Trailblazers of Diversity – Ray Chavez

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity in Journalism Education

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

School of Journalism

University of Texas at Austin

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Interview Subject: Ray Chavez
Interviewer: Martin do Nascimento
Interview date: 4/18/2014
Number of Recorded Segments: 3
Interview length: 02:07:34
Language: English
Reviewer: Carlos Morales
Date of review for index: 7/1/14

Table of Contents:
Early experiences in journalism (3-8)
From the Classroom to the Newsroom (8-9)
Journalism and Diversity (9-14)
AEJMC (14-17)
Diversity in Academia (17-18)
Different Academic Positions Held (18-20)
Realization about Diversity (20-22)
Diversity Now (20-23)
Accolades/End (22-23)

Early Experiences in Journalism:
0:00 – 2:48 Preamble and introductions
3:08 Chavez says he got into journalism by accident.
3:13 The high school that Chavez went to in El Paso, Texas was a technical high school.

3:29 While he was there he had to pick a shop and he chose architectural drafting. He was hopeful that this career path would get him a job right away.

3:41 Chavez didn’t have plans to go to college right away after graduation.

3:55 On top of the drafting class, Chavez also took a journalism class, but he didn’t do very much writing.

4:12 He wrote copy for the yearbook, but mainly did bookkeeping.

4:15 However, he “didn’t get hooked on journalism or even thought of it as a career”

4:20 Chavez adds that these technical schools were allowed to have athletic teams and compete against the regular high schools in the city and the state.

4:37 Chavez was a good distant runner and eventually won the state championship
4:51 As a result he received many scholarship offers. “Not for my brains, not for my head – but for my legs”

5:00 That’s how Chavez ended up in Texas Tech University. He received a full-ride track scholarship.

5:06 Chavez needed to decide on a major and chose architecture. His first semester was a disaster, he said.

5:26 Chavez was in danger of losing his scholarship because his GPA was dipping.

5:33 A counselor asked Chavez what he liked doing and he said “writing and sports” – so they combined the two and he took journalism courses.

6:02 That’s how Chavez stumbled into journalism

6:18 The reality, Chavez says, is that he never really did that much sports writing

6:40 (quick break to turn off ceiling fan)

7:12 Chaves says that he really enjoyed the writing classes, because that’s where he excelled.

7:19 Chavez’s older brother is the one who taught him English since their parents didn’t know much English themselves.

7:56 Chavez took photography. He says it provided a creative outlet for him

8:04 What really got him hooked, Chavez says, was working on the school newspaper. “Once I got on the staff there, I really enjoyed going out and doing stories.”

8:41 Chavez has been told that he was the first Latino to be on the news staff at the Texas Tech University Daily. When he researched this claim he wasn’t able to find any Spanish surnames on the daily before him.

9:09 He found this interesting because he knew there were others who had the talent and the skills.

9:17 “I looked around me in my newsroom and discovered that, yeah, I was the only Latino and there weren’t any in the pipeline.”

9:29 Chavez says that he was treated well by the staff and the student editor.

9:39 At that time, Chavez remembers, most of the stories that were about minorities were about East Lubbock – the area where most of the African Americans lived.

9:52 More of the minority-related stories were about African-Americans

10:03 There wasn’t a lot of coverage on Latinos, Chavez says. “Most of the Latinos that were in Lubbock area at that time, in the panhandle and the south plains, were migrant workers.”

10:15 Chavez says that since they were transitory they didn’t really establish themselves in the community – that came later.

10:24 Because of that Chavez was unable to make use of his knowledge of the Spanish language or of the Spanish community.

10:32 That’s how he ended up doing many stories on African-Americans.

10:44 By the time he graduated there was another Hispanic in the pipeline. His name was Robert Montamayor

10:52 Chaves says he might be familiar to some of his colleagues because he went on to become the first Latino executive editor of the University daily at Texas Tech.

11:12 In Montamayor’s career he went on to become a Pulitzer winner at the Los Angeles Times.

11:35 Chavez says Montamayor would’ve succeeded without any of his advice

11:43 Chavez says their friendship allowed him to criticize him and his work, provide him with a path.

12:30 Chavez says Montamayor would’ve been successful without him – but he hopes he “made it a little bit easier”

12:51 The newsroom, Chavez says, was a sanctuary for him.

