Winner of CCNMA’s 15th Ruben Salazar Awards

CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California today announced the winner of its 15th Ruben Salazar Journalism Awards recognizing work published or broadcast in California that exemplifies journalistic excellence while contributing to a better understanding of Latinos.

Leslie Berestein RojasLeslie Berestein Rojas, Immigration and Emerging Communities Reporter for 89.3 KPCC in Pasadena, has won in the radio category for her story “DNA From LA Area Immigrants Could Solve Painful Mysteries From Guatemala’s Civil War.”  The story focuses on a project that uses DNA to identify the bodies of some of Guatemala’s roughly 45,000 wartime desaparecidos.

The judges said: “The writing is excellent as a piece of prose and well done on radio. She presented a story vivid with color and yet managed to tuck the Guatemalan tragedy neatly into the reader’s and listener’s mind without having to unleash that 800-pound gorilla.”

There were no winners this year in the other categories.

Judging was done by retired veteran journalists in the Los Angeles area.

The awards are named after the late Ruben Salazar, who at the time of his death in 1970 was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and news director of Spanish-language television station KMEX in Los Angeles.

The awards will be formally presented at CCNMA’s 34th Scholarship Banquet on May 30, 2014, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The honorees that night will be Dawn Garcia of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford; Phillip Rodriguez, producer of the film “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle”: Tony Valdez of Fox11 in Los Angeles; and Southern California Public Radio 89.3 KPCC in Pasadena.

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#CincodeFallo shows we still got a long way to go

MSNBC’s attempt at humor on Cinco de Mayo shows that this country still has a long way to go regarding race relations.

A segment supposedly highlighting a “Mexican Heritage Celebration” featured MSNBC’s Way Too Early host Thomas Roberts telling viewers the history of the holiday. The explanation is cut short of any depth when an Anglo reporter wearing a sombrero staggers on and off screen as he swigs from a tequila bottle while shaking a maraca.

“It’s also an excuse to drink tequila on a Monday morning at work for Louis,” says host Roberts, adding “you have to drink the whole thing and eat the worm.”

They can’t even get their drinks straight: Mescal has a worm in it, not tequila.

This incident comes on the heels of the Donald Sterling fiasco, in which the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is heard making racist remarks regarding blacks in a recording.

In many ways the MSNBC incident is worse. This is a news organization that is supposed to deliver unbiased news to the public. It is supposed to be accurate in its depiction of people and issues. It is supposed to have the public’s trust.

Instead, it used Cinco de Mayo as an opportunity to poke fun by using props that play to negative stereotypes. Did MSNBC learn nothing from Buzzfeed’s 20 do’s and don’ts of Cinco de Mayo?

Still, the uproar over the MSNBC incident is nowhere near the uproar over Sterling.

This incident demonstrates the need for more diverse newsrooms. The recent recession has been an excuse for many newsrooms to cast aside diversity efforts. The percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms remains stagnant or has dropped, while the percentage of people of color in the country continues to grow.

Many people, especially in those areas of the country that don’t have diverse populations, learn about other cultures through what they see in the media. The issue is exasperated by the fact that much of the mainstream media, especially national media, only cover Latinos on ethnic holiday celebrations and as criminals or “illegal immigrants.”

What makes the incident even scarier is that MSNBC’s parent company, Comcast, wants to take over Time Warner Cable, and capture an even bigger piece of the media pie — and, with that, an even bigger impact on how viewers see Latinos.

MSNBC officials have apologized for the insensitive and racist segment, but CCNMA stands with NAHJ in calling for the people at MSNBC responsible for the segment to be disciplined.

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Journalists less likely to be racial or ethnic minorities

Indiana University has published a report that looks at the “pulse of U.S. journalism.”

Among the findings were these:

  1. Most see journalism going in ‘wrong direction’
  2. Journalists are getting older
  3. Slight increase in the number of female journalists
  4. Slight decrease in the number of minority journalists

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Buy your 2014 CCNMA Banquet tickets today

The annual CCNMA Scholarship Banquet is the primary source of funding for the scholarships awarded each year to Latino students interested in pursuing careers in journalism.

This year’s dinner, the 34th CCNMA scholarship Banquet, will be held Friday May 30, 2014, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. A no-host cocktail reception and silent auction will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The dinner and program begins at 7 p.m.

This year’s scholarship recipients also will be announced at the dinner, as will be the winners of the 15th Ruben Salazar Journalism Awards.

Among past honorees are Dr. Tomas Rivera of UC Riverside, Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist Paul Gonzalez, the McClatchy Newspaper Group, Southern California Edison, Gerald Sass of The Freedom Forum, Jaime Jarrin of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, the Los Angeles Times, Maria Elena Salinas of Univision and Arnold Kleiner, general manager of KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Past sponsors of the dinner have included the Los Angeles Times, KABC-TV, KNBC-TV, KCBS-TV, KTTV, KTLA-TV, KCAL-TV, Univision, Telemundo, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, The Orange County Register, La Opinión and Anheuser-Busch/InBev.

Dinner tickets are $200 each, but members may purchase up to two tickets at half-price. Tables of ten are $2,000. Sponsorship package range from $3,000 to $20,000.

For tickets, please use the PayPal form below. If you prefer, you can contact the CCNMA office at (424) 229-9482 or send a message to

Since 1976, more than $800,000 has been awarded to nearly 800 students pursuing careers in journalism. The banquet began in 1981.

CCNMA Banquet

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CCNMA scholarship gave LA Times’ Hector Becerra confidence to pursue journalism


I was the Editor-in-Chief of Cal State Los Angeles’ University Times newspaper when I won my first major journalism scholarship. It was a Ruben Salazar award from CCNMA.

The scholarship was significant for a variety reasons, not the least of which was that I had stumbled into working at the college newspaper and I wasn’t completely sure what profession I would pursue.

When I got the CCNMA scholarship, it validated that journalism was my future.

It was a confidence boost, and the next year, I landed my first professional internship at The Tennessean, in Nashville. Soon after, I got an internship at the Los Angeles Times, where I was eventually hired.

I was fortunate to win a few more journalism scholarships after my CCNMA award, but it was the latter that first signaled to me that I had found my calling.

It’s essential that student journalists apply both for scholarships and internships. One validates your good work, and any professional journalist who tells you that it is not important is lying. The other gives you the hands-on experience that you need as a reporter, whether in print, TV, radio, digital or something in between.

Winning a CCNMA scholarship was like crossing an important threshold for me. It was a beginning.

Hector Becerra, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times, received a CCNMA Ruben Salazar scholarship in 1996.

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