According to the United States Census Bureau, Latinos accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth in recent years, with the U.S. Latino population expanding from 50.5 million in 2010 to 62.1 million in 2020. More Latinos should mean more news reporting for and about Latinos, of course. But is the next generation of U.S. journalists ready to cover a growing population that’s largely bilingual?
San Francisco State University is taking steps to ensure that the answer is yes. The University has announced the launch of a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Bilingual Journalism. It’s not just new to San Francisco State: No other public university in the U.S. offers a similar degree. (Benedictine University, private college in Illinois, offers a Bilingual Journalism B.A.) SF State students will be able to major in Bilingual Journalism as of fall 2022.
The program won’t just emphasize the ability to write and produce news stories and media pieces in both English and Spanish. It will also immerse students in Latino and Hispanic history and culture.
“It’s very interdisciplinary,” said Professor of Journalism Cristina Azocar, who co-created the program with Assistant Professor of Journalism Ana Lourdes Cárdenas. “In addition to core courses in Journalism, Spanish and BECA [Broadcast and Communication Arts], students take a block of classes from Latina/Latino Studies and/or International Relations that give them an understanding of the cultures they’ll be covering.”
That won’t just make graduates better job candidates for media outlets looking to serve a growing demographic. It’ll improve the accuracy and depth of the reporting those outlets produce.
“When we talk about Latinos, we are not talking about just Spanish all the time. We are thinking of Latinos who speak Spanish and English. Who are bilingual. And this huge group is not well represented in the mainstream media,” said Cárdenas, who has worked as a bilingual journalist for CNN, Dallas Morning News and El Paso Times. “So one of the goals of the program is to bring issues of the Latino community to the mainstream media by increasing representation in the mainstream media.”
“A lot of times, Latinos are talked about but not understood when they’re covered in the news,” said Professor and Chair of Latina/Latino Studies Katynka Martinez. “The courses that we in our department are offering provide that kind of understanding. For example, students can take courses on the history of Latinos in the United States [or] on race, crime and justice as it applies to Latinos.”
Bilingual Journalism majors will also get hands-on reporting experience thanks to a collaboration with the San Francisco newspaper El Tecolote, which has a longstanding connection to the University. Alexis Terrazas, editor-in-chief of the bilingual, biweekly San Francisco newspaper — and an SF State Journalism alumnus — says he’s looking forward to working with student journalists through the program.
“With this Bilingual Journalism degree you’re able to connect and share and amplify the stories of communities that perhaps won’t get amplified in any other outlet,” he said. “To be able to have a [bilingual] reporter be there and connect with interviews in that person’s language and not just do that but write the story in their language is incredibly important. It addresses that these people feel really heard.”
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