12:58 That is where he had the respect of his fellow staffmembers.

13:09 At a closing banquet during his senior year, Chavez received an award for being the stop staff member of the paper.

13:53 Texas Tech and Lubbock – however – was a different story, Chavez said.

14:03 The environment has changed over the years and he says it’s a better place for minorities in general, especially Latinos who have taken up a more permanent residence in the area.

14:13 It was difficult, Chaves says, because he had to deal with the “ultra-conservative, sometimes backwards and sometimes bigoted community of Lubbock.”

14:31 Getting off campus was a challenge. That’s where Chavez would encounter individuals who would either ignore him or make snide remarks.

14:48 Chavez recounts a story

14:48 His freshman year, Chavez decided that he’d had enough was going back to El Paso. Fortunately, he says, his roommate – Lance Harter – convinced him to stay in Lubbock – the two stayed up all night talking. They remain friends today

16:14 Chavez says he always recognizes Harter as the guy who convinced him to stay at Texas Tech and “tough it out.”

16:44 Chavez says that you had to have an internship in order to graduate.

16:52 He was having a hard time finding a place to intern. He needed to look beyong Lubbock and go to the South Plains area.

16:55 The Lubbock Avalanche Journal he says was ultra-conservative. “They probably did not want to take me on as an intern because how could I possibly be the best intern available form Texas Tech at that time?”

17:21 Chavez was fortunate to get a phone call from the executive editor of a paper that was distributed in the black section of town.

17:34 The executive editor had called because he had read Chavez’s articles and wanted to know if he was interested working part time for the West Texas Times.

17:59 As a result, Chavez ended up interning there.

18:05 All of this, he recalls, was part of his education.

18:10 Chavez worked what was essentially the ghetto at that time

18:16 He says the black folks didn’t get the connection – was he really with the black newspaper?

18:25 Chavez says it was tremendous experience – It expanded his horizons and convinced him of the need for diversity.

18:39 The mainstream newspaper – the Avalanche Journal – was not covering East Lubbock. The West Texas Times was. This forced Chavez to ask himself, why did they have to establish their own newspaper to get information out to their community? And why was the mainstream paper ignoring this community.

18:59 It allowed Chavez to think about diversity in terms of more than what’s happening to Latinos.

19:40 This was the “seminal moment” that Chavez became aware of the need for more diversity.

19:45 Chavez’s coursework at Texas Tech had led him to start developing ideas beyond his personal experience. For example, he took a lot of courses in African-American studies.

20:00 History became one of Chavez’s areas of interest. He even became trained at the University of Washington as a journalism historian

20:10 In taking those courses, Chavez says, he began to learn more and more about the history of African-Americans.

20:18 TJ Patterson – who owned the West Texas Times – was also a business professor at Texas Tech.

20:30 Chavez says he learned more than journalism from Patterson. He “learned about the economics of the black community.”

20:42 His experience on the West Texas Times influenced him to take a broader diversity of coursework.

21:41 “In some ways growing up in El Paso was isolating because the majority of the population in El Paso is Latino.” Chavez grew up in the             barrio ­­– his high school was 95 percent Hispanic.

22:17 His interaction with white people he says was minimal. Because of this, Chavez says, he didn’t notice a lot of discrimination

22:20 Even though he never noticed discrimination, Chavez says he did notice inequality. “Very few of the shakers…were Latino.” Most of the population, Chavez added, was Latino, but the leadership was white.

22:45 Going to Lubbock was eye-opening for Chavez.

22:55 “That change, that reality was really what most of America was like, as opposed to the Southwest.”

23:04 Chavez says this was the “catalyst” that made him think about what he could do for his community and how to educate them about diversity

23:26 His experience with the Black community furthered that

24:09 Chavez’s dad was an “avid newspaper reader”

24:14 His family subscribed to the daily newspaper

24:18 Sundays specifically we’re a ritual of sorts. “We would sit around and take pieces, different portions of the newspaper”

24:42 It was an English newspaper. But since Chavez’s grandfather only knew Spanish they would also get the Spanish newspaper.

24:56 Chavez read mostly the English newspaper because his dad wanted him to learn English. Occasionally, he would try to read the Spanish editions.

