b-side chat: I AM THIS LAND interview with Marisa Treviño, Founder of Latina Lista
Breakthrough’s I AM THIS LAND contest, now calling on people to make a video on diversity to celebrate our differences and win prizes, also wants to share the important work our partners are doing to uplift diversity. Read our interview with Marisa Treviño
Publisher/Founder of Latina Lista, which strives to be the premier news site for English-speaking Latinas/os and those interested in the Latino culture and viewpoint.
b-listed: What is the story behind Latina Lista (the blog and its name)? And can you explain the progression from blog to a digital news site?
Marisa: In my 16+-year career as a journalist, I have focused the majority of my writing on being an opinion editorial columnist. In the mid 90s, I started writing purposely from the Latina perspective after an editor at the Washington Post’s column service advised me to capitalize on my unique perspective since there were only a handful of Latino and Latina columnists across the nation. Yet, I was strictly a freelance columnist which made getting my work regularly published difficult since at that time many mainstream newspapers didn’t feel Latinos were their readers, not to mention that getting picked up by a mainstream paper was getting increasingly competitive because more journalists were turning to freelance.
In 2004, I was getting frustrated with editors limiting the number of columns they would accept from me. I was really looking for an outlet where I could be in charge of my own publishing schedule, write what I wanted to write and do it from the Latina perspective without having to worry if it met the demands of an editor or not. When I heard about blogs, I knew this was the perfect solution for me. In naming the site, I was trying to find a name that embodied what I had always tried to achieve with my writing — a Latina who wrote thoughtful, smart analysis. Literally, I went to bed thinking to myself that I needed to find a word that went with “latina” and which encompassed all those words to describe what readers would find at the site. I woke up the next morning with the word “lista” and put them together and liked how it sounded.
The progression from a blog to a digital news site has been very natural. When I started Latina Lista, I wanted to write about issues that were important to Latinas but were just not getting enough coverage in mainstream media. Unfortunately, I found there was a finite set of issues considered to be women’s issues. So, I started expanding the coverage because I felt as a Latina Lista we are more empowered the more we know. So, I started writing about politics, social justice issues, education, successful women, etc. Before I knew it, I had all this other content that I wanted to highlight and include on Latina Lista and the readers seemed to like it. In fact, where I once focused strictly on women’s issues, I was now covering issues that were not only important to women but both genders.
I think the nicest thing someone has ever said to me about the site came from a young male Latino journalist. He said that though Latina Lista had “Latina” in its name, he didn’t feel it was just for Latinas and was a regular reader himself.
b-listed: Latina Lista seems to focus heavily on immigration and immigrants’ rights. Why did you decide to make this your focus?
Marisa: The main focus of Latina Lista is timely political commentary. Right now, I am focusing on immigration and immigrants’ rights because it’s in the news; it’s an issue that, for good or bad, is seen as being uniquely “Latino” and the purpose of Latina Lista has always been to give voice to those who feel they don’t have one. By writing about the rights of immigrants, in my small way, I am giving voice to their situations and hopefully am raising awareness in the general public about them, their lives and their challenges.
The immigration issue does not define Latinos but is merely happening at this point in time and as such deserves coverage.
b-listed: Would you say that Latina Lista has given confidence/voice to other Latina writers?
Marisa: I think many Latinas already had the confidence/voice but they didn’t know how to go about getting their voices heard on a broader scale. I know that for some Latinas, Latina Lista was kind of like a blueprint of how they could do it themselves. Also, Latina Lista served as a validation for some that the Latina voice does matter and deserves to be heard.
b-listed: Do you feel that the mainstream media in the country continues to treat communities in a stereotypical way, and relegates them into the periphery of news-making?
Marisa: Yes. It was a problem that many of us journalists who belonged to these other communities foresaw happening when newsrooms began to downsize. Too many times journalists of color were let go in numbers that left very few, if any, in the newsroom. Without their perspectives, newspapers ran content without regard to cultural sensitivity, in-depth coverage of these communities, or any coverage at all, and a shift in corporate conscience in determining who were their local readers.
When there is limited representation of a particular community within the newsroom, then it seems the majority of stories that are published featuring that community are the ones with criminal elements. If a paper doesn’t balance the coverage of a community then over time the impression is firmly planted that there are no good stories to be found in a particular community. However, it takes a familiarity with these communities and knowing what’s going on to find the stories that will provide balance to existing coverage. It takes time to ferret out these stories and with newsrooms short-staffed, it makes it less of a priority for them than in the past.
b-listed: Do you feel that it’s important for other communities to engage/read each other’s outlets? If so, why?
Marisa: Definitely! We are all a part of this country, this world and we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from one another. Isolationism breeds ignorance, mistrust and discrimination/racism. The more we know of each other, the better we can co-exist and understand each other and progress as a race — the human race.
b-listed: What do you feel is the role of Latina Lista in uplifting diversity?
Marisa: I have always believed that the role of Latina Lista was to make a place at the proverbial table of national dialogue for the underrepresented Latina perspective. In that regard, there were times that Latina Lista “forced” diversity on discussions that were more accustomed to talking about Latinos rather than including them.
b-listed: What do you hope for the future as we head into 2011?
Marisa: I hope that the DREAM Act is passed and that comprehensive immigration reform is finally addressed and resolved in Congress. In my opinion, until that happens, the Latino community cannot progress as a whole. In order for us to tackle the really hard issues facing our community like the drop-out crisis, teenage pregnancy, low educational attainment, jobs, poverty, etc., we need to be a whole community working together to achieve these common objectives. Right now, the Latino community is split between those working on behalf of undocumented immigrants to legalize their status while the rest feel detached from the issue. In the meantime, we remain in limbo with limited advancement.
As for Latina Lista, I feel 2011 will be a critical year for the site which will determine its future course.
b-listed: Complete the sentence: I AM THIS LAND because…
Marisa: I was born belonging to four cultures and two languages. My eyes don’t see as much as they reflect the beauty of the variety in the human race, geography, religion, life experiences and even politics.
Enter your video on diversity to win at I AM THIS LAND.
2 Responses to “b-side chat: I AM THIS LAND interview with Marisa Treviño, Founder of Latina Lista”
Posted: December 8, 2010 at 1:58 PM
Richard Yniguez says:
Posted: December 8, 2010 at 2:33 PM
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