“El Eco” leads to more Spanish courses at California Lutheran

Professors at the Lutheran University of California continue their efforts to create bilingual opportunities for students, recognition of the large Latin American population in and around Ventura County, and the growing demand for Spanish-language media.

In the last few years, Thousand Oaks University student newspaper The Echo included an insert in Spanish in its print edition called El Eco. This semester, El Eco was transformed into a lab class for the first time.

And now professors in the Department of Communication – Kirstie Hettinga – and the Department of Languages ​​and Cultures – LaVerne Seales, Sheridan Wigginton and Genesis Rodriguez – are working on establishing a minor in Spanish media at the university in the fall. .

Train El Eco

In the spring of 2017, The Echo editors attended the Associated Collegiate Press National College Journalism Convention. Hettinga, an advisor to Echo, said a Latina Echo editor spoke to another student at a Hispanic institution about a Spanish component in the newsroom.

The Lutheran University of California student newspaper The Echo features a Spanish-language section called El Eco.

a HSI designation Department of Education means that the higher education institution has a full-time undergraduate enrollment of at least 25% Hispanic students. In Cal Lutheran, the Latino students compound 38% of all traditional undergraduates.

The publisher asked if The Echo could do something similar and bring that component to Cal Lutheran. Hettinga agreed.

“(It’s) really important that we have content for diverse audiences and ideally produced by diverse journalists,” she said.

Thus, in the fall of 2017, the first edition of El Eco, a two-page Spanish insert in The Echo, has been released.

“It was a bit difficult at the start,” Hettinga said. “It was completely voluntary.”

Spanish, communication partnership

In the spring of 2018, the newspaper partnered with a 301 Spanish course entitled “Conversation and Composition”. The idea behind the partnership was that it gave students the opportunity to work with peers who had a different kind of expertise, according to Seales, who began teaching the class in the fall