25:23 Chavez’s grandmother was blind so she listened to a lot of radio. And the radio she listened to was the Spanish-language station.

25:38 “There was always Latino music in our house”

25:56 Chavez says that his news and information was coming from a variety of sources.

26:11 He adds that his family also watched television together. They’d mainly watch the Spanish-language stations from Juarez.

From the Classroom to the Newsroom

27:12 Chavez had a job offer before graduation

27:30 During his junior and senior year he was working for the school newspaper and the West Texas Times.

27:40 The offer Chavez received was from his hometown of El Paso, Texas.

27:53 Chavez didn’t go through his commencement exercises at Tech because after his last final he had to head to El Paso to start work.

28:39 This is where Chavez’s professional career began.

28:47 Chavez says he was fortunate that his first job was in El Paso because he already knew the community.

29:12 From there Chavez worked for several other newspapers

29:12 The Seattle Times (where he worked during graduate school at the University of Washington).

29:32 After that he worked for the Yakama Herald Republic in eastern Washington state.

29:45 Chavez said he would’ve stayed there, but what drove him away was the eruption of Mount St. Helens

39:48 Chavez says that the eruption was a great event to cover as a journalist, but was a terrible personal experience.

30:04 The ash cloud dumped all of its volcanic ash in the Yakama valley and Chavez was highly allergic to it. “I was miserable physically. I didn’t want to raise my family in that environment”

30:36 As a result, Chavez took the first job available, which happened to be a teaching position.

30:39 He ended up teaching at San Jose State University.

31:01 Chavez thought he would try teaching for a while.

31:14 Chavez also worked at the Albuquerque Tribune, and the Miami Herald during a summer.

31:40 “Something kept pulling me back – not only to journalism but to education.”

31:44 Chavez says it was UT El Paso that brought him back

31:49 The university offered him a job as the advisor to the student newspaper

31:53 Chavez said it was a great experience. It was the first time he advised a student newspaper

32:01 “And to have it happen in El Paso where the majority of the staff were Latinos, first generation college students – I did not appreciate their talent until many years later.”

32:22 Chavez says that the first staff he had was committed and talented. Most of them – he adds – have gone on to continue their careers in journalism.

Journalism and Diversity

33:32 In Washington state, Chavez says, the largest minority group was Asian-American.

34:04 Chavez says he liked working in this community because he wanted to “open up more of the Seattle Times’ coverage in that area”

34:22 As he did in Lubbock with the black community, Chavez felt this was an opportunity to learn more about Asian Americans.

34:32 Chavez says that the stories he wrote weren’t “blockbuster news stories” but more “slice of life culturally related stories.”

34:51 Chavez adds that these stories were to explain to the Seattle community more about the Asian-American community. For example, he did a story on Japanese gardens

35:01 The international district, Chavez says, didn’t have much character – “it was just buildings, sidewalks and streets”

35:22 Through learning about the community, Chavez realized that the Japanese-Americans like to garden – but there’s no room, so they garden on the rooftops.

35:40 Nobody knows about it except for the people in the community, Chavez says.

36:18 Chavez says that he takes particular pride in those stories.

36:24 Now in Yakama Valley, Chavez wrote about migrant workers. He adds that his managing editor Jim Macknekey wanted to expand coverage and make use of Chavez’s bilingual ability.

36:45 Chavez says he takes particular pride in a series of stories he did about migrant workers coming to the Yakama valley.

37:03 Most people didn’t know about this community because they were transitory

37:12 Chavez was able to go into the fields with them, they accepted and trusted him.

37:40 Chavez says that he got in touch with his native roots

37:52 The other large minority population are indigenous – the Yakamas. Chavez started doing stories on the Yakama Indian nation.

38:02 “The greatest reward that I got form the Yakamas was not a plaque or a trophy…I was invited to the opening of their Indian cultural center.”

38:23 Chavez thought he was invited because he was a reporter, but he was there to be honored for his contributions to the Indian community.

39:26 That meant more to Chavez than many of the types of awards that he would get later on.

39:50 “It affirmed, it validated my value to that community.”

