For Ethnic Media Vet, MundoFox Latest Stop On Long Journey

For Ethnic Media Vet, MundoFox Latest Stop On Long Journey

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Jose Luis Sierra grew up in a small village in the Sierra Blanca Mountains of Mexico, where he says there were more pigs than people.

“It sounds idyllic but like the saying, it was a place that, ‘God happens to forget,’” Sierra said.

Life was hard and after finishing elementary school, he left the village to attend a high school further north. At 19, Sierra came to the United States with only a few “nasty words” in English. Like most immigrants, Sierra said he did what he had to in order to survive, working odd jobs and teaching himself English on the side.

Sierra did not have money for a formal education, so he taught himself everything he needed to know through simply being a journalist.

“I spent so many years learning the technique,” Sierra said. “Being a journalist was my school. It’s good to go to school, but it’s also good to go down to the street and talk to real people.”

Sierra, now 56, landed his first job at a public radio station in Southern California. He has held jobs in nearly every aspect of news, in both Spanish-language and mainstream outlets, including his most recent role as a producer at MundoFox.

MundoFox is a one-year-old Spanish-language station jointly owned by Fox International Channels and RCN Television in Colombia. While Sierra was working as a reporter for New America Media, the president of MundoFox asked him to join the MundoFox nightly news team.

“All my colleagues were skeptical,” Sierra said, alluding to the English-language Fox News Channel’s reputation for its rightward tilt. “We were told, ‘You have complete editorial freedom.’ ”

Sierra says as a reporter who has sometimes straddled the line of mainstream and ethnic media, it did not take him long to realize that mainstream media was getting it wrong.

“Sometimes I heard colleagues say, ‘Well I want to write about immigrant issues,’ ” Sierra said. “Immigrants’ issues are the same as local issues or Jewish issues. I mean, it boils down to basics – jobs, education, and health. Deep inside they were the same issues.”

Sierra says at MundoFox they are trying to look beyond stereotypes of immigrants and delve into a message that sets them apart from their Spanish-language competitors.

“We have the vision that not all immigrants are poor and uneducated, living on welfare or drug dealers,” Sierra said. “Every time we have the opportunity to show Latinos that it’s possible and you can be a musician or scientist, we show them.”

Mary Bowerman is an M.A. Journalism student at American University.

As part of New America Media's partnership with American University School of Communication, Prof. Angie Chuang's Race, Ethnic and Community Reporting class has been exploring the reach of ethnic media and publishing their reports on NAM's website.