Maria Hinojosa on how to stay committed
Maria Hinojosa is the founder of Futuro Media, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in Harlem, NYC. She is also anchor and executive producer of the Peabody Award-winning show Latino USA, distributed by NPR.
Why does this continue to happen in the U.S.? We take three steps forward and 3 million back. If you think about how we got here, it is the consistent flooding of the airwaves with misinformation. If cis white men of privilege continue to own and control all of the most influential mainstream media, and even independent outlets like Pro Publica, then with all due respect, we are going to be stuck facing these same issues for decades. As someone who has been doing this independently for a decade with Futuro Media and survived and now even thrived, I often imagine what might have happened with even more resources.
We have survived, scraping by, not asking for too much and being lean. What we need to thrive is a large entrepreneurs fund and b2b mentoring opportunities, so people like me can help the next generation believe they can do this. We should have boot camps and support groups for journalists and creators so that they never give up. In short, more large-scale funding and structural support for small but mighty independent news producers of BIPOC backgrounds. More support for the people dreaming of creating in this space.
One thing I’ve been asked about a lot, especially from journalists of color and specifically women and Latinas, has been how to stay committed to journalism. My main message to them has been to not give up. To believe in themselves as American journalists. And as a result to believe that they can be creative and find solutions. A lot of us, especially women, live in the space of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. That’s why boot camps and support groups can be so helpful.
Journalists by nature are competitive. It’s just a part of our business. Making a concerted effort to put journalists together in a room for a common goal, so they can be inspired by each other, would in and of itself be helpful. The exact form or shape is still to be discussed, but I imagine something returning year after year and including younger women as well as mid-career and older journalists in the business.
I would specifically recommend these meetings to be in places that are casual and encourage forming friendships and bonds. I think we forget how important these relationships can be in a journalist’s life. On the other hand I think there should be technical workshops that explain, for instance, how to create a nonprofit. How to create an independent business. How to create a newsroom, and we actually show you the one-two-threes. Journalists working in mainstream media should also be able to share tools to negotiate challenging situations in newsrooms.
All in all, the idea is to create a sense of community. Right now journalists of every background in this country feel alone and targeted. If you are a woman or a journalist of color, an immigrant journalist or a Latina journalist, you are feeling this even more intensely. But it is our historic duty to not give up. Our founding father Frederick Douglass is waiting for us. There can never be too much media when we are trying to correct the narrative that has been created and maintained by the mainstream media from a white male privileged perspective. We have hundreds of years of misinformation to correct.
This essay is part of CREATIVE FUTURES, a series of provocations by thinkers across the arts, documentary, and journalism on how to reimagine their sectors.