41:00 “Regardless of who you are and what your background is, you tend to be ethnocentric”

41:12 Chavez says he’s no different’ from anybody else. He identifies with the Latino community, with the American Indian community (and because of his coverage) with the Black and Asian community

41:30 But the priority for Chavez remains in being Hispanic and covering Hispanic issues.

41:34 “And that’s true of newsrooms because newsrooms are made up of individuals and these individuals come from their own communities. And when you have a newsroom that is predominantly white, they’re going to rely on their own background and their own sources.”

42:00 Chavez adds that news people are “open minded” and not bigoted, but they do tend to fallback on what makes them comfortable – “that’s just human nature”

42:22 Chavez says that his contribution to the newsroom was to encourage his colleagues to think in broader terms

42:41 Thinking about this different communities leads to thinking about poor communities.

42:48 When the poor community is covered, Chavez says, it’s about crime

43:18 The news is there the second there’s a drug bust, Chavez says, but doesn’t go into these communities to cover important events like graduation.

43:27 “That bothers me because that community exists on a day-to-day basis and on a day-to-day basis most of these people are decent, upright law-abiding citizens who do things in their communities that are worth news coverage”

43:58 When Chavez got back in the newsroom after leaving UTEP, he began work at The Albuquerque Tribune

44:19 Like El Paso, Albuquerque is predominantly Hispanic

44:19 At the Tribune Chavez was an assistant city editor

44:28 He worked with his city editor to expand news coverage along more positive lines in the Latino community.

44:35 After that Chavez was sent back to El Paso to work for the El Paso Herald Post

44:46 A few months later he was promoted to city manager – he was now in a position “to make decisions on what we cover and what we don’t cover.”

45:03 His staff was very supportive

45:26 Chavez says he belives they changed the culture. “I think the Herald-Post became known as the newspaper for the minority community”

45:43 Chavez clarifies that some of these stories were negative.

45:51 These stories mainly included drug-trafficking, Chavez adds.

46:08 Chavez says he had to rescue a photographer that had been arrested by some of the federal police in Juarez who were connected to the drug trade.

46:50 “We did do those stories because it was news but we did a number of other stories were I got to decide what the priority was”

47:01 One of these stories, Chavez says, was called the Streets of El Paso and focused on a “slice of life” story

47:51 Chavez says that he was blessed to have a staff that energetic and devoted to community service.

48:53 As a newsperson, Chavez said, you can’t be driven by “popularity.”

49:12 Chavez says that some of the most negative comments he received was from Latinos

49:19 These comments came from when they wrote articles critical of events happening in their neighborhood.

49:35 For example, Chavez says, there was a story about “shooting galleries” – abandoned houses where heroin addicts go to shoot up.

49:58 This was mainly happening in the southside of El Paso in the Segundo barrio – the second ward.

50:05 Chavez says this was a well known occurrence to city officials and police.

50:21 When his reporters came back and told Chavez what was going on he said if this happened in the affluent side of town something would’ve been done.

50:50 immediately they did stories on this

50:55 Chavez says that they came under fire from the Latino community for photographs they printed – specifically one of a teenage boy in the “shooting gallery” actually shooting up.

51:33 The community was wondering how they could take this photo and not stop him

51:51 “The reason, the motivation behind it was to shock the community so they would put pressure on the city to clean it up – and that’s exactly what happened.”

52:01 During that process, however, Chavez says they received lots of criticism.

53:07 Chavez says that his personal motivation to highlight these shooting galleries was because he felt they were an insult to his grandmother – who used to live in that neighborhood.

53:5 One of the things that Montamayor did at Tech was to change the logo to the student newspaper from “Official student publication of Texas Tech University” to “It is the purpose of this newspaper to raise constructive hell”

54:18 This means that you’re raising issues that will upset people but if it leads down the road to a betterment of that community – then you’ve done your job.

54:41 “Those are the kinds of stories that journalists should do”

54:49 In the long run, Chavez says, if the end result of your reporting leads to a betterment of the community then you did your job.

55:10 Chavez says that’s what lacking in today’s coverage.

55:31 The staff was generally supportive of the changes in coverage, Chavez says.

55:56 News organizations, Chavez adds, like to have a “template” for their newspaper. “Most of the time they’re thinking in terms of the bottom line – the income, the fiscal health of the newspaper”

56:18 Chavez says that representatives from Scripts-Howard (owners) visited the staff to talk about some of the things they should be doing.

