PERIODISMO @ UTV
Journalism is an integral part of Under the Volcano’s three-week January residency. Beginning with cultural journalism under the guidance of Jonathan Levi, the program turned its focus to investigative journalism as the need to expose injustice and misinformation on both sides of the border became increasingly urgent.
"En tiempos oscuros para el mundo, Under the Volcano fue oasis y refugio para mí y mis letras. Ahora me siento parte de una verdadera comunidad de escritura con integrantes de todo el mundo."
Karla María Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
"I got my first Mexico dateline! I couldn't have done this reporting if not for the help and encouragement of my colleagues at UTV. It doesn't get much better than that."
Gabriel Sandoval, Queens, NY
"As an independent journalist working on a labyrinthine project, I received invaluable guidance from Alfredo and Angela when I was unsure about the roads that lay ahead."
Rebecca George, Brooklyn, NY
Our journalism program is unique in several ways:
- early to mid-career journalists live and work alongside novelists, poets and writers of literary non-fiction, sharing meals, ideas and work-in-progress;
- participants brainstorm, source and develop a full investigative piece that takes their voice (and byline) to the next level;
- while sessions are taught in English, the journalism master class is bilingual and open to working reporters in either Spanish or English;
- one-on-one mentoring is provided in each writer’s native language;
- full and partial financial support is available to qualified applicants (talent + need);
- writers of color especially encouraged to apply.
Faculty member David Barstow, UTV 2020
Who’s Who in Journalism at Under the Volcano
With inaugural leadership from Ginger Thompson, now Chief of Reporters at ProPublica, our journalism master classes have been led by master reporters from the US and Mexico:
- David Barstow, formerly of the New York Times & Pulitzer Prize winner;
- Alejandra Xanic, co-founder of Quinto Elemento, Mexico’s independent incubator for investigative journalism & Pulitzer Prize winner;
- Tyrone Beason, senior reporter at the Los Angeles Times;
- Alicia Quiñones, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of PEN International;
- Alfredo Corchado, Mexico City Bureau Chief of the Dallas Morning News;
- Angela Kocherga, news director and a correspondent for public radio station KTEP and professor of journalism at the University of Texas at el Paso.
Full Fellowships for Investigative Journalists
Thanks to generous support from the family of Robert L. Breen…
the program offers two full fellowships to Mexican journalists under 45, covering full tuition, accommodation in the village for three weeks, round-trip transportation by land or air and a small stipend.
and from Kristina Andersson…
the Truthteller Fellowship funds a US-based English-language investigative journalist whose work shows a commitment to freedom of expression and human rights. This fellowship offers the same level of support as the Breen fellowship.
BLACK WRITERS MATTER FUND
This fund was established to ensure greater participation and visibility of Black writers as we work to deepen our response to systemic racism. Support up to full tuition is available for Black writers who are accepted into any of our master classes.
In conversation with…
KARLA MARIA GUTIERREZ
Robert L. Breen Journalism Fellow, UTV 2022
Based in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Karla María covers migration, human trafficking, gender issues and freedom of expression in print and online.
Director, Knight Science Writing Program, MIT
Guest presenter, UTV 2021
Acclaimed science journalist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and co-editor of A Field Guide for Science Writers.
THE ROBERT L. BREEN DISTINGUISHED
JOURNALIST SPEAKERS SERIES
Established with a generous gift from Mark and Sue Real, this series brings seasoned reporters from Mexico and the United States to Under the Volcano to share their expertise with the journalism master class, the general public and other interested program participants.
TELLING the STORY
National Public Radio’s correspondent for Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.
Prize-winning freelance journalist, most recently recipient of the 2020 Cabot Prize from Columbia Journalism School, conversing with Angela Kocherga, news director and correspondent for public radio station KTEP, El Paso.
CK: You have to have a narrative that keeps the momentum of the story going. There does need to be a beginning, an inflection point, and an ending. There’s chronological narrative, which is easy storytelling for radio. Or sometimes there’s the immediacy of the news to bring you there.
AK: Some stories tell themselves. Don’t feel too locked into the idea that you have to tell a story in chronological order. If you were going to tell this story to a friend, how would you tell it? There’s kind of a natural rhythm. That’s the human way of telling it; rather than sitting down and strategizing.
CK: Yes, if you’re stuck on what narrative to use, just put it aside and go tell a friend. The reason you guys want to be reporters is because you love telling stories; don’t ever forget that. And remember how you tell your friend the story; you’ll have to give them context first, and pick the best parts. And you can tell when they’re getting bored! Listen to yourself tell the story.
