In an amazing panel moderated by Teresa Puente of Columbia College, Chicago, four young women journalists covering the U.S./Mexico border revealed the dangers, tragedies and critical importance of telling the stories of the chaos at the border. They spoke at the Journalism & Women Symposium in Boerne, Texas last weekend.
“How many people need to die so some people at a party can have a gram of cocaine?” asked Judith Torrea, a Spanish-born journalist and blogger. Torrea documents stories out of Juarez, Mexico about the drug deaths, cartels and daily violence in the violence-torn city for television, magazines and newspapers in the U.S., Mexico and Europe.
“We are journalists and we are women and if you have the power, you need to start reporting,” Torrea said. “Get people to think that if they consume marijuana, how many people have to die for that?”
Angela Kocherga, Mexico City bureau cheif for Belo Corp., talked about the urgency of covering “the most violent time in Mexico history.” Access to information in Mexico, where the press is censored, is difficult. “People have to look at Facebook and Twitter to see the crimes. ” She added, “There are not a lot of U.S. journalists doing this coverage.”
Monica Ortiz Uribe, a freelance radio reporter said she has a passion to report the underreported stories, particularly the new round of disappearances of young girls from the streets of Juarez. Last week a young woman was taken from a bus and has disappeared, some say as a victim of sex trafficking, and others fear she has been murdered. The stark, desolated city is dangerous because of the safety threats to everyone who lives there, she said.
“There are daily deaths,” she said.
A native of Mexico, Adriana Gomez Lion is a staff reporter at the El Paso Times, where she says her coverage sparks comments from readers that range from congratulatory to incendiary, racist and shocking.
All of these women are committing journalism that is crucial to know not just near the border, but around the globe. Whenever anyone harangues about the death of invetsigative, important journalism and the preponderance of dumbed-down, celebrity muck, I will speak of these women journalists who make sense, not noise.
It was an eye-opener to remind me, and all of us, just what the point is as journalists. Tell the astounding stories the world needs to know. And be courageous enough to do so.