Times Correspondent | Sunday, April 19, 2009 | (No comments posted.)
A 2007 documentary about a group of Latino reporters at the Los Angeles Times who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 is screening tonight and Monday as part of the 25th Chicago Latino Film Festival.
The Times' Illinois Editor Olga Briseno was executive producer of "Below the Fold: The Pulitzer That Defined Latino Journalism."
"What the importance of this film is, for people to understand that it was this group of journalists who started to change the attitude of media toward Latinos," Briseno said.
Tired of seeing the same stories on poverty, gangs and crime in the pages of the Los Angeles Times where they worked, the reporters pushed to tell a different story of Mexican-Americans in southern California. They encountered a great deal of resistance -- primarily from their own colleagues.
Stories in the Latino Series included one by series co-editor George Ramos on his old neighborhood of East Los Angeles and a contribution by Virginia Escalante -- a personal one -- about migrant workers.
"They would make jokes like, 'are you guys gonna write your stories in spray paint?' " Latino Series journalist Julio Moran says in the film.
When the journalists thought their Latino Series might merit recognition for a Pulitzer, they were forced the write their own nomination because the hierarchy at the L.A. Times refused. Even when awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the team received grudging congratulations.
That's when Briseno stepped in. During the 20th anniversary of the series, she made it her first project after creating The Media Democracy & Policy Initiative at the University of Arizona, where she was a journalism professor at the time.
Briseno invited the Pulitzer winners to Tucson, where they received a standing ovation during a reception, the first one they'd received -- 20 years after the fact.
"The film was a result of that," Briseno said.
Directed by University of Arizona student Roberto Gudino, the 26-minute documentary was filmed on location in Arizona, California and New York..
"I'm happy to retell their story, which was really groundbreaking for its time," said Gudino, now a graduate student at UCLA Film School. "It's an underdog story. It's about this group of people who overcame something despite adversity."
Frank Sotomayor, co-editor of the Latino Series and currently associate director of the Institute for Justice in Journalism, remembered the reaction from the audience after the film was shown during the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.
"They were quite surprised," Sotomayor said. "They didn't know anything about the events that were told in the film. People were blown away."
WHAT: "Below the Fold: The Pulitzer That Defined Journalism" 9 p.m. today and April 20 day p.m.
WHERE: Facets Multimedia Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago�
� FYI: latinoculturalcenter.org
Education for Liberation!
Peter S. Lopez ~aka: Peta