INTERVIEWING & TRAUMA
Co-Founder, Quinto Elemento Lab, Mexico City.
Award-winning investigative journalist based in Mexico. Author of Cross Fire: Victims Trapped in the War on Drugs.
If an interview brings up a lot of pain, just as with psychosocial therapy, we suggest that towards the end you ask, “What do you think can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” People come up with all sorts of recipes for how things can change. This gets very interesting, because your piece becomes about what’s possible and not just about something terrible or tragic. Then if you ask, “How did you handle it?” they tell you all sorts of things: they’re part of an organization, or working with other mothers, demanding justice. Their whole way of speaking changes. Ending an interview on possibility and not with the moment of trauma, changes the energy in a way that’s important for them, for you, and for your piece. So instead of seeing them or presenting them as victims—for example, the women of the Creel massacre who stopped a train in the Sierra Tarahumara and took to the streets with coffins and carried a petition to the governor—it’s important to make their activism part of the story. It’s also important for your narrative, especially for the kind of energy you end with.
REPORTING FROM THE GROUND UP
Independent reporter covering Mexico, Latin America and beyond for over three decades.
Frequent contributor to he Wall Street Journal. Nominee for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for his articles on the cholera epidemic in Peru and Mexico.
What I try to do is get right on the ground and talk to people, learn about their experiences, and try to find out what their motivations are. I try to write the story from the ground up. Too often with journalists, the writing comes off as if you’re looking into people’s lives and trying to describe their reality from the outside. But the fact is you’re still imposing your reality on their lives, when it should be the other way around. But this can only come from listening and listening and listening. Be willing to change your tack and your opinions when you learn something else.
THE CHANGING FACE OF JOURNALISM
Co-Founder, Quinto Elemento Lab, Mexico City.
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting with David Barstow for their New York Times exposé of Walmart’s corrupt entry into Mexico.
I see two interesting things going on. One is solutions journalism—the idea to be more of a service to the public. The other is that we’re now collaborating. In traditional media we’re taught to be competitive and jealous with our tips. But now, because of organizations like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism or the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Protect (OCCRP) in Romania, and other initiatives around the world, we’re talking about how to help one another become better journalists—how to tackle common problems, conduct transnational investigations or do co-productions. I think that’s a major change. It’s changing the face of journalism. And that’s coming from independent initiatives, from outside [mainstream] media.
THE WORK IS WHAT MATTERS
Independent journalist based between Mexico City and Arkansas.
Author of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona Press, 2015)
I try not to focus on my impact, I try to focus on the work. I think about the process of what I need to do, and my commitment to the people I’m working with. I need to know that it is good work before I send it out. I need to feel in my bones that it is good work. I’ve done work that I’ve believed is super important, but some people read it, some people don’t. I always hope that my work is well received, but I don’t think about the reception, I focus on the work itself. Do I believe I’m doing committed work? Do the people I’m working with trust me and respect me? That’s what I focus on. The rest you have less control over.
TOOLS of TRANSPARENCY
Mexico-based investigative reporter with a focus on criminal justice and organized crime.
A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and more.
I’m going to start by saying something that might surprise most of you: access to public records in Mexico is infinitely better than in the United States. In Mexico, there is a clearing house for public records with an online portal, where you can choose if you want to receive your information from a particular state or the federal government. Once you fire off your request, on the other side there’s an office in every state and every public institution that receives these requests and asks the specified institution for the information you need. If they reject your request or claim it’s too much work, you can file an appeal. There is a bank of lawyers waiting to fight on your behalf and file a public appeal. If the institution rejects it again, it goes to judges in a court, and a panel of judges will decide. There are times you will face rejection for your requests, but when you don’t, it’s amazing!
RECENT WORK BY OUR JOURNALISM ALUMNI
by Gabriel Sandoval (UTV 2022), in The City
Remittances from workers to their families in Mexico are shattering records as family members send money and even donated food cans to keep their relatives afloat.
by Estefanía Camacho (UTV 2022), in Nexos
“¿Me escuchan? Buenas noches a toda la Ciudad de México. Estamos el gremio periodístico de Tijuana manifestándonos en este momento frente a las instalaciones de la Fiscalía General de la República.”
by Sofía Aguilar (UTV 2022), in Latinamedia
Noche de Fuego (Prayers for the Stolen) is just one of the potential nominees in the Best International Film category at the Oscars this year but it truly is a film like no other… I’m beyond convinced that it deserves to win.