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Border Journalism

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Geographically, border journalism is tied to news and events along the U.S.-Mexico border. But there’s more to tell than by looking at a map that trails the 1,961-mile wall. Border reporters cross the line, in more ways than one. These journalists dig deep into topics of immigration and foreign affairs. They also portray life in the local communities, often writing stories that can quickly go from being local to national interests.

As newspaper industries face a tough time of economic challenges, traditional media outlets often have to cut back on spending much more than they used for on border coverage. Not only that, but it can be risky.

I spoke with a reporter who was used to doing this type of border journalism.

“The stories are fascinating, but the dangers are always there,” said Adriana Gomez Licon, an Associated Press reporter in the Mexico City Bureau. The reporter has also reported in Veracruz, which she said is the deadliest city in Mexico for reporters.

I was more than eager to begin interning with the Arizona Daily Star’s border and immigration reporter, Brady McCombs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012:

9:55 a.m. As soon as I walked into the Arizona Daily Star’s newsroom, I scanned over the room that held many groups of desks—each scattered with a reporter’s computer, notes and books. There was no Brady McCombs in sight, or at least I didn’t recognize the face on the twitter accunt for Brady McCombs that I’d been following for months.  I glanced at my iPhone quickly within my purse, so no one would think I was a lazy student texting away on her first day of the internship. 10:08 a.m. flashed on the screen.

I walked over toward Veronica Cruz, the Star’s police reporter whom I’d met over summer while I worked as a mentor for the Journalism Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students. Cruz’s curly brown hair was my only hope of not seeming completely out of place. But before I could approach her, a tall man peering over his glasses glanced at in front of me and a smile broke across his scruffy face. He eagerly introduced himself, maneuvering to the top of my list of friendliest-people-I’ve-encountered-in-Tucson. I smiled back. He was Ernesto Portillo, Jr., editor of La Estrella, the Spanish version of the Star.

He showed me to one of the computer desks, where interns worked during days they were in the newsroom. I took a seat and waited in silence. I glanced at my iPhone, 10:13 a.m.

I didn’t have to wait much longer before Brady McCombs came hustling in. I trudged my backpack over to his desk and he got started right away.   Valencia Az Daily Star badge

I remember a conversation I had with Brenna Goth, a journalism classmate who interned with McCombs last semester on the border and gave me a few words of advice about reporting near the border. “Familiarize with the Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security structures. If you have any enterprise stories involving these agencies, START EARLY,” she said.

That’s exactly what we did. McCombs spent the next 10 or 15 minutes outlining the Department of Homeland security and its breakdown for me while I took notes.

In the end, I realized that all of my worries about covering the border should be replaced with courage to report on a highly relevant topic to policy makers and residents in our region. Everything set aside, I remembered the last words Brenna said to me before she left to study abroad, “It’s way more chill than you think it'll be.”

Here's a quick reference guide of the structure provided by DHS that might aid border journalists.


Written by Lucia Valencia You are reading Border Journalism articles

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