Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category
01 Sep

Video: Horizontal Loyalty Ignite talk at Spark Camp

Comments off

For those interested, here is video of my Ignite talk on Horizontal Loyalty. You can see my slides here.

22 Aug

My new serenity prayer

Comments off

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to p0wn the things I can. And the wisdom to get certain people out of the way, partner with others and to know the difference.

This is my new serenity prayer for me and other Web journos that need courage to go respectfully rogue.

It’s frustrating –perhaps more often than not — but because we believe in what we do, we have to struggle and fight through it.

I wish it were different. But it’s not. Not even in 2012. But we are all we got.

No one said that “be the change you want to see” would be easy.

Categories: Personal, Rant Tags:
17 Aug

My response to The Hartford Courant’s “Spanish-language strategy” with Google Translate

Como una cortesía para The Courant, por demostrando ignorancia y falta de respeto a su propia comunidad, déjeme decir: lo cagaron.

If you were to translate this using Google Translate, guess what… it would be wrong. Anyone who is bilingual wouldn’t be surprised. But they would be surprised in hearing that a news organization would solely depend on using this primitive service as their “Spanish-language strategy.”

Sadly, this isn’t a joke: Hartford Courant’s Spanish site is Google Translate by Poynter

But, instead of just being disgusted or insulted by The Courant’s “strategy,” let me offer some tips for an actual strategy:

1. Hire a diverse staff, and in this case, a Spanish speaker. Listen to them. Anyone in their right mind would have told you this was a bad idea.

2. I know resources are tight, as an affordable alternative to hiring more staff, partner up with the local Spanish-language news organizations. Believe me, they are there. And they’d love to help you inform the community. (Hey Courant, have to tried working with Connecticut’s Latino News Source:

3. No Spanish-language news organization in your town? Look again. Think radio, newsletters or neighboring towns. Any of these will be better than an automated site.

4. Still confused? Reach out to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to find local members in your area, including Spanish-language news organizations.

5. But, let’s say there are no Spanish-language news outlets. Partner up with the largest, Spanish-language local business. They know their community and are fully aware of the information network that is functioning now.

Lastly, apologize to the fastest growing demographic in your community for treating them with such little respect. It’s not a smart business move to belittle them, especially if you want to tap into their growing influence.

I preach experimentation, risk taking and embracing failure. You experimented and took a risk… and you failed. Oh, did you fail.

Learn from your big mistake and start genuinely engaging with your own diverse community.

Do you have any tips for The Courant or any other news organization trying to serve its Latino community? Please share them in the comments.


Oh, and if you are wondering, here’s how I’d translate my statement:

As a courtesy to The Courant, for displaying its ignorance and lack of respect to its own community, let me say: you fucked up.

07 Mar

Saul Williams’ Pedagogue Of Young Gods and Horizontal Loyalty

Comments off

I’m a big fan of the poet, musician, artist Saul Williams. His albums are littered with powerful beats and brilliant lyrics.

For inspiration and motivation, I routinely listen to his albums… but today, while hearing his 2007/2008 album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation Of Niggy Tardust on Spotify, I really heard the bonus song Pedagogue Of Young Gods.

I don’t have this song with my version of the album (yet), but this song is currently my anthem for Horizontal Loyalty.

Here are the lyrics… study them and see if they effect you as they have me.

Pedagogue Of Young Gods Lyrics

Are you afraid to have someone believe in you?
Can you commit to your ideals?
Even if you think nothing of it,
are you willing to allow others to think the world of it,
and of you?
Pedagogue of Young Gods.

All slavery ever does is free you.
All anyone ever does is an example.
All power is just collective energy.
To abuse the privilege is to sell your soul
and that is to rent with the illusion of owning.
We are the landlords.
If you misunderstand us,
you’re dead and deserve your demise

Your dominion is your overthrow.
The controllers are controlled.
Spread the word,
it will save you
and depends on you to be understood.
There is no school bell, only nursery.
Our heroes reward us with stars,
ever-still, ever-moving.
We sing to ourselves in our cars.
Music is our sanctuary.
Anywhere you put it it’s ours.
Our living voice,
our living testament.
We dream aloud,
we scream and shout.
Our courage will defeat them.
Our struggle will unite us.

