Keynote speaker: Maria Hinojosa

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Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa is one of the best-known Latina journalists in the United States and she was the keynote speaker at the Journalism & Women Symposium, JAWS 2010 conference, held this past weekend in Texas.

Hinojosa is anchor and managing editor of “Latino USA” on National Public Radio. She previously worked for CNN, PBS’s “NOW” and also as a reporter for NPR in New York. She is a contributing correspondent for PBS’ “Need to Know,” and recently launched The Futuro Media Group to produce multi-platform community based journalism.

“I’m Mexican because I work seven different jobs and I never say no to work,” she joked speaking to the audience of more than 100 women journalists.

(For full disclosure I am on the board of JAWS, a nonprofit organization that supports women and diversity in the media.)

“You know I do it because it is a mission,” she added.

Hinojosa also said she would like a broader audience for Latino USA.

“It’s not right Latino USA is not carried in more primetime hours,” she said.

In Chicago it airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on WBEZ.

Hinojosa said that while on assignment in Africa she heard someone use the phrase “peace journalism.”

“I believe that my responsibility as a journalist is to find that humanity,” she said.

Hinojosa gave an example from when she covered a story at the U.S.-Mexico border.

She and her camera crew approached a group of migrants.

“No somos el gobierno. No somos la migra. Somos periodistas,” she said. “We are not the government. We are not immigration. We are journalists.”

She said one of the young men noticed that she was out of breath from walking and she also was wearing high heels.

“¿Quiere mi agua señorita?” a young migrant asked offering his water to her.

That was a moment where she saw the humanity in others, she said.

She also told a story of how she did a story on the family of an undocumented immigrant who worked at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center and was killed on Sept, 11, 2001.

She got a call from a gay hairdresser from Georgia who by then lived in Maine whose church raised several thousand dollars to help the widow and her four children.

He came to New York to deliver that money and a friendship formed. He later invited the woman and her children to visit him and his partner who live on a farm in Maine.

“In that moment borders and boundaries and comfort levels were all torn away,” Hinojosa said.

She also spoke of the importance covering the Latino community has played in her career. She has been accused of having a “Latino agenda” but said these are issues that need be be understood by everyone.

“There are many issues we face not just as a Latino community but as Americans,” she said.
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