By Marjorie Childress / New Mexico In Depth /
When New Mexico In Depth created a fellowship for journalism students of color at University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, we had high hopes for impactful, community-based stories. We haven’t been disappointed. Here are just a few of the stories created by Melorie Begay, Xchelzin Peña, and Robert Salas in 2017.
Melorie Begay traveled to the northwestern part of the state several times to learn about the proliferation of fracking sites in several rural communities. Her story explores the tensions the booming industry has caused among neighbors, some of whom benefit through leasing and others who receive no financial gain but are affected by noise, dust from industrial traffic, and in one case, a large explosion. Melorie used audio technology to bring to life the voices of the community members she spoke with.
NMID inaugural fellow Robert Salas concluded his fellowship with a story that captured the reasoning of students for leaving the state after graduating from college–a phenomena some refer to as the “brain drain.” Salas surveyed 39 upperclassmen and found that two-thirds intended to leave the state for better opportunities elsewhere. At the same time, others told Salas they had no intention of leaving.
Xchelzin Peña reported on the step taken by the Las Cruces City Council to affirm the city’s policy of not enforcing federal immigration law. The city’s police chief said while LC police cooperate with federal agents in many ways, they don’t inquire about immigration status in non-criminal investigations or traffic stops.
The Albuquerque mayoral election was dominated in most media by the issue of crime, and a fair amount of negative advertising. Melorie Begay worked with NMID staff to follow the money in the mayoral race, but she also wanted to find out the priorities of real people on the ground in vulnerable communities. Leaders of three immigrant and refugee communities in Albuquerque told her family unity, workers’ rights and skills development, safety, and breaking down institutional racism are critical needs.
While technically a 2016 story, Robert Salas kicked off a look at how Native people in New Mexico responded to the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux to stop construction of an oil pipeline. There are shared experiences, he was told, with environmental threats in both North Dakota and New Mexico tribal communities, which spurred Native people to action in Standing Rock. Melorie Begay followed on the heels of this story in early 2017, covering legislative action at the Roundhouse to express support for Standing Rock.
When a young person is brought to the United States and grows up here, what happens when the federal government threatens them and their families with deportation? The limbo many young people find themselves is explored by Xchelzin Peña in this multi-media story.
Churches emerge as important refuge for immigrants. Xchelzin Peña explored the reasons behind refuge offered by Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces to immigrants facing deportation, with the most recent case being that of Martha Lorena Rivera. It’s the call of the gospel, said Father Tom Smith about sheltering Rivera and one other, Jorge Taborda. Smith said he hopes to also raise awareness locally about the plight of immigrants facing deportation who have committed no crimes. Xchelzin produced two videos featuring Rivera and Smith.
Fellowship program provides experience and platform
New Mexico In Depth’s fellowship program is designed to provide emerging journalists an opportunity to explore their reporting interests, to develop expertise in a variety of reporting techniques, and to develop relationships in the field. Read more about it here: