Most students do their homework and write their papers in hopes of receiving a good grade, and then move on to their next assignment. But for students enrolled in the El Independiente class, assignments serve a much bigger purpose.
El Independiente is a student-produced magazine out of the University of Arizona's School of Journalism. Its stories focus mainly on the city of South Tucson but also touch on the larger Latino community of Tucson. The students work as an editorial staff to create a print and online magazine for a community of 7,500 that is about 85 percent Hispanic.
The magazine, which started out as a monthly newspaper, was founded in 1976 by professor emerita Jacqueline Sharkey. For many years, the paper was the only bilingual publication in the country produced on a regular basis by journalism students to serve a real community. Sharkey's intent was to present in-depth public affairs and investigative reporting on political, economic and social issues affecting residents of South Tucson.
"It's an often-overlooked segment of our population, so the point of the magazine is to provide news to that community and provide news about that community," said Maggy Zanger, journalism professor and adviser to the publication. "And of course it's a pedagogical tool to teach journalism students not only what it takes to report and write quality stories, but it's about a specific community, which is something they don't often get in their other classes."
Now, 40 years later, the magazine serves as a platform for long-form features and to showcase photography.
Emily Ellis, a graduate student in the journalism program, said working on the publication allowed her to explore a variety of stories that could be both fun and serious.
"It's the kind of magazine that gives you the opportunity to be a little bit creative as a reporter, which is nice," Ellis said. "We're not just kind of turning out news really quickly but (we) really get to craft and work on the story."
Zanger, who was a news editor for El Independiente when she was a graduate student at the UA, helps the students get acquainted with the South Tucson community, which is an area of about 1.2 square miles and contains much of what a big city has — including a mayor, council members, city manager, police and fire departments, and small businesses.
El Independiente also serves as a teaching tool, giving students a taste of what it's like to write for a publication that will be printed and distributed.
Senior Christina Duran appreciated the opportunity to work on stories that were actually going to be published.
"This gave us an opportunity to really be a part of something that people would appreciate," Duran said. "Because the publication has been servicing the area of South Tucson for so long, there's a weight that you don't get with other classes. There's a population that is dependent on the content that you produce for El Indy."
In telling the stories of a multicultural community, the publication supports the UA's long-standing commitment to diversity. It also serves the bilingual target audience of South Tucson by publishing those stories in English and Spanish with help from the UA's Spanish Translation and Interpretation Program.
The staff of students is fully involved in the entire process, from story idea to design to print to distribution, which provides the full range of experience of a typical journalism career.
Zanger said that even if the students do not go on to become reporters, the skills they are taught can transfer to other fields.
"Even if they don't go into journalism, they learn the importance of working cooperatively, respecting both the population that they're covering and the colleagues that they're working with," Zanger said. "I don't think there's anything better."
The latest edition of the magazine will be distributed in and around South Tucson starting Dec. 13. Stories can also be viewed online at elindenews.com.
Story by Amy Williams, University Comunications, 12/12/16
Original story here