Campus journalism that serves a bilingual audience heads into third year
By Marcy Burstiner
When I came up with the idea for El Leñador, a Spanish-English student newspaper, at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, I hadn’t spoken Spanish since high school.
Moreover, I taught on a campus with one of the least diverse student populations in the California State University System, and my idea came at a time when The Lumberjack, the student-run weekly newspaper I advised, was struggling for advertising revenue. And, the university was looking for programs to eliminate to make up for state budget cuts.
But there were reasons to proceed with this new publication. Among them: The university had been named a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a designation that would make it eligible for new funds, and the Latino student population had doubled as a percentage of the overall student population between 2009 and 2013. At 28 percent, it was now about three times the percentage found in the rest of the county. Humboldt State’s enrollment is about 8,485.
I hoped that for a newspaper for and about the Latino student population, the administration would help me find the money I needed. I teamed up with Dr. Rosamel Benavides-Garb, the chair of the World Languages and Cultures Department, who taught Spanish. We tapped into a fund our dean had for faculty-student research projects and secured small stipends for six students from our two majors to research models for bilingual newspapers.
El Lenador, a monthly that averages six pages, is in its third year. Student Juan Carlos Salazar, a member of the initial research team who directed translation for the first two years, said the mission was daunting at first. Continue reading