Your Voice Matters

“You need to know that your voice matters, that you have a story to tell and that your stories are not only valuable, but needed.”– Teresa Puente

OEP alum and  Mentor Editor Teresa has been writing op-eds for more than twenty years now.

Her message? “Be timely, follow the news, and look for news angles and hooks. Don’t be afraid to express your viewpoint.  Know that your voice and perspective is valuable.”

Glean more of Teresa’s wisdom from our interview with her below. And tell us, what message would you like to send to the rest of our community?

CGR: Teresa, how did you get involved with the OpEd Project?  What led you here?

TP: I have actually been writing OpEds really since the beginning of my career, more than 20 years ago. I worked with the Hispanic Link New Service and was published in papers in California and Texas, as well as in USA Today, while also doing some reporting. I started teaching fulltime at Columbia College in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, I was on the editorial board for The Chicago Sun Times.  In 2009 I started a blog called Chicanisimo on Chicago Now, which is a blog site operated by the Tribune company.

I met Katie Orenstein at JAWS, the Journalism and Women’s Symposium, three years ago.  I was struck by her description of The OpEd Project. A minority of op-eds are written by women and even fewer are written by women of color. I felt it was important to point that out and then to do something about it.

I have been working with women journalists for a long time, and I felt it was important for me to work with OEP. I believe in the mission of diversifying op-eds, knowing that 80 percent of them don’t represent the whole of our voices.

I became a Mentor-Editor volunteer, and I attended the core seminar workshop in Chicago, led by Katherine Lanpher. A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to serve in a more official capacity as a seminar facilitator.

CGR: What can you tell us about women in the world of writing and in media?  What has that experience been like for you?

TP: As a Latina and Chicana journalist it is important for me to write about the Latino community.  Immigration, for example, is an issue that I write quite a lot about. When I graduated from college I took a position with the Hispanic News Service in Washington DC, where I reported and wrote opinion columns; that’s how I got my training in covering the Latino community.  Covering such issues has been my entire career, but it’s also something that really matters to me, because the percentage of stories about Latinos are not very high in any kind of media. And stories that are about the classic types of issues are even fewer.

I cover community because it is important to me to show the complexity and diversity of these communities.  My coverage has earned me a spot on the board of the Society of Hispanic Journalists and the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists.

CGR: How do you motivate women of color who are interested in writing, but need to cross that threshold between contemplating what their opinions are and actually writing? 

TP: You need to know that your voice matters, that you have a story to tell and that your stories are not only valuable, but needed.

CGR: What message would you like to send to our seminar alums, past and future?

TP: Be timely, follow the news, and look for news angles and hooks. Don’t be afraid to express your viewpoint.  Know that your voice and perspective is valuable.

Follow Teresa on Twitter @chicanisimo @tcpeuente

Heed Teresa’s advice and amplify your voice. Sign up today for our upcoming core seminar on October 13th,  “Write to Change the World

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