Our wisdom is ourselves,
our resources our own,
our blood ocean,
our skin oil.
We are mountain and waterfall,
they cannot contain us.
Their prisons will not restrain us,
their customs will not un-name us.
We are what they know in their hearts,
you guessed it,
you knew that,
you felt it,
you tried to doubt it,
denied it,
but you knew it,
ain’t nobody had to tell you.
We had them from the start.
A world apart, a world within,
ancient and luminous.
The before before and the hereafter.
We are the essence of laughter.
The comforting prayer
and the gatekeepers
and the street-sweepers.
A mountain of ports outside of a city of dreams.
A bird that prays, yet offers its wingspan to the wind.
Things are not as they seem.
We hover above while giving the appearance of scurrying below.
All is as it should be.
We are more than we know.
More than we hoped and dreamed,
a generation of generators,
a power source and supply.
The better we learn to live,
the better we learn to die.
Old as anything,
old as everything,
we are participants in a ritual
older than our collective memory,
a marriage of heart and mind,
secular and divine.

All is as it should be.
Slavery carefully bred us.
No child of Greece or Rome can behead us.
We are ahead of our time.
Slavery was simply a state of mind.
Hip-hop reminded us of confidence.
Overcoming now is simply common sense.
You deserve the ice and the riches of Solomon.
But don’t let warped values turn you into hollow men.
Education is the only thing given that cannot be taken.
Learn to think for yourself,
analyze the forsaken.
Pimp your fears,
surrender to love,

dance all night when you need to.
Play this song for a thug,
let ’em know ain’t no judgment.
We all hustle and grind,
any system against us is against the divine.

But there’s no sense of glory in repenting,
and repeating,
their mistakes.
You have a greater calling.
Answering it is all it takes.
Take a second to hear this
and go back about your day.

Know that laws don’t govern us,
we’re governed by what we say.
What we think, why we think it, how we handle.
Place no blame, point no fingers, take your aim.

Shoot to kill. The bullshit.

Now hear the powerful song:

23 Dec

Introducing Forbes to Media Diversity

You can see more diverse journalists of color — of all ages — in this spreadsheet: You can read about how this came about here: Crowdsourcing ‘web journalism rockstars of color’

18 Jul

Meme and me: Barack, Hillary and the Women’s World Cup Finals

So, there really is no need to write this… but in the back of my head… there’s a tinge of worry.

Today, after reading some comments on Google+ about expecting the Internet to merge this historic photo of the deadly Osama mission and this just-released photo of the first family watching the Women’s World Cup Finals, I couldn’t help myself and mashed together within 10 minutes.

No harm was done… it’s just another obvious Internet meme. But I thought… perhaps over thought… what if some jackass attacks me and says this threatens my journalistic credibility. What if they say that if I “fabricated” this, could I have lied elsewhere?

It’s unreasonable, no? Actually… not really.

It seems like people are often looking for ways to undermine someone’s credibility. Taking quotes out of context, re-editing video, or Photoshoping an image is not uncommon.

But there is a significant difference.

One is to lie and the other… is just Internet humor. Perhaps no different from adding a poorly written caption atop a cute cat photo.

But still… while I shared it on Google+ — and fully knowing that by posting it online it would be shared – it felt weird to see someone share it. I got worried.

What if…

In journalism, it takes years and years of hard work to build up your credibility… and sometimes one mistake to wipe it all away.

That’s the time we live in at the moment. Not just for journalists, but newsmakers and civilians as well.

Maybe that’s why I am writing this… an attempt to say THIS WAS AN INTERNET JOKE, NOT JOURNALISM.

And that’s cool, right? RIGHT?

Tell me it’s cool and that I’m over thinking this.

P.S. The Internet gets it… someone just added Sad Keanu to the photo!

27 Jun

What if we are part of the voiceless community?

NOTE: Republished on Online Journalism Review:

I hate hypocrites… especially when they’re journalists.

I’ve been a bit disappointed with how some journalists have been writing about Jose Antonio Vargas‘ recent announcement that he is an undocumented immigrant. Many are questioning Vargas’ journalistic credibility because he had to hide his immigration status.

