By Kwani A. Lunis
Norma Catalina Gonzalez is a copy editor and reporter for the Arizona Daily Star.
What was your inspiration to get into journalism?
My dad used to have a political magazine in Mexico. I grew up on the border. He used to take me to political rallies and in middle school he started paying me to translate articles from Spanish to English because he wanted to make his magazine bilingual. My older sister was in high school, I was in middle school, and I saw her join yearbook and I really though it was cool so I decided when I got to high school I would join yearbook as well. I did my freshman year along with a bunch of other stuff that I did in high school and I just fell in love with it. There were other things that I really enjoyed, other stuff that I wanted to do likes for a while I wanted to be a marine biologist, a storm chaser but for some reason journalism was the one thing that stuck that I was good at and enjoyed and I’ve just been doing it ever since
When did you realize you could make [journalism] into a career?
My music teacher in high school actually worked for one of the local newspapers before she became a teacher. She told us there were options out there whether we wanted to work for a big paper or just local journalism. I wasn’t able to go away for college I had to stick around and go to the local university [The University of Texas–Pan American]. A lot of the professors there also had previously worked at a newspaper. So it was just something like, “Hey, if I keep this up I could make this into a career like all of them.”
How do you think being bilingual helps translate into the field of journalism?
It’s tougher in the newsroom but makes it so much easier outside of the newsroom. Besides being bilingual, I was raised with both cultures and it makes it so much easier to connect with people and to be able to get more of those human interest stories and just have people talk to me who wouldn’t otherwise. It’s sort of a blessing that my parents never really cared about teaching us English because they didn’t know English themselves. They figured we would learned English through the American school system so they just focused on teaching us Spanish well.
Within the newsrooms that you’ve been in do you find it hard to fit in at times?
Norma: Sometimes I struggle to fit in, like right now I am the only Spanish-speaking reporter in the sports department. Everyone else is a white, male. We do have one female reporter that will go in from news to sports it’ll just be for investigative pieces or anything that has to do with law. She’ll come in a help but even she’s a white female. While we might relate on parts, we struggle to relate on other parts. I’m just glad to be able to bring in a different set of diversity that isn’t available.
How did you get involved in the APSE?
I actually have a friend that works for one of the other local newspapers. We used to previously work for sister-papers and help each other out and he joined APSE like 2-3 years ago. He would always mention to me but I’d say, “I don’t have the money.” The paper I used to work at wouldn’t have the money to pay for my membership. When the diversity fellowship applications came up he said, “You need to join APSE and you need to apply for this.” I asked my editor, “Do you have the funds to pay for my membership so I can apply for this?” and he was more than willing to provide the money and help me out.
How how the experience with the APSE fellowship been so far?
I really love the level of camaraderie and networking we can do. We can help each other out and we can lean on each other. Whether that’s to help each other out with story ideas or be like, “Hey, I had a rough day let me just vent with you or tell me how you dealt with something similar.”
Where do you see your career and the landscape of journalism being in 5 years?
It’s so hard for me because I never really thought that I would have made it this far just because of my upbringing and so to me I just like I’m just going with the flow. I just want to see how far I can go and don’t really have a set goal. I know growing up people would be like, “Do you want to work for the NY Times. Do you want to work for ESPN?” and I’m like that’d be great if I’m able to but at the same time I also really do enjoy community journalism. I’m fine wherever I go that’s sort of the way my journalism career has been. I just go with the flow and it’s led me to so many great places so far.
[As for the landscape of journalism] I feel like we’re going to continue to be doing more online elements and just sort of trying to transition on how to best produce content and packages that will be made best available to the most people.