good. And in terms of the diversity, you’re going to, you’re going to need to make allies coming to something like the journalism conferences. Make friends with other journalists that may have similarities. I’ve made some of the best friends in my life with NAHJ and I’ve made some great friends through the Society of Professional Journalists so find allies. And hopefully, you won’t get discouraged. And you will stay in the career a long time, because this is a great, great noble career to do.
Sandra Gonzalez 12:14
I’m going to quote one of my mentors, he passed away eight years ago, but George Ramos, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from my daddy’s hometown, said that it is a noble profession. And as I see the world changing, and the things that are happening, and the strife in our politics, and with race relations, and immigration, and you know, the list goes on, and on and on, we need good journalists. And I and I don’t say the word reporter, because there’s a lot more to journalism, and then just the person on the micIt takes a team to put out content. We need very creative, very dedicated people, we need good writer, we need people who have an eye, who are good photographers, video journalists, we need good producers, we need good managers.
Sandra Gonzalez 13:13
That’s a whole other issue. We need to start thinking about people getting into positions of management. And that’s, that’s a whole other set of skills that are super important in order to make a difference in diversity in journalism. But the more diverse our newsrooms are, the better the coverage will be, the smarter the coverage will be. And I, I hope that diversity continues to grow, and we see more journalists of different backgrounds, different upbringings different ethnicities, who are great journalists, telling the stories.
Sandra Gonzalez 13:57
If we, if we didn’t exist, how would people know things? It’s so important what we do. It’s so important, and I just, I really encourage students who have a passion for journalism, to just go do it. Take that first job, it’s going to be awful. The money won’t will be there but go there and do the thing. Keep growing and don’t do it for the money, because then if you just want to do it for the money, there’s a lot of other careers you can do. But if you got to do this, because you were born to do it, you need to do it. We need you. Welcome.