[OP-ED]: The Young Writers Still Sharpening Their Quills in the AL DÍA’s Shop, 23 Years Later
For over 2 decades, AL DÍA has empowered the young to do one thing: Write their own story, the undocumented story of their own communities. Our Foundation, AL DÍA's non for profit arm, is about to launch a project to bring the experiment to the next level.
I still remember when I hosted the first “Writing and Reporting Workshop,” in a dark basement of a church on Nedro Street, in North Philadelphia, using second-hand MAC Plus computers we were able to purchase really cheap in a shop we found in California.
It could easily be 20 years ago, when AL DÍA was still the one-man, home-based operation we were during the inception stage— those rough days when the founder hesitated almost every day whether he was or not in the wrong line of business.
So it happens we were not, but it took at least another 10 years to find out.
The “Writing and Reporting Workshop,” financially sponsored by PNC Bank, thanks to Mr. Donald L. Haskin, former writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer
"The “Writing and Reporting Workshop,” financially sponsored by PNC Bank, thanks to Mr. Donald L. Haskin, former writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and then Communications Officer for the financial institution, and later thanks to Mr. Charles Fancher, PR man for the 'Inky'— way back in those long-gone years of the 1990s when the Philadelphia Inquirer was the strong operation on Broad street, at the time AL DÍA was struggling to barely survive in the Latino neighborhood of North Philadelphia.
This old memory buried under an intense 20 years of publishing, bubbled up recently when I saw in a Social Media posting a picture of the new, promising faces of young reporters who are now joining this multicultural, multimedia and multilingual news media apprenticeship at AL DÍA Foundation.
When we were crawling in North Philly, these youngster were, too, stumbling— toddlers as they probably were, learning somewhere in a Elementary school playground.
Today, in their mid 20s, they are the strong prospects to become the new writers the city urgently needs to properly document the next chapter of its egregious history.
Not being fully aware, AL DÍA has been training reporters non-stop over the past 2 decades, sending them after "graduation", believe or not, to writing positions from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, in a Coast to Coast generosity some organizations which have benefited from that trained talent should be grateful for.
One, for example, who came from El Paso, Texas (Adriana Arvizo, a graduate from University of Texas) is today over there, in California, serving COMCAST, our largest corporate entity in our hometown.
AL DÍA, 20 years later, is no longer taking graduates from High School, as we were willing to do in the early days, but now from the new classes of graduates coming out from J-schools
AL DÍA, 20 years later, is no longer taking graduates from High School, as we were willing to do in the early days (Geradline Rosado, from Edison High comes to mind), but now from the new classes of graduates coming out from J-schools, with their degrees and all, but with little or no experience to be employable anywhere.
They are, however, good enough for our “AL DÍA’s minor league shop” of the AL DÍA Foundation where we take them that raw and give them the opportunity, not only to gradually sharpen their writing quills, but, more importantly, to muster their confidence with the patience of the masters to make them the new pros our profession urgently requires.
In the middle of this massive reinvention of our news media industry —with lay-offs, retirements, and disruptions of all kinds— this AL DÍA’s ongoing experimentation and mentorship is our modest contribution to our challenged news media institution.
Our Foundation is now taking it on to the next level.
The Knight Foundation and Temple University’s School of Media are some of AL DÍA’s Foundation partners in this effort to enact in Philadelphia what Eric Newton, now chief Innovation officer at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, called “the Teaching Hospital Model of Journalism Education.”
To give the young reporters the 1-year of required practice to be finally ‘licensed’, so to speak, to practice with confidence and skills the profession they went to school for.
From our heart, this is simply the effort to empower young representatives of our new and diverse multicultural communities "to write their own stories."
From our heart, this is simply the effort to continue empowering young representatives of our new and diverse multicultural communities "to write their own stories."
If the Graduates of Medical School are responsible for the health of the human body, the Graduates from the J-School must be viewed, in our opinion, as responsible for the health of our no less important "body politic."
I am confident in this year, 2016, that the need to actively support projects like this will be fully recognized.
When we do, these new generations of multicultural, multimedia and multilingual journalists, of the kind AL DÍA has been quietly preparing for decades, will eventually come more often to replace with good intellectual credentials, not only the many meritorious professionals nearing the end of the careers in legacy news organizations, but also come forward to boldly occupy, as entrepreneurial journalists and new media leaders, the ample space now wide open for technology-based news media experimentation.