A PATH WITH HEART: Four years at the Capitol
February 14th marked my fourth year working in Sacramento as a reporter and my ninth year as a California resident. Finding a full time position as a reporter in a Spanish outlet was not easy. Further more, staying a journalist continues to be a struggle because the journalism industry is in crisis.
Despite of the fact that California has millions of Hispanics, there are only a few Spanish outlets that pay a living wage.
When I started my search for a journalism job in California, many people told me to forget about it and to look for another career, but I wanted to continue working in my vocation and passion. For months, I felt devastated and profoundly sad, even desperate because in Mexico, journalism had been my occupation and my refuge for the last twelve years. Being a journalist was a part of my identity.
Amazingly, I found the connections. One person connected me with another who introduced me to another and so on.
First, I started writing some stories for Nuevo Mundo, a Spanish weekly that used to be part of the San Jose Mercury News, but that has gone under about six years ago. I also wrote for El Universal, a leading newspaper in Mexico. Living in San Francisco, I worked as freelancer for Radio Bilingue and for La Opinion of Los Angeles. In Mexico, I thought working two jobs was too much. In America, I was working three or more jobs and getting paid less than in Mexico, and I was not getting medical benefits. (When I was part-timer at Univision, and I had to have a surgery, my co-workers pooled money to help me pay for it.) A year and a half after I came to California, I got a freelance gig at Univision San Francisco. Within a few months, that became a part time position, and years later it became a full time job working as an assignment desk editor, news writer and producer.
One month later, out of the blue, I got a job offer covering politics in Sacramento. When I was starting my journalism career in Sonora, Mexico, covering agriculture and livestock news, I could have never imagined that one day I would work as a journalist in America.
In these last four years, I have seen first hand how the economic crisis and the advertising collapse have devastated news bureaus:
I have seen newspapers shrink in page-width and in page-number. I have seen concern and frustration on the faces of my colleagues. I have attended farewell parties for no fewer than twenty reporters who had been laid off, who had resigned or who had to accept buyouts. Most of them are now working at the Capitol or in other branches of government. Some are spokespersons in the private sector. Some are still unemployed. The luckiest have gone on to work in Washington, D.C. or are still working as reporters but had to take a fifteen percent pay cut.
I have seen my own salary shrink.
Unfortunately, the news crisis hit just as the economic collapse has impoverished many and has devastated services. Now more than ever, the poor need reporters to express their grievances and to put pressure on politicians to work on solutions.
Some former reporters have asked me why I’m not looking for a job in government or in another sector. They tell me that there is no future in journalism because the salaries are not good enough.
They are probably right, but doing what makes me happy matters more to me. After my family, journalism has been my life. Last year, I worked with an intern from UC, Ignacio Torres. One day, a reporter approached him to discourage him from pursuing a career in journalism. After the reporter left, I told Torres to never permit anybody to discourage him. I said: If this is your passion, fight for it. You will find a way.
I have faith that news reporting will evolve and prevail in new and different ways, as we are starting to see with digital journalism.
Editor: Maria Ginsbourg
Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.