Meet the Fellow: Perla Arellano

Over the last week, I’ve been extremely grateful to learn from Perla Arellano about her life and family, her upcoming reporting plans (working as a foreign correspondent in Mexico), her apartment moving skills (all her belongings recently fit in the back of a small van), and how to sneak out of a chokehold by hitting that pressure point just right. On the short plane ride between Mexico City and Guadalajara, I had the opportunity to learn from Perla about her work with the newspaper Ahora Sí, a Spanish-language community newspaper in Austin, Texas, and the broader landscape of Spanish-language media in the United States. — Laura Gottesdiener, Fall 2018 Guatemala Reporting Fellow

PERLA ARELLANO: I’m a community journalist in Austin, Texas, so I write for Spanish speakers and immigrant communities. When I’m out reporting I have to stay a while, not just to get the story I’m currently covering, but to continue talking to them about other subjects around the topic.

In my work, it’s not just big-picture stories, which happens a lot in English media, even regional papers. But with Spanish-language media in the United States that focuses on the community of that city, the stories really have to be specific.

For example, when you’re out covering an event that has to do with education, you don’t just say: “there were 500 people who showed up to this event,” because what does a mom or a dad or a student care that there were 500 people? What they care about are the resources so they too can get an education. So for us it’s about the information, it’s really about what the community wants to hear.

It’s not just hard breaking news, which I also do, but it’s also notes that are useful to our audience. For example, after [Hurricane Maria in] Puerto Rico happened, this one lady in central Texas sent me a press release. She was Puerto Rican herself, and she was like: “I’ll send you the press release so people will know how to help.”

So it’s not just about what’s happening in the city—or documenting what’s happening in the places our community is originally from—but it’s also about we can help and how we can get help.

While I was in college, it was all about how you have to be unbiased, or you have to be objective. But in a way that takes away who your audience really is. At least for Spanish-language media, we know who our audience is, and we know how to write their stories. So i think with local Spanish language media, there really is a purpose. It’s asking: how do we help this community? How do we give resources?

I do think local Spanish-language media in the United States, I think it has to evolve to incorporate more political news, education, health news, so it’s not so heavily focused on immigration.