By Franco LaTona
Fernanda Santos, a Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Practice at the Cronkite School, will join a team of six instructors at one of the Poynter Institute’s most competitive programs aimed at helping journalists of color find their voices in opinion writing.
This year’s Power of Diverse Voices workshop will be held virtually over a four-day period starting April 8. Led by Tom Huang, assistant managing editor for journalism initiative at The Dallas Morning News and an adjunct faculty member at Poynter Institute, the workshop consists of live classes and workshops that focus on teaching participants how to write fact-based opinion pieces and personal essays and spark conversations across social media platforms.
Santos, who spent 12 years as a New York Times reporter before joining Cronkite, attended the workshop last year as a student and found it transformational.
She recalled a group exercise in which one of the instructors asked the students to think of words that described how they’ve felt working in U.S. newsrooms over the years.
“I remember that words like ‘disempowered,’ ‘overlooked’ and ‘unheard’ came to my mind,” Santos said. “This realization helped me understand that the power to change the narrative around who we are and how much we contribute rests with us.”
This year, as an instructor, Santos will teach students how to relate personal experiences to universal truths through opinion writing. As an example, she’ll use an essay she wrote for the New York Times’ Sunday Review last year called “Who Will Wear My Dead Husband’s Clothes?,” a deeply personal story in which Santos relates her decision to give her husband’s clothes to migrants and asylum seekers to the immigration policies enacted by President Trump.
“Before the workshop, I never really felt comfortable telling my own story, and I didn’t feel like what I had to write was important enough for people to want to read,” she said.
Santos said she felt empowered in the company of fellow journalists of color, who all critiqued, supported and encouraged one another as they learned about writing and wrote stories of their own. She said that by the end of the workshop, each of the participants had broken through something personal and profound.
“For me, it was this idea of always feeling different because I’m an immigrant,” she said. “I realized that being an immigrant doesn’t make me any less of an American.”
The deadline to apply for the workshop is Feb. 7, 2021.
The Poynter Institute For Media Studies is a nonprofit journalism and research organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida.