Teresa Puente, 44, is currently an assistant visiting professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Chicago is where she calls home as a full-time journalism faculty member at Columbia College.
In addition to teaching, Puente founded Latina-Voices.com in 2008, an opportunity for Latina women to have their voices heard. Puente wrote extensively about the Latino community and immigration issues for daily newspapers in California, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. She currently writes about Latinos and immigration on her own blog, Chicanísma, which is published through Chicago Now, a Tribune Co. blog site. Puente believes it is important to include diversity in the classroom, and attempts to do so in classes she teaches like multimedia feature writing, ethnic media and travel writing. Her email address us: tpuente(at)colum.edu.
Puente was interviewed by Betsy Bates, 21, a junior at the University of Iowa who is a Journalism and Sociology major.
Betsy Bates: Why did you become involved in journalism?
Teresa Puente: I started in high school on the yearbook.
BB: How do you define journalism today?
TP: This is a very broad question. A few words come to mind – digital, entrepreneurial and essential.
BB: How has technology influenced or affected your career?
TP: I was a print reporter only. Now I am a multimedia journalist.
BB: How will technology affect the future of journalism?
TP: It’s essential. Newspapers will survive but more and more people will get their news online and via mobile devices, iPads and portable devices.
BB: What one word would you use to describe the status of women in journalism today?
TP: Underrepresented, especially women of color.
BB: What role(s) will women have in the future of journalism?
TP: Women are part of the media. Some are in key positions of power but we need more women in influential positions.
BB: How do you view equality today? (Status of women and minorities)
TP: We still have a long way to go especially for women of color. Few are editors, columnists or news directors. We are in the door but we need to have more influence over decision-making.
BB: Which of your classes do you enjoy teaching the most, and why?
TP: I can’t pick one. Right now I’m teaching Social Media Skills for Journalists and Covering Immigration. I value the importance of sharing news, finding sources and stories and connecting with others via social media. Immigration is an important topic that I teach about and have covered for almost 20 years.
BB: Through Latina-Voices.com you’ve given minority women the opportunity to have their voices heard. Was this something you initiated or were women looking for an outlet and asked you to do something?
TP: It was my idea to create this site. I’m working on building the community of writers and welcome anyone who wants to write issues that impact Latina women.
BB: What are the advantages of being a minority woman at a newspaper and covering a beat that hits close to home?
TP: I don’t know that it is always an advantage. Sometimes you are pigeonholed.
But I view it as my responsibility to cover issues such as immigration and write about the Latino community in general. I strive to give voice to the voiceless.
BB: Have you encountered any discrimination because of your gender of race in the professional newsroom? If so, what were they? If not, have you seen others discriminated?
TP: Yes, in the newsroom. I have been confused with other dark-skinned women. I have been denied certain assignments or promotions. There is this idea that the media is liberal. But I have at times found cultural ignorance in media managers. They often relate to themes they can identify with and not with working class, ethnic or immigrant communities. This is not true of all people in the media but I have encountered it often enough.
BB: If you could write a piece about anything, what would it be and why?
TP: I’m hoping to do stories in the near future on global immigration trends.
BB: Where do you plan on going with your career? Is there anything you would still like to try?
TP: I’m planning to do more radio work. I also would love to make a documentary.
This is part of a series of profiles of JAWS members by University of Iowa students. For a complete listing, see this page.