Ohio University’s Scripps Latinx Network (SLN) is an organization that allows students in the Latinx community to connect with each other as well as with Latinx professionals and alumni.
The network was formed in spring 2016 as a way for Latinx students studying journalism, or any career path, to network with both alumni and other professionals in their community. The organization is advised by Michael Rodriguez, WOUB student professional development and production services manager, who is originally from New Mexico and is a member of the Scripps Diversity Committee.
“The Scripps Latinx Network, formerly known as The Scripps Hispanic Network, is an organization dedicated to the advancement and professional development of Latinx/Hispanic journalists and communication students,” Leslie Aguilera, SLN president, said in a message. “Since we are a networking organization I definitely want to present those opportunities, but I really want to focus on the professional development side of the organization this year. We have a lot of really great virtual workshops planned for this fall semester surrounding mental health and building skill sets.”
Aguilera said when she accepted the position of president in spring of 2019, she was not planning on holding online meetings and hosting virtual events, but she is grateful to SLN’s executive board for helping her make the unforeseen situation that COVID-19 has caused to work successfully.
Aguilera is not a journalism student herself, and she is not pursuing a career in any field of communication, but she is active in the Latinx community and extols the success of students of color in professional settings.
“I am proud of my culture and find it important that as students of color we are able to see ourselves in professional fields and have the necessary skill set needed to achieve the goals that we set ourselves,” Aguilera said in a message. “As President I really want students that identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx to know that there is a space dedicated to them for striving greater.”
Isabella Philippi, SLN’s social media and event coordinator and former president, said she would not have made the amount of connections in the industry that she has if it were not for her active role in SLN.
“Scripps Latinx Network is a good step for our community here,” Philippi said. “It really shows how diverse the Latinx community’s interests are when there are specific groups like this.”
SLN has had conferences with several Latinx professionals in which members can listen to stories first-hand from professionals and have open discussions with them. For example, Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, CBS News’ executive vice president of strategic professional development and acting Washington bureau chief, spoke with SLN over Skype in 2016 and in person during the 2019-2020 academic year. Born in the Dominican Republic, Ciprian-Matthews has become a journalistic icon to the Latinx community, specifically due to her work with CBS during Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Philippi, born and raised in Puerto Rico, said Ciprian-Matthews’ role in the coverage of Hurricane Maria is what drove her to pursue a career in journalism. Philippi said CBS was more consistent in its coverage of the hurricane compared to other stations. The work of CBS and the reporter Ciprian-Matthews assigned to cover the hurricane, David Begnaud, uncovered issues that other stations ignored, such as coverage of communities that were affected greatly. Philippi said CBS’ coverage of Hurricane Maria led many Puerto Ricans to tune into the channel, and Begnaud has since been highly revered by them.
“Ciprian-Matthews is an amazing person and we had an open forum with her and were able to ask how to work through the system and how to move up,” Luis Medina, SLN vice president, said. “She gave a lot of perspective of how to grow in journalism.”
Another Latinx figure in journalism that SLN had the opportunity to have an open conversation with was Omayra Gonzalez, a producer at El Nueva Día, one of the most renowned newspapers in Puerto Rico. Philippi also was supervised by Gonzalez in 2018 during her internship with GFR Media, a media conglomerate that owns El Nueva Día, where she worked in the content department.
John Quiñones, ABC correspondent and host of “What Would You Do?,” was another professional that SLN had planned to partner with OU Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations to bring to OU to speak in March 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum was canceled, but SLN is working with E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and other student organizations on rescheduling.
“SLN is giving Spanish students here a community where they can be around people like them,” Medina said.