Jose Antonio VargasAs if journalists – including columnists and editors – have never lied before or broken any laws. (Just think about your college years.)

Like the communities we cover, newsrooms are filled with sinners and saints… perfectly flawed human beings.

But lies have different degrees, don’t they?

It wasn’t long ago that people had to hide, or lie about, being gay. They had to conceal a part of their true identities to avoid discrimination or to get a job, including one as a reporter.

While they felt forced to hide a part of themselves, something tells me they still made strong journalists and did not lie in their reporting.

If I recall correctly, when the gay marriage issue erupted in San Francisco, The Chronicle pulled a gay photographer off the story because editors assumed a conflict of interest. What Chronicle editors failed to note is that straight people also have opinions about gay marriage that may also pose a conflict of interest.

The bottom line is, as far as I know, Vargas never lied in his stories. And just because he had to hide about being part of a certain community, it doesn’t automatically nullify his journalistic credibility or achievements.

Being a part of a community does not disqualify him as a journalist.

Just like Diane Sawyer, for example, isn’t disqualified as a journalist because she worked in Republican Party politics before, during and after President Nixon’s administration and subsequent resignation. Same as George Stephanopoulos isn’t disqualified after working for President Clinton’s administration.

They are just two of many examples.

What has bothered me the most, really, is how journalists are treating Vargas as “other” … as if his reality is not a common one. As if undocumented immigrants, or illegal aliens or whatever label you use, aren’t part of our communities.

We are all made up of different communities, and these often are the same communities we attempt to cover through our journalism. Some communities we praise, others we tolerate and others go unacknowledged.

I, like many others, believe that a diverse newsroom – comprised of different communities – makes for stronger, more relevant journalism. But the sad reality is that not all communities are seen as equal – or as newsworthy.

Our job is to give voice to the voiceless… but what happens if we are part of the voiceless community?

That’s the position Vargas found himself in. And he, like others from different communities before him, decided to come out and remind people the “other” is really a part of “us.”

About a year ago, I actually wrote a post about this topic, but under advisement from my closest editor I deleted it.

The post was inspired by Harvey Milk‘s powerful message: “You must come out” to give a real face to a community that is under attack. This was around the time of Arizona’s SB1070 bill.

My editor thought my post could be taken out of context and hurt my career.

I don’t know how these words will be taken… and quite frankly, I’ve debated whether or not I should ever publish them… but I hope my editor is not right.

In light of Vargas’ story – one that took more courage to share than my story – I feel that I am obligated to share my experience.

Allow me, however, to frame the reason why I am sharing my story now:

  • I’m not asking for any political action. (Don’t call me an activist.)
  • I’m not trying to ride Vargas’ coattails. (Don’t call me a poser.)

I’m writing this because as journalists we can’t afford to forget that we are part of the “other” … that good journalism is truly inclusive.

I, like everyone else, am part of multiple communities: I am a father, a husband, a renter (former homeowner), college graduate, an educator, a Roman Catholic (but I often disagree with the church) and the son of immigrants from El Salvador.

While my mother entered the country by plane with the right papers, my father entered by crossing the border illegally in the 70s.

He quickly became a U.S. citizen.

But let’s be honest here, the act of an immigrant crossing the border without the right papers in pursuit of a better life often overshadows their accomplishments as legal citizens.

To clarify, I was born a U.S. citizen. But all my success as a person and as a journalist, I owe to my immigrant parents.

My father, like millions of other immigrants, reflects the story of America – whether we want to admit it or not. Coming to this land (by any means necessary) with nothing, working [expletive] hard and making a better life for himself and his family.

For the record, my father graduated at the top of his high school class in El Salvador, which earned him a scholarship to Germany. He worked there, but giving into the request from my mother’s family, he moved to the United States after marrying her.

My father ran several small businesses and was a homeowner for more than 40 years. He lost them in the bad economy, but had relaunched his auto repair shop early last year. He passed away in November and the outpouring of support from the local community was a true testament to his accomplishments. That man helped so many people… I had no idea.

My mother struggled and worked hard in her own immigrant story. She made a small living by cleaning houses and other service jobs, including working at the food court of Cal State University, Northridge. She joined my father as an entrepreneur until they separated.

I can tell you more about their story, but let me just say this: “Their” story is part of “my” story. And “my story” is part of “our” community. And all of that is part of journalism. To shun someone, even a journalist, for owning their story, their community, is bad journalism.

If you invalidate Vargas as a journalist for being an illegal immigrant, you are a journalist in denial thinking that he is not part of your community (the one you are trying to cover).

Again I ask: Our job is to give voice to the voiceless… but what if we are part of the voiceless community?

If you are part of a community that is being attacked or politicized, as a journalist it takes courage to step forward and speak up, not as an activist… but as someone who wants facts to prevail. Not talking points.

I applaud Vargas for his courage. He’s a reminder that the “other” is really within “us.”

10 Feb

Mubarak ‘stepping down’: Dissecting a media echo chamber

NOTE: Republished on Online Journalism Review:

Here is an attempt to break down the timeline of today’s news from my point of view. Please note that this mainly reflects Twitter and my experiences. I’ve used Twitter’s advanced search, which isn’t great, and gotten some crowdsoucing help. Please feel free to contact me to make this more accurate.

P.S. This is my first Storify … be gentle.

06 Dec

Debate over journalism required skills gets heated

Comments off

NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review:

Thanksgiving is traditionally the time distant family members come together over a delicious meal… and, well, fight. Last week a fight (okay, more like a heated debate) broke out over what skills a modern day journalist needs to have.

It began with a post from Mark S. Luckie, The Washington Post‘s National Innovations Editor, founder of and author of The Digital Journalist’s Handbook.

His 5 Myths about digital journalism sparked a flurry of reactions, most notably from Andy Boyle, digital developer with The New York Times Regional Media Group, Anthony DeBarros, senior database editor at USA TODAY and Aron Pilhofer, editor of Interactive News at The New York Times and co-founder of

If you don’t know these names, you should. They are some of the most innovative minds in the industry … and I happen to respectfully disagree with all of them.

Well, sort of.

To be honest, I think there is more of a misunderstanding rather than a disagreement here.

Before I go on, let’s address a question that may have popped into someone’s mind: Who the hell am I to weigh in on this debate?

I’ve been a Web journalist for more than a decade and, prior to coming to USC Annenberg, I was the director of development for where I led a team of engineers and designers. We developed and innovated projects for the site ranging from a taxonomy to geolocation to a custom commenting system to hijacking/hacking the print publishing system to data-driven special projects.

So, allow me to set up the framework from my point of view.

The skills that make up a successful, modern newsroom are as diverse as the communities it tries to cover and serve.

There are some traditional, fundamental skills that are still the unifying foundation, but there is also a new (really, not that new but not yet standard) set of skills each journo needs to have.

And let’s just say it: because our industry has been evolving/changing/etc., there are a lot of unknowns (and fears) about what that set of skills is to be a successful, modern journo.

Of course there is no shortage of opinions, including my own, trying to address those unknowns. But also among them are, well, some opinions spreading hype and bad information.

To be clear, the guys I mentioned above are not the problem.

Not even close.

Who I am referring to (and who I believe Mark was too) are the folks that are telling reporters – all reporters – that they need to stop the craft of writing an engaging story and replace it with the craft of writing innovative code.

They have also said things like photography is dead and copyediting is expendable, but that’s for another post… let’s focus on programming.

Their message essentially is if you don’t master programming skills to create an app or database, you don’t have a future in journalism.

And again, to be clear, the guys I mentioned above do not agree with that statement, at least based on what I’ve seen of their writings and work.

But that hype and bad information I described does exist. It has for years.

I can’t tell you how many times a panicked mid-career journalist or an aspiring student has freaked out asking me for advice on whether or not they need to be a developer/programmer or database engineer or Flash developer (three different jobs that share some similarities).

So cut to the chase Hernandez… what’s your take on the required skills to be a journalist today?

I do not believe you need to master programming to succeed in journalism.

I do believe you need to respect and understand the power of each and every craft, not just programming, but photography, design, texts, etc. that make up journalism. They are not as simple as hitting a button.

I also believe, at the most minimum, EVERY JOURNALIST (whether be it reporter, editor, photographer, etc.) of EVERY BEAT needs to be proactive in spotting opportunities to best use the diverse crafts.

