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El Leñador: Inspiring Diverse Coverage

HSU’s bilingual monthly newspaper highlights and represents minority groups 

Lack of diversity in newsrooms across the nation perpetuates the lack of representation in stories. According to the Jelani Cobb from the Guardian, it is all too often that the demographics of news writers look nothing like the communities they cover.

Humboldt State University’s bilingual newspaper, El Leñador, is changing that one monthly issue at a time.

“This paper is so special because it’s part of taking back that narrative,” Jose Herrera, El Leñador’s layout editor, said. “We are producing the paper. We are first generation, Latinx, African American, LGBTQ or Asian. We’re writing our own stories.”

El Leñador held a panel discussion Nov. 7 in the Goodwin Forum as part of the week-long Campus & Community Dialogue on Race event. The student-run publication features under-represented stories of the school and community.

Attendees of the CDOR event listen to editors speak about the paper’s production process. | Photo by Chelsea Wood

El Leñador’s staff is not limited to those who can speak both Spanish and English, or specific journalism majors; all HSU students are welcome and encouraged to contribute.

“For me it’s been a life changing experience,” Vanessa Flores, El Leñador’s editor-in-chief, said. “It’s very important for students to pick up newspapers. Not just ours, but the other publications on campus.”

Flores stressed the importance of student journalism. Without it, campus stories would remain unrepresented since local media isn’t as connected to a campus story as student journalists are.

Over the past six years El Leñador has covered under-represented communities and continues to carve out a space for minority narratives within Humboldt-based media.

The work by the student-run publication reverberates throughout the secluded community. El Leñador has forged ahead of larger, local news publications by connecting with its audience more intimately.

“This paper is so special because it’s part of taking back that narrative. We are producing the paper. We are first generation, Latinx, African American, LGBTQ or Asian. We’re writing our own stories.”

Jose Herrera

The editorial board reminded community members at the discussion about the importance of continuing to cover underrepresented stories.

Cali Fournier, an HSU student, attended the panel discussion and believes that informative, speaking panels are important to have.

“Racism is a big deal still to this day,” Fournier said. “You should be judged by who you are not by the color of your skin.”

The El Leñador staff assume multiple roles within the publication. Producing the paper monthly gives students access to a hands-on learning environment, and staff are able to expand their passions whether their skills are in writing, video, audio or art.

“As a monthly paper and as a student-run paper, it’s really a big training ground for students,” Silvia Alfonso, El Leñador’s managing editor, said.

El Leñador enables its contributors to bring different perspectives to the table. Its staff encouraged the panel attendees to contribute to the publication.

Jack Surmani, an HSU alumnus, believes in the message El Leñador emits and thinks the the commitment of the students behind the publication is evident.

“They know why they’re doing it and have a passion and commitment for being better journalists,” Surmani said.

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