56:47 The presentation from the representatives went touched on “lifestyle issues”

56:56 They told Chavez and his staff that they needed to cover things that people could do after work and things about health.

57:24 They also suggested doing more stories about daycare

57:42 These representatives from Script-Howard were from Cincinnati, which is very different from El Paso. At one point, Chavez says, a veteran reporter says ‘We have to stop you – this is a blue collar town…when they get home from work they’re not going to work”

58:13 To write these stories about gyms and fitness centers, Chavez said, you’re only speaking to a small group of people.

58:55 The next reporter said that the daycares in El Paso were primarily relatives or maids who doubled as nannies.

59:59 Chavez said they felt insulted that the Scripts-Howard people offer advice after having done little to no research on the El Paso community

1:00:35 Chavez and the rest of the staff walked out

1:01:00 These are the types of things that exist within newsrooms, Chavez says

1:01:19 These companies – like Scripts-Howard — promote their editors mostly based on the fiscal health of the newspaper and where they fall in line with standards of the corporation, not the community.

1:02:06 “Our executive editor came from Knoxville. He had a good heart and right intentions but it took him a long time to understand El Paso – it’s a unique setting along the border.”

Treatment of Diverse Groups

1:03:41 The women that Chavez has worked for and with did not get paid as well as the mend. “Equity in pay is still a major issue”

1:04:14 Chavez says that gay issues are still being debated. He doesn’t think that individuals are judged but that newsrooms have a hard time dealing with gay issues.

1:04:42 It wasn’t addressed during Chavez’s time in the newsroom

1:04:49 “It’s an issue I try to address in my teaching, in my classes.”

1:05:05 He says there’s also a generational push. The current generation is more open minded and tolerant, he says, especially in the Hispanic community.

1:05:34 Chavez says in his experience he doesn’t know of any conflict of having gay reporters in the newsroom.

1:06:08 “When you have that good mix in the newsroom, ethnic and racial mix, it leads to other issues, a good mix of men and women.”

1:06:25 Chavez likens a newsroom to a family

1:07:09 Journalists, Chavez says, move on, unlike people in academia.

1:07:19 Chavez also did radio for a little while too.

1:07:28 He did bilingual broadcasts at UT El Paso. It was called El Paso Adelante. The first half-hour was in English and the second in Spanish.

1:08:53 Chavez has been a member of AEJMC off and on for years. This is because he’s bounced back and forth between the newsroom and academia

1:09:12 He’s also a member of the accrediting council – there’s AEJMC and there’s ACEJMC

1:09:24 That branch, Chavez says, accredits journalism and mass communication programs across the country.

1:09:41 AEJMC is an important organization, Chavez says. “It’s a good vehicle for people to share ideas and innovations.”

1:10:10 Chavez says it’s similar to a continuing education. It keeps us up to date, Chavez adds.

1:10:28 At these conferences, Chavez “steals” good ideas from other people and incorporates it into his teaching

1:10:55 (Clip breaks)

1:11:45 If you’re a professor you don’t have to be a member of AEJMC – but it’s beneficial

1:12:07 If you teach mainly skills courses AEJMC is probably not as useful to you. It is, however, if you are a researcher

1:12:29 Most of the papers that are introduced in their conferences are research oriented

1:12:32 Those that “came up through the ranks of the news business” rely on newsroom experiences to help with the skills courses.

1:12:55 Chavez says AEJMC is more helpful for him when he teaches courses that are connected to his research areas.

1:13:31 The first time Chavez joined he was a graduate student.

1:13:38 That was mainly because AEJMC held their national conference in Washington that year – Chavez saw this as a good opportunity to 1) see the research that was being done and 2) establish a network

1:14:36 “I joined because my mentor, professor Robert Simpsons at the University of Washington, recommended that I join.”

1:14:55 Chavez was able to present his research at this conference. His paper was about the history of Spanish-language journalism in the Pacific Northwest. This would eventually become his thesis.

1:15:20 The history of these Spanish-language journalism in southwest states is well documented, Chavez says.

1:15:45 He dropped membership when he graduated from the University of Washington.

1:15:50 He rejoined when he began teaching at San Jose State University.

