By Hannah Brandt
Two months ago, I was sipping a Mexican mocha at Café Corazon when the editor of the newspaper I wrote for tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, how’s it going? I just quit the paper.” I could say I was shocked, but I wasn’t totally surprised. Ernesto [Saavedra] and I are friends, and he had told me about the frustrations he so eloquently described in his final comment from the editor in September. We had discussed these concerns as national and local issues from the time I started writing for the paper a year ago. I had just moved back to Fresno after living in the Bay Area for 10 years. They were problems that, as a White woman, I could never experience myself.
Although I have lived, worked and gone to school in primarily low-income neighborhoods of color throughout my life, I am (obviously) still White. Despite having lived through severe tribulations as an adult, I have still had White privilege every day of my life. I always received the best of the meager resources at the under-resourced schools I attended. Instead of immediately being considered a suspect of wrongdoing in neighborhoods where I stick out like a sore thumb, concerned citizens and law enforcement often ask if I am lost and need help. When you have always been given the benefit of the doubt, you rarely see what a privilege it is. It is expected, relied upon, taken for granted.
For those of us in the progressive community, it is easy to believe we are immune from participating in the racism that is so obvious on the right. We are not. Regardless how politely it is wrapped up, if the package contains racism, it will be received in the same manner. The only way I know to combat the implicit bias ingrained in all of us is to be self-reflective, always aware of the impact of my thoughts and actions. I come to this thinking from teaching high school social studies, which I did before journalism. As a White teacher of mostly students of color I had to be mindful of my influence and authority, regardless of my modest income. I realize my influence and responsibility as editor of this newspaper is also much greater than my salary suggests.
Ernesto and I are similar in many ways. We both care deeply about social justice and human rights. We both have often mild-mannered personalities that at times obscure the rage we feel about the injustices we face as a Latino and a woman in a society that prefers to crush our spirits. That is one reason why this newspaper is so important. It is a vital outlet for the voices of the marginalized, the stigmatized, the vulnerable. It is a vehicle for changing hearts and minds and organizing bodies to action. The paper will continue to bring a diversity of perspectives of people from many backgrounds in the community. I hope to build on the relationships the paper has with many wonderful organizations and individuals.
This is also a publication in transition in an industry that is still scrambling to adjust to the exceedingly fast pace of change in technology. Although I do not plan to change the paper much in terms of content, there will be other changes. For months, our layout designer has been hard at work revamping our Web site. We are excited by the new opportunities it will allow for and plan to have it ready to launch by the end of October. The significance of social media in journalism and activism cannot be overstated. I will continue running the social media accounts and keep them as active as possible. We have a Facebook page under Community Alliance Newspaper. Our Twitter and Instagram are both under @FresnoAlliance.
While we are growing in important ways, we are also conserving where we can. We will always have printed versions of the Community Alliance, but with a greater focus on the digital end, we are going to scale back slightly. There will always be plenty of printed copies at all our distribution locations and, of course, plenty to deliver to each of our subscribers. We also have a need for help with our Alianza Spanish section. Although it is an important part of the paper that we would hate to lose, we do not currently have the staffing to publish it. If you can donate your time and skills to keep Alianza going, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If someone had told me two years ago that I would become the editor of a newspaper, I would have thought that person off her/his rocker. That day at Café Corazon, I wasn’t completely shocked that Ernesto had chosen to move on, but I was surprised he immediately followed that up with, “You should apply.” Perhaps he is off his rocker, but I am honored he suggested me and grateful for his ongoing support. Let’s do this.