By Claudia Meléndez Salinas
True confession: Once upon a time, I didn’t know who César Chávez was.
It was 1993 and I was attending Cabrillo College. A recent arrival in the U.S., and even newer to Santa Cruz, I was bored out of my mind and looking for ways to occupy myself. A classmate in my Women’s History class suggested I look for volunteer opportunities at El Andar, a bilingual magazine. They were always looking for help, she said.
“Oh, and by the way, can you tell our teacher that I won’t be here next week because I’m going to César Chávez’s funeral?” she added.
And why would I tell the teacher of your whereabouts, I thought to myself. As if the teacher would care who this César Chávez was. Did I mention I was a recent arrival in the U.S.?
I did, however, pay a visit to El Andar. The cute bilingual magazine had its offices in the El Palomar building on Pacific Avenue, and they sure needed help. Every publication I’ve worked at always did. And I sure needed a community. A purpose in life.
I got a lot more than I bargained for.
Several reasons are inspiring me to reflect on my career: In addition to the 30th anniversary; I recently received three journalism awards, quite the feat considering that I have not been a full-time journalist since 2018. Ever since I got a full-time job at a school district, news writing has to take place during lunch breaks, evenings, weekends and holidays. My free time has to be shared with family, friends, and other tasks that need to be done for Voices of Monterey Bay, which, incidentally, was founded as I left full-time journalism. Some vices are really hard to quit, but all-nighters have never been an issue.
There’s another reason why I’m writing this: it’s NewsMatch — the magical time of year when a slew of non-profit news outlets pass around the hat to keep operations going. When we launched Voices in 2017, I said “yes” reluctantly. I was quitting the Monterey Herald so I could write books. I was getting a job that could actually pay my bills. I was not going to go into news writing again — I was going to become a best-selling author, by golly. But I’m one of those people-pleasers, so here I am, six years later and totally in love with Voices.
In love with opening the publishing world to new writers.
In love with training the next generation of storytellers. Right now, we have a fabulous intern, Isaac, who’s showing a lot of dedication for the craft. Andrea was a fantastic addition to the team this summer. Carlos has been doing great stuff at Fresno State. Seeing them grow is pure joy.
In love with providing a forum for Julie Reynolds, investigative reporter extraordinaire now featured in a documentary, Stripped for Parts. In love with providing a forum for Royal Calkins, a life-time achievement awardee of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, thorn in the side of Wellpath and its shenanigans at the Monterey County Jail.
In love with keeping the promise of good journalism and storytelling alive. With the idea that community is built when we get to know each other a bit better, when we share stories that reflect who we truly are. When the diversity of our community takes center stage in an honest and respectful way.
At a time when The Californian has once again lost its only reporter, when the rest of the Central Coast media barely pays attention to Salinas, my new hometown, this is a promise worth keeping.
Voices of Monterey Bay is far from the dream we the founders had — we were very ambitious. But it’s also a lot more than we dreamed of: We turned six years old this year. We’ve won awards. We uncovered the fabrications of a city manager and the misdeeds of a sheriff. We’ve celebrated Latino art like no other publication in the Central Coast. And we’ve done it on a shoestring budget, a lot of love, and a passion for truth-telling.
Naturally, we’ve been able to do it with a lot of support from our readers. We are deeply humbled and grateful. We also hope you can continue supporting Voices of Monterey Bay, our cute little bilingual, non-profit online news magazine for the Central Coast.
Sunday is the last day to receive donations that will be matched, so please keep us in mind.
Back when I began writing for El Andar, some doubted I would ever get a job in an English-language news media outlet — Spanish came more naturally to me for some reason.
After a 30-year career, some would say I have defied expectations. With your help, Voices will continue to do so as well.
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