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Advocate aims to make it easier for readers to be heard

Sept. 3, 2011 at 4:03 a.m.


IF YOU GO:

Advocate reader gathering

Where: Advocate offices, 311 E. Constitution St.

When: 5:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 12

Who: All interested readers

I spent more than a decade writing for newspapers across the country, and in every city I reported from, I often got an earful from readers about why they didn't trust newspapers, the "media," more specifically.

Now, as a professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, I hear my students echo the same sentiments: "The media is biased." "They don't care about what readers think." "It's all about making money." "All they like to cover is sensational stuff." "Why does all the coverage have to be so depressing!"

You get the picture.

And in this 24-hour cable news culture and with all these websites competing for clicks, I don't blame readers for tuning out. There is just so much out there. And with the Internet - blogs, comments, video, podcasts - it has become even more difficult to distinguish between news and opinion. And while newspapers try to figure out how they fit into the Internet age, all this infinite space is good news for readers. It is now easier than ever to be heard.

It's no secret that newspapers and media sites are struggling to engage readers. But in a smaller community like Victoria, where the newspaper is still family owned, it is easier to hold your local publication accountable.

I should disclose that I'm the first Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities. I am honored to have received this award because even though I left newspapers for academia, I still miss the newsroom. I also serve on the newspaper's ethics committee and work closely with editors and staff.

I can tell you that the Victoria Advocate is open to your suggestions and does want to reflect the realities and concerns of this region. (This is not always the case with the "media.") And they - the editors and owners - realize they can't do that without you.

You should take them up on it. And I'm here to help.

This fall, we will be hosting meetings aimed at getting you published, having your voice heard. Maybe there is a letter to the editor or a column you have thought about writing. Or maybe you've thought about starting a blog or submitting a video to the newspaper's website. Maybe you're just as confused (as many of my students) about what blogging is all about. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to know how this newspaper really works.

We will host the first meeting - consider it a Victoria Advocate 101 discussion - Monday, Sept. 12. After that, the Advocate will conduct training sessions aimed at helping readers learn about the different ways to contribute to this newspaper.

I'm here to help you be your own advocate.

Macarena Del Rocio Hernandez is a professor of communication at the University of Houston-Victoria. She is a Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities and resides in Victoria.

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