The opportunity to write for FOX News Latino came several months ago, through a writer friend who was aware that one of my interests is writing about Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, as well as Latino cultures and issues in the US.
But I didn’t say yes automatically; I had the same reaction most people have had when I tell them now that I’m writing for FOX News Latino: “What? You? Write for FOX?” As a lifelong liberal, and a vocal one at that, the outlet didn’t seem like a good fit.
That’s because I was operating with the same set of assumptions that influence most people when they hear the word “FOX,” namely: conservative, inflammatory, sensationalist, and anti-immigrant.
Before I said yes, I poked around the website. It didn’t take long to realize that FOX News Latino was very different from FOX, and so I signed on as a weekly contributor, filing articles and multimedia packages about places and people that interested me.
I’ve been extremely happy with my experiences as a contributor, but without fail, when I mention that I’m writing for FOX News Latino, I inevitably get a raised eyebrow or an unrestrained “Why are you writing for FOX?”
I’d been mulling the idea of this post over for a while (I imagined I could just print it and keep it in my bag, pulling it out along with my business card so I wouldn’t have to explain, yet again, why I’m writing for FNL), but just hadn’t made the time to write it. Then, after reading this piece on NPR yesterday (in which the differences between FOX and FNL are affirmed), I realized it was time to sit down and add my two cents.
Here are some of the reasons why I’m writing for FOX News Latino:
1. Because there is no gold standard.
I’m sorry if you’re a new writer or a naive reader/media consumer and this breaks your heart a bit, but the august, progressive media institutions you admire have a lot of foul shit happening behind the scenes.
There’s just no cleaner or more polite way to put it.
If the sagas of Jayson Blair of The New York Times; Liane Membis of The Wall Street Journal; CNN’s jumping of the gun on the Obamacare ruling; Jonah Lehrer of The New Yorker; and–just today!–Fareed Zakaria--of TIME and CNN aren’t enough to pull you off your high horse, let me add a few “I can vouch for these personally” anecdotes:
-My own article for DISCOVER Magazine was plagiarized by an associate producer at Indiana Public Media, an NPR affiliate, last year. When I confronted the station about it, I was told the associate producer “didn’t understand the nuances of attribution.” You can read all about that in my “Plagiarism Fiasco Recap” post.
-While working at Matador, a staff member who was discovered to have plagiarized twice was flagged by a reader as possibly having plagiarized a third time. When I passed the concern along to the powers that be, I was told “we” weren’t going to worry about it.
-A friend’s partner published a book about a highly specific topic and a very respected writer at The New Yorker (no, not Jonah Lehrer this time!) was subsequently believed to have paraphrased large chunks of the book without attribution.
There are more (oh so many more from the field of travel writing in particular), but I think these suffice.
When you tell me that you don’t like/respect/trust/give any credence to FOX, that’s ok. It’s your opinion and your entitled to it (I don’t give much credence to the regular FOX, either; it’s bombastic, sensationalist, and typically shoddily reported. I’m willing to bet $10, though, that you haven’t actually read FOX News Latino). But I’m curious to know if you’re willing to give a “Get out of jail free” card to the Times, New Yorker, NPR, CNN, TIME, and the Journal… and whether you think that the other publications you love so much aren’t put together by some clever shortcut stitchery.
My point? There’s no gold standard.
Let’s all stop idealizing the outlets we are hoping hew to the standards of journalistic integrity and ethics. Stop dividing them into largely meaningless categories whose adjectives are really just stand-ins for “good” or “bad.” Instead, let’s keep them accountable. When TIME says it’s suspending Zakaria’s column for a month “pending further review,” are we all just going to flip the pages and whistle on September 12 when Zakaria’s column suddenly resumes? This applies to all outlets, including FNL.
2. Because FOX News Latino is not right-wing.
If it was, I wouldn’t write for it.
Now, I’m sure you can find stories that have conservative overtones and influences… as is true of any other outlet. The ideal of objectivity of any sort is largely that: an ideal.
3. Because FOX News Latino is actually reporting news that most other mainstream outlets are ignoring or, at the very least, are underreporting.
FNL was one of the few mainstream media outlets in the US that reported on the #YoSoy132 protests in Mexico leading up to the recent presidential election, as well as the protests that continued afterward. In fact, it started reporting on #YoSoy132 on May 24, a full 2.5 weeks before The New York Times ran anything about the protests. Its coverage of the protests was far more comprehensive than that of the Times, which consisted of a total of three articles.
Sure, FNL has its fair share of fluff/eye-candy/page-view pieces (some of which have elicited groans over my morning coffee), but we had plenty of those at Matador, too, and you don’t have to dig too deep into the pages of any other print or online newspaper to find the same. In my dream world, no publication would have those pieces. But since I live in the real world and I know the mechanics of monetization/favors/survival that occur behind the scenes at both print and online publications, I’m willing to scroll over a few shallow stories to get to pieces that really matter.
4. Because I get to contribute to that pool of overlooked stories.
Most of my pieces for FNL are destination-based; I was brought on board to write a weekly travel article. But I’ve been given ample space to share other pieces I think are important and overlooked. In short, I get to write about people, places, and issues that are important to me and–I hope–to readers. To have that space is a privilege.
5. Because the editorial relationships I have are non-contentious.
If you’re a writer, you know that relationships with editors who respond to your messages consistently, discuss ideas with you, offer constructive feedback, and deal with the “Hey, there’s a typo in the headline!” emails with grace are rare and valuable.
6. Because FOX News Latino gets its audience.
FNL understands– in a way that I’d argue mainstream media do not– that there is no such thing as a monolithic Latino community. That, instead, there are many Latino communities (and no, these are not strictly national communities, ie: “The Cuban community”; “The Mexican community”), and their values, interests, and opinions vary widely (and wildly). It doesn’t try to reduce “Latinos” into some simple, easily definable market sector.
7. Because the pay is good.
Let’s keep it real: pay matters.
I have writer friends who: (a) write for free; (b) write for way below market rate; (c) write only for their own blogs and make money through other means; and/or (d) take on certain types of writing or other work they don’t really love because it pays the bills.
I’m not judging them because I have done all of those things.
At this point in my career and in my life, I need to make money.^
I have a child, I live in New York City, I am a professional, and my work is worth it, so when I’ve got an opportunity to write at or above market rate, I’m going to do my damndest to find a way to make a comfortable fit between myself and the publication.
I’m not holding out to see my byline only in my “dream” publications. There’s not such a thing anymore; I’ve seen too much.
Besides, they’re too busy dealing with the Jonah Lehrers and Fareed Zakarias of the world.
^A topic deserving of its own post.