The Cultural Columnist

An analytical perspective to the news and experiences of the everyday

An Explanation

For almost a year I abandoned my blog but also abandoned the prospect of becoming a journalist. However, now I have recently received acceptance letters from both the Columbia and CUNY Graduate Schools of Journalism and have passionately rediscovered the larger scale values of a profession I largely misunderstood. In the Fall, I will start the CUNY master’s program and will hopefully continue contributing to the blog that will one day have documented some of my development as a writer and a journalist.

But before that, there is so much introspection that took place this past year. And the piece of writing that has offered the best explanation is my graduate school application. Here is a condensed version:

       We all live inside a realm of reality, within boundaries posed by our social locations and the institutions that produce different life experiences. And these life experiences produce different ways for people to perceive the world.

       Until recently, my entire life revolved around understanding the world I live in. The first facet of my identity that I had to conceptualize was my race. Being a first-generation Hispanic-American has largely shaped the lens through which I see my world. Ironically enough, I belong to the most disadvantaged of all social locations: a minority woman from a lower-income family.

       My Ecuadorian-born parents immigrated to Astoria, New York as a young couple so my understanding of how to live was largely cultivated according to the understanding that they held, after living in America for only a couple of years before I was born. But as far as how diversity manifested itself, Astoria – with its Chinese street vendors, Greek restaurants, Middle-Eastern bodega owners, and Hispanic bakeries – embodied the restless energy of multicultural America on a smaller scale in a vibrant little corner of Queens.

       The takeaway wasn’t necessarily acceptance nor a harmonious melting pot of cultural exchange. But it was awareness. And I was aware that the quirks of my culture, my language and my roots found a home in a place where differences are appreciated – even if I couldn’t do so at the time.

       It was after I moved to Parsippany, New Jersey, my home past 8 years old, where the components of my identity stood in isolation beside the dominant culture’s: the average household income tripled mine, I was the only Latina on my block, and my experiences until that point proved to be so drastically different from my peers’. It was no surprise that the only other minority in my fourth grade class, a soft-spoken girl from India, asked me to be her best friend.

       For example, in a blog post in “The Cultural Columnist,” I wrote about failing to understand why my boss at a summer camp job tried to convince me that I shouldn’t worry about my family’s financial problems after I tearfully explained to him that I was tired from my late-night waitressing shift and that I had to leave camp early to take care of my little sister while my parents went to work. My house had gone into foreclosure and my family was facing an unstable future.

       I pondered on why he thought I shouldn’t be subjected to my family’s hardships, but I would later conclude his different experiences prevented him from empathizing with the issues I faced.

       And my life will continue to face situations where I will have to identify the standards for how people live in order to navigate where I stand in relation to it. I am, for example, the first of 3 sisters who will have completed her education in the United States. I have largely been alone in figuring out how to navigate the education system because I have no past in this country, nor do I have family with real exposure to it.

       My early exposure to diversity and the subsequent dilemma in solidifying its role in my life has instilled a restless inquisitiveness for people and their worlds. The acknowledgment that my experiences coexist with others’ keeps me humble with curiosity. If I am not asking questions, I am making assumptions. And I refuse to make assumptions about truths I do not understand.

       In a way that aligns with my way of thinking about my experiences, I am attracted to journalism because that allows me to make sense of the experiences outside my realm of reality.

       I have acquired an edifying respect for journalism – the public service with “its finger on the pulse” of the human experience. I enjoy the stimulating atmosphere that allows me to think critically about producing stories that construct reality.

       As an undergrad, however, I naively disregarded journalism-at-large as incapable of producing these sorts of stories. Admittedly, I began to distinguish the importance I attached to exercising the craft from the mission of the craft itself; I created a false ideology that “traditional journalism” – the alternative to the impact I was pursuing – produced rigid, dispassionate and formulaic documentations of daily occurrences that failed to inform or illuminate the world for its audience.

       It became hard to ignore that in the pursuit of disseminating breaking news, the profession often forgoes larger-scale values they should reflect: complexity, thoroughness and a civic-mindedness that threatens to elude the profession.

       But while I was probing my interest I was also developing a respect for language and writing as a Writing Consultant at the St. John’s Writing Center.

       Through one-on-one sessions with student writers that employed collaborative and holistic pedagogy, my objective was to help them construct and communicate ideas. By meeting them on a common plane, I could inform the way they think about their writing.

       In a sense, I employed a similar methodology that I used when producing stories. By carefully formulating questions that asked them to reveal the ideas that are embedded in the realm of their innermost intricacies, I would ease the unraveling of these students as I would with the subjects of my stories. In doing so, I would have to withhold my own knowledge about writing so their answers do not reflect a perceived expectation for how to answer them.

       It was here where I learned the power of language and about the influence of words for projecting thoughts. In journalism, the responsibility is greater because language plays a central role in shaping the world and, consequently, how the public perceives it.

       I was reeled back into the prospect of becoming a journalist when I realized that I wanted to adequately and transparently use language as a tool for insightful and informative journalism.

       Therefore I believe the art of storytelling on a digital platform puts journalists in a position of retrospection: what are the inherent values of producing news stories and how does that define the role of journalists today?

       I want to be a leading thinker of the new journalism; I want to overcome the pressures of convergence and use the power of a multimedia platform as a means to realize the values of storytelling.

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This entry was posted on July 29, 2015 by .


July 2015


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