1:16:26 Chavez’s first experience with the organization was critical

1:16:48 Most of his classes at Texas Tech and Washington dealt with mainstream media and very little about non-mainstream, “minority” media

1:17:10 These are the things that Chavez had to research on his own or learn about from other faculty members.

1:18:09 Chavez says that there are people in academia who won’t admit to their shortcomings, e.g. when they don’t know.

1:18:33 “AEJMC, If I were to criticize sometimes falls into that pattern,” Chavez explains, adding that the further you get in research/studies “you sometimes become a little bit more narrow”

1:19:29 This pattern has – in some ways – stayed the same.

1:19:52 “When it comes to universities, the universities pretty much fall back on traditions. It’s a tradition-bound profession so they rely on traditional research.”

1:20:24 Non-traditional forms of research, like documentaries, aren’t as well accepted, Chavez adds. Institutions have gotten better he says, but it’ll take a couple more years before it becomes more accepted.

1:21:12 Chavez says the most productive change within AEJMC has been the production of more divisions and interest groups that address diversity issues

1:27:12 There are interest groups that can develop into divisions if enough people show particular interest in that area (Chavez says these can be a range of topics)

1:22:18 Chavez says that accreditation is an important process in this. “There are now more vehicles…that begin to push those kinds of issues onto the agenda”

1:22:22 He adds that being who we are, it’s difficult to get out of our comfort zones

1:22:58 “When you try to push those individuals to be more diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, gender, etc, it’s like pulling teeth.”

1:23:28 It becomes hard to convince people of the importance of diversity, Chavez says, especially if they already have tenure

1:24:15 Chavez further defines the differences between AEJMC and ACEJMC

1:24:18 The accrediting council is an offshoot. It’s the main accrediting vehicle, Chavez says, that can grant (or not) accreditation.

1:24:39 “They’re the ones that have a more direct impact on a program because they include a diversity standard. They have a number of standards they look at.”

1:24:48 When Chavez serves on accreditation teams he usually is assigned to look at their diversity among other things.

1:25:20 Chavez would like to see more aggressive action taken to not accredit programs that have great deficiencies in diversity.

1:25:38 He adds that there are very few – if any – programs that have lost accreditation because they failed the diversity standard.

1:26:02 AEJMC is a little more political, Chavez says. The organization’s membership needs to more aggressive pushing the diversity agenda.

1:26:30 This is important because we live in a nation that’s more diverse than it’s been before.

1:26:45 The AEJMC dates back to 1912

1:27:05 The group has come a long way, Chavez says, but still has much work to do to ensure that diversity becomes a “primary issue”

Experiences with Diversity in Academia

1:28:05 “I think he main criticism, the main deficiency is the curriculum where courses that address diversity are electives rather than required courses.”

1:28:36 Chavez adds that there should be, within required courses, a diversity element.

1:28:53 Chavez says that he’s seen some programs that faculty are required to incorporate diversity into their existing work.

1:29:10 He’s also seen the development of coursework that falls into the areas of electives, but are not required of students so the only ones who take those courses are the ones that are most interested in the subject

1:29:25 Chavez gives an example: If you have a course on women in the media the people who sign up are mainly going to be women – but it’s a course that would be of great benefit to male students.

1:29:51 This is something Chavez says he learned the hardway

1:30:06 At the University of Colorado, the Association for Women in Communications needed a faculty advisor and they couldn’t find one. Either because the women faculty members were already on so many committees or cause the male faculty members didn’t want to be advisors.

1:30:39 Chavez volunteered as advisor on a temporary basis

1:30:55 It turned out that Chavez learned a lot from this group. “They educated me as much as I think I educated them.”

1:31:18 The girls in the group wanted Chavez to stay on as a permanent advisor. During his time at the University of Colorado he maintained this position.

1:32:06 He went on to join the national group

1:32:27 It was another eye-opening opportunity for Chavez

1:32:42 “I think that’s part of the process – you have to get more faculty members do that sort of think…and for AEJMC to push those issues, to commit to community service in a broader sense, in a diverse sense.

1:33:11 (Short break in interview to fix dog’s collar)

Different positions in academia

1:33:40 Chavez has had several positions in academia. His first teaching experience was as a teaching assistant at the University of Washington.