I believe that, in terms of the data-journalism, EVERY REPORTER needs to know the basics of Excel and be able to function inside a database to find the story. But they do not need to build one from scratch.

But the reality is, depending on the size of your shop, you may be required to wear multiple hats that can touch on programming, photography, social media, etc. The good news is that there are tools and communities out there to help you.

NOTE TO PUBLISHER/EDITOR: Please realize that you need engineers/developers in your shop. You probably need twice as many as you current have. Don’t take this post as buzz or get it twisted thinking you shouldn’t hire more. You should. And you should also invest in training your newsroom in a variety of skills ranging from programming to photography to social media.

I agree with DeBarros and do not believe programming replaces the story. Never has, never will. When was the last time you had a driveway moment with a database?

But when was the last time you were able to understand the weight of 251,287 cable dispatches without a database?

Those are made possible because of different, yet equally important, skills. And thankfully, regardless of your answer, we don’t have to choose.

We need these diverse set of skills, of every level, populating our newsrooms. We need them to influence each other. We need them to work together. We need them… to survive and evolve.

We also need to acknowledge that not everyone will be able to do these skills. Some will be better than others. But, guess what, that’s okay.

Because if we are to attempt to serve our communities that are consuming and expecting our news and information in a variety of ways, we need a newsroom full of diverse people bring different experiences, skills, perspectives and ideas to the table.

We can’t afford to get distracted by feuding over something like this. We’ve got too much work to do.

30 Oct

My imaginary monologue with journalism (leadership)

NOTE: This is not a tweet or a Facebook status… I’m not sure who this is for, but it’s something I want to write down and document. So here’s a below-the-radar, stream-of-consciousness post, perhaps written only for me. I decided I need to just own this, and dispense with my reluctance. This isn’t just for me. It’s for “us” trying our best to save and advance journalism.

This morning, I woke up with the monologue I would tell an Executive Editor or Publisher or top decision maker at a news organization if I were ever asked my vision on running a newsroom.

I’d first start by explaining to them that my decision making process, while you may think is tech focused, is driven first and foremost by the love of the community and the complete belief that journalism serves and empowers that community by informing it.

Then I’d share that I’ve obsessively thought about the different fronts of “development” I would embark in if I ran the show… content, tools/technology and revenue… these different ideas in my head, but all in the name of journalism.

I’d naturally get so excited that I would start sketching each one of those categories on a napkin, trying to explain to the person what is in my head.

But then I’d stop… perhaps mid-sentence… put my pen down… look the person in the eye and say:

Look, the biggest obstacle in journalism right now isn’t whether people trust “us” or not. It’s not even the revenue crisis we are all facing and feeling every day.

The biggest obstacle is… you.

[Awkward pause]

Then, if the person hasn’t left the table, I’d say:

I can continue trying to explain these concepts to you, draw my little pictures, employ my weird (often pop-culture drenched) analogies… all to get you closer to understanding these concepts.

Or, you can just admit (and hopefully be okay with) the very strong possibility that you may never really understand.

But, also, realize that it’s not about you… it’s not about you understanding.

That spending time on trying to have you understand, so you can approve, has delayed and hurt us for SO MANY YEARS. We can’t afford that time any more.

Please know that you have a very important role here, but trying to be the visionary when you don’t understand is not that role.

Take that leap of faith by putting your trust in the people who are just as passionate, concerned, obsessed about journalism as you are… trust those “Web people.”

You see, I’d say, that for each category I described, there are amazing Web journalists doing work that is changing our industry, but leadership hasn’t noticed, let alone appreciated it.

In fact, these amazing people are on your staff right now. But, because you don’t understand or approve it, you don’t see it.

These people are getting heart-broken by the missed opportunities and your bad decisions. Don’t buy that vendor’s product, especially if it is a CMS! Stop getting obsessed with the buzzwords you hear at conferences! Stop listening to those hype machine, journo pundits offering bad advice!

Stop it.

Because if you don’t, all I’m doing is drawing on a napkin… is writing a Jerry Maguire style blog post… all we’re doing is just talking. Spending time and energy on you and not on the community.

Stop it. And take that leap… with us.

Categories: Journalism, Personal, Rant Tags: