Monday, April 28, 2008

PSN does Stanford!

Emigrado at Stanford University hours before the interview with the Knight Fellowship selection committee on Feb. 2008.

The names of the U.S. journalists selected for 2008-2009 at the John S. Knight Fellowship program at Stanford University were released just today and guess what... My name is on the list!

I am very happy to share this great news with you all, especially since this blog you guys have been supporting is part of the research and study plan I submitted as part of my application.

I would like to thank again Jonathan Friedland, Edward Schumacher and Carlos Puig for supporting me with their recommendation letters and their good advice, and especially the greatest Gabriel Rodríguez-Nava, Ana Cristina Enríquez, Jorge Luis Sierra and Rodrigo París for their priceless advice and guidance on the application process. I have no doubt, and they know it, I wouldn't be able to get it without their help. Your selfless enthusiasm towards my project is one of the best not-paid-with-MasterCard gifts I've ever received ¡Muchas gracias, queridos amigos norteños!

Finally, above all, thanks to my wife and my kids, who make everything worth of.

Here's the study and research plan I submitted, in case you were wondering what in the world this blog has to do with the news.

New trends in immigration: How Spanish-language publications in the US are addressing its readers’ cultural crossroads.

Study and research plan
My goal as a John S. Knight fellow would be to gage the potential of both Spanish-language and mainstream American media outlets in serving first-generation and US-born Latinos by addressing their similarities while also recognizing them as two different audiences. I am equally interested in analyzing how Mexican and American publications are covering new trends in Mexican immigration along with their social and economic implications.

Rumbo, the Spanish newspaper I work with as Managing Editor, launched in 2004 with the expectation of offering high quality journalism to first and second-generation Hispanics. While it has won 12 national awards in little more than three years from associations like NAHP and APME, Rumbo is still figuring out how to deliver a high-quality publication that's also profitable.

On top of having to face the current challenges engulfing print journalism today (how to evolve into a multimedia outlet with limited resources), Spanish-language publications are also faced with issues particular to our readership. Aspiring to effectively serve Hispanics in the US means learning how to serve two very different audiences: Latin American immigrants and US-born Latinos. While they share cultural ground, their needs, perspectives, educational levels and experiences as online consumers are different. Coming up with a multimedia publication that satisfies both groups without alienating or offending either is still a work in progress.

Fine-tuning a reader-centered, multimedia-savvy editorial agenda for a Spanish-language publication calls for a deeper understanding of the issues these two audiences are most sensitive to in their everyday lives. The John S. Knight Fellowship would allow me to compliment my experiential knowledge on Latin American immigrants with academic and theoretical knowledge in those areas.

Exploring the history of Latin American immigration and the history of Latinos in the US would be a starting point in understanding the challenges Hispanics face today. By the same token, exploring the civil rights movements in America and the dynamics of community empowerment in this country would aid me in identifying the opportunities and legal options Latinos have to address their challenges. However, different from the African-American experience, the Latino experience in the US is continuously impacted by the changing nature of immigration.

Case in point is a phenomenon that has been virtually ignored by both Mexican and US media and which, as a Mexican journalist who has been personally and professionally affected by immigration, I am drawn to explore. According to CONAPO (Mexico’s National Population Council) every year 225,000 young professionals —holders of either BA or technical degrees— leave the country in search for better opportunities. That number represents 40 per cent of the annual total of Mexicans immigrants. This new brand of immigrants is bound to have an impact on both sides of the border.

It is still unclear how many of them are settling down abroad, how many go back to Mexico, and more importantly, what is driving their decisions. The impact that this white-collar migration will have on Mexico's competitiveness and how it will influence the immigration debate in America is also an open question. Furthermore, upper and middle-class Mexican immigrants could add new challenges to publications in the US and Mexico, especially when it comes to generating "news you can use" content in a multimedia platform.

In trying to explore some of these issues in an informal and collaborative manner, last March I launched an independent blog as part of my efforts to debate and analyze this new pattern of immigration. However, the John S. Knight Fellowship would be an ideal opportunity to explore in a more structured way some of the questions that will define this new generation of immigrants: In North America, what will be the economic and social impact of Mexico's brain drainage? Will these white-collar immigrants further the advancement of middle-class Hispanics in the US, or will they hamper it? Will Mexico's ongoing democratic transition have an impact on migration?

As their economic power and sheer numbers grow, Latinos will soon become America's first minority. Their decisions and performance will affect the future of the whole country –and that of their countries of origin as well. In addition to dealing with great immigration dilemmas, foreign-born and US-born Hispanics will have to pass through many cultural crossroads. How can they become fully integrated to America without feeling they are giving up their background? How can America take advantage of the Latino experience without feeling it is putting its core values at stake?

I am committed to help my readers address such enormous challenges. I am also convinced it is one of the most sensitive responsibilities of Spanish-language publications these days. In this light, I am certain the John S. Knight Fellowship would allow me to better aid those who are negotiating their integration to the American project and those who seek to have a more reasoned, less demagogic and polarized debate on immigration.

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