1:34:12 He liked this experience. His advisor mentioned that he had positive evaluations as a TA and told Chavez to consider this as a possibility.

1:35:10 His first full-time teaching position was at San Jose State University

1:35:17 Chavez says he found that he had a connection with his students. He did this for 2 years.

1:35:38 His next role “was a kind of teaching position” as the advisor for the student newspaper at UTEP. As advisor you also taught one or two courses a semester.

1:36:07 Next: Chavez met several students from The University of Colorado at a conference in El Paso. When they returned to Boulder they mentioned to their dean that Chavez would be an excellent addition to their teaching staff.

1:36:42 Chavez was offered a position with Colorado University

1:37:04 When Chavez sat down with the dean to discuss what he’d be doing, he soon realized that there wasn’t a diversity component

1:37:07 He then proposed the establishment of an office of student diversity within the school of journalism. Chavez’s idea was approved and he was later appointed director.

1:37:30 It was a good opportunity, Chavez says, to bring together all his past experiences.

1:37:48 Within the Office of Student Diversity, Chavez created another group: MEMO – the Multi-Ethnic Media Organization

1:37:56 MEMO became the main organization for minority students, Chavez says.

1:38:15 MEMO did well. After Chavez left Colorado they kept the program

1:38:39 The group was a great support system for minorities in boulder, Chavez says

1:38:50 “Minorities there can sometimes feel uncomfortable because it’s not part of the culture of Boulder, Colorado. So it’s good that they have a home in MEMO that they can go to and mutually support each other.

1:39:10 After Colorado, Chavez went on to the University of South Dakota and “the creation of the American Indian Journalism Institute”

1:39:20 The most underrepresented group of journalists are Native Americans, according to Chavez – not only because they’re small in numbers but because Native Americans don’t pursue careers in mass communication.

1:39:39 Chavez, a friend of his – Jack Marsh of the Freedom Forum – and Danny McCulough – an Osage Indian who was teaching at the University of Montanta – got together to create the concept for the American Indian Journalism Institute.

1:40:13 This was to be an institute that could “act as kind of a boot camp to recruit American Indians and then give them initial training in journalism.”

1:40:24 They wanted to establish the institute at the University of South Dakota.

1:40:42 Jack Marsh recruited Chavez to be the chairman of the journalism program and also to be the education director for this institute.

1:41:26 When Chavez returned, his role as chairman gave him his “first opportunity to be a manager, primarily an administrator.”

1:41:51 He designed the curriculum for the AIJI boot camp. McCulough provided the recruitment, and Marsh provided the funding and the office support.

1:42:09 That program produced more American Indian journalists more than any previous program or any program since, according to Chavez.

1:42:27 This lead to an opportunity at the University of Oklahoma.

1:42:32 The University had heard about Chavez’s efforts in South Dakota and contacted him for an assistant professorship and to develop a similar program.

1:43:05 Chavez took the position.

1:43:33 Fred Blevins – a professor – had already created the program (The Oklahoma Institute for Diversity in Journalism), and Chavez came to help develop it.

1:43:53 When Blevins left, Chavez took over.

1:43:58 Chavez was hired for a year – and at the end of the year Oklahoma offered him a permanent position. That’s how Chavez ended up in Oklahoma.

1:44:30 Chavez was there for a little over seven years.

1:44:37 “That’s the whole academic aspect, but it’s always been about diversity – it’s always been the driving force and the driving motivation.”

Realization about diversity

1:45:02 Chavez says that it was at Texas Tech that he most likely began to understand the need for diversity in journalism and journalism education.

1:45:13 Being the only minority at the newspaper, Chavez said, made him recognize his differences and perspectives.

1:45:58 “I don’t like being a one-and-only because you don’t have many allies.”

1:46:06 Chavez said it was easier/better when there were other minorities

1:46:22 “That’s when I became aware that, if you’re going to have diversity in journalism you’re got to have diversity in faculties, too. You can’t teach what you don’t know.”

1:47:45 This idea, Chavez continues, is the main criticism he has of higher education. “There are not enough of us people of color, gay people – there’s a lot of women now in academia and I think that’s why women’s issues have risen to the forefront…But it’s mostly white women.”

1:48:53 It’s not in your experience unless you go out there and do it yourself, Chavez says, recounting his early experiences with the African-American community.

1:49:19 Chavez says that when he was working in the black community he went to church with them to learn more about their community. He goes on to say how he shared experiences with different communities.

1:50:25 “I learned to diversify my approaches to people in order to be more accepting, but I had to know about their lives.”

1:50:46 “It’s not just sympathy it’s empathy and in order to empathize you got to go to go do it.” Chavez says that’s the main problem with higher education.

1:51:44 Chavez says that recruitment is a major challenge that diversity in journalism faces.

1:52:15 A lot of minority groups, Chavez says, grow up in unconventional ways – not how people in academia come up.

1:52:50 “They are at a disadvantage at being hired for a full-time faculty position because in academia a Ph.D is often a required skill, a requirement for employment”

1:53:06 Chavez says that he likes to think that his Ph.D is from the “school of hard knocks.” He says his years in journalism and experiences give him an education that some haven’t had.

1:53:59 A lot of them are unprepared to teach diversity because they haven’t experienced it themselves, Chavez says. “The minorities are disadvantaged because they’re not recognized and appreciated for their unconventional ways of getting where they are.”

1:54:30 This is still a major fault – Chavez says – not just in journalism but “across the board.”

1:54:45 Chavez says his career in academia would’ve been much smoother had he had a Ph.D.
1:55:19 Despite the fact that Roger Simpson encouraged Chavez to continue his education, he had a family to provide for, so he took the first job that was offered – which ended up being the job in Yakama.

1:54:45 Once he began working full-time and had enough he realized he couldn’t go back for a Ph.D because it would be a strain on his family.

1:56:16 “Although I took some doctoral-level coursework at the University of Washington, I didn’t complete the Ph.D because I had those other priorities.”

Diversity now

1:57:48 Chavez says that this has always been a process of “taking two steps forward and then taking one step back.”

1:58:04 “We’re constantly swimming against the stream, we’re going upstream and if you stop swimming, the stream is going to take you down.” Chavez adds that this is the metaphor for what he sees in journalism and academia

1:58:28 You constantly have to fight to make progress – and it’s not easy, Chavez says. “It’s very hard to institute change, specially institutional change.”

1:58:50 Chavez says in the current situation he believes they’ve eased off on diversity as a priority.

1:59:05 The advancements made in diversity, Chavez says, can act as a detriment. They lead people to believe that it’s not an urgency anymore because there have been gains.

2:00:10 Affirmative action, Chavez says, never meant that you had to hire a minority. The good programs, he adds, are the ones that said you must give an “equal opportunity”

2:00:29 A good program will take into consideration a person as an individual, their background, and their unique set of skills – it’s not about having to hire a minority.

2:01:10 Covering diversity is a challenge, Chavez says. And all the news wants to write about is car chases.

2:01:55 Chavez says that news organization don’t go into depth, it’s surface-reporting

2:02:21 “We’re sliding back in order to do easy journalism and that’s not our job.”


2:02:58 In 2001 Chavez was honored by Texas Tech University as outstanding alum

2:03:24 As part of the award Chavez returned to Lubbock for an awards banquet.

2:03:51 Chavez was presented the award by TJ Patterson – the business professor that hired Chavez for the West Texas Times

2:04:35 Although Chavez is normally hesitant about receiving awards he says this one was special because of Patterson.

2:04:44 Chavez says Patterson’s speech revolved around a particular story Chavez did while working with the West Texas Times

2:04:47 It was about a scam that resulted in an 82-year-old woman having to give a woman back her house. After the article was published, the woman was returned to her home and Chavez wrote a follow up.

2:05:10 This woman was so grateful that Chavez was writing the story that when he showed up she embraced Chavez and gave him and told him thank you.

2:06:32 The plaque wasn’t about that one instance, Chavez says. He says it was really representative of his whole career – which started at Tech.

2:06:31 It started with the awakening that he “knew diversity was important.”

2:06:42 It was important, Chavez adds, that everyone become an agent of change – like Patterson, who helped to make Chavez an agent of change, too.

2:07:10 The plaque is a reminder of everything that led up to that event – the culmination of his experiences in journalism, Chavez says

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity

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