Spanish language news is an area of new opportunity

Professor Pablo Baler reviews the QueOndas.org site with his student Edi Sosa.

Modern Languages Professor Pablo Baler (right) reviews content on the QueOndas.org site, a Spanish-language sister site to the University Time's CoolStateLA.com, with one of his reporters and students, Edi Sosa.

With notebooks, video and digital cameras in hand, some 15 Cal State L.A. students scoured the streets of Los Angeles this spring, seeking out stories, interviews and leads. The question they posed was simple: “What’s up?”—or rather “¿Que ondas?”

The students, enrolled in Modern Languages Professor Pablo Baler’s Spanish journalism practicum, represent the first venture by the University to train and prepare aspiring journalists for the growing field of Spanish-language media.  In fact, it’s Baler’s ultimate goal for the University to be one of the first—if not the first—institutions to develop an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree program in Spanish journalism.

“When you listen to the radio, watch TV or read the newspaper, you notice that more training in the language is needed,” explained Baler, who is also a fiction writer and journalist, reporting in the past for newspapers, television and radio shows in the states and his native Argentina.

“To be able to combine elements—the writing and reporting training of a journalist and the language—to produce real Spanish language journalists would provide our students with a remarkable advantage,” he said.

And that advantage could reasonably translate into more jobs for Cal State L.A. graduates interested in a field that has seen exponential growth in recent years, despite drastic cuts and struggles in the English-language media market. For instance, in 2009, Spanish-language cable television led all media sectors in advertising growth, expanding its base by more than 32 percent, while the U.S. advertising market experienced a 9 percent decline. Similarly, during the same period that English-language newspapers experienced a more than 10 percent drop in circulation, the combined circulation of Spanish-language newspapers rose to more than 2 million readers.

“This is the very beginning of something that could be so much bigger,” Baler said, noting that there is a real interest from students. In his first two quarters of the Spanish journalism program, Baler said he was impressed by the number who enrolled and by their dedication to mastering the material. During the winter quarter, Baler’s students covered journalism news writing fundamentals, and in the spring they went into the community to put their skills and knowledge to work.

“It was actually my favorite class,” said undergraduate Laura Cortez. “(Reporting) helps me to keep up on current events because I have to know what’s going on to decide what to write about or what’s important.”

The students’ weekly assignments, and written and videotaped field reports were uploaded and distributed on the newly launched Spanish-language site QueOndas.org. The site, developed by Baler and his students with the help of Communications Professor Jon Beaupre, is run as a sister site to the University Time’s online presence at CoolStateLA.com. Although a Spanish journalism course is not offered this summer, he said, the site is being maintained and updated by student volunteers who continue to file news reports and features.

“I just love writing,” says student Heriberto Alejandro Orea, who has reported on cultural events and happenings this summer. “I want to be a professional writer, to write in different formats—and this is one of them.”

A fellow student, Edi Sosa, who has a keen interest in building a career in Spanish media, added that taking Baler’s classes and writing for QueOndas.org is helping to put him within reach of his goal. “This leaves a door open for me for future opportunities; I will be ready to walk in,” Sosa said.

For more on the students’ work, visit QueOndas.org.