According to Southern California freelance reporter and NAHJ member Cesar Arredondo, previous attempts over the years to start an L.A. chapter stalled, but efforts were revived again this year. Once the required number of signatures was obtained, Arredondo said their petition to become an official chapter was approved by the national board at the recent UNITY Conference.
“There was interest from members for local activities and events,” Arredondo said. “We pay membership fees, and we want to get as much out of it as possible with networking or training opportunities — and we needed that locally.”
NAHJ president Hugo Balta said, “The initiative represents NAHJ’s growth in a market where many members live and work. It is important for NAHJ to provide events that nurture networking, and provide training and a platform to discuss important issues relevant to Latino journalists and the community they serve.”
Arredondo said the L.A. chapter will be a valuable support group for media colleagues. “L.A. is one of the top Latino media markets in the U.S. We have a large number of Latino reporters, and we could well become the most active and largest chapter. We have the potential members.” He added the chapter would welcome bloggers, freelancer reporters, and even documentary filmmakers.
Elections for the chapter’s board of directors took place in November,* but the group got the chapter moving months before. It created a Facebook page for announcements and hosted its first networking event in August with Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Vives as guest. The group also announced that it would set up a scholarship in Vives’ name. Arredondo said about 100 people attended the event in downtown Los Angeles.
NAHJ also announced it will partner with the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists at the 2013 Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, Calif., from Aug. 24 to 26.
Kristopher Fortin, Los Angeles Streets Blog reporter and NAHJ member, said the conference is an opportunity to showcase local Latino journalists, media, and communities. “This is our first endeavor to have an influence in shaping the conference.”
“The conference will put a bright spotlight on us and give the new chapter a high profile,” said Ray Bradford, national director of policy and diversity advocacy with SAG-AFTRA (representing broadcast journalists) and NAHJ lifetime member.
Looking ahead, there are several goals that members want to accomplish.
“Be the voice of Latino journalism in print, broadcast, and new media,” Bradford said. “Don’t be watchers, but be the resource and voice in the greater Los Angeles area.”
For 25-year-old Fortin, he would like to see the chapter reach out to journalists in transition, such as recent college graduates, and help them connect with and find jobs in the industry.
Arredondo said he wants the L.A. chapter to be an example and inspiration to other groups and encourage others to start their own chapter. “I’ve heard there is interest in San Diego,” he said. “Having those local options is so important.”
*Update: Below are election results for the NAHJ-LA board of directors:
President -- Cesar Arredondo
Secretary -- Alejandra Molina
At-Large Director, Spanish-Language -- Eileen Truax
Vice President of Online -- Kristopher Fortin
Student Representative -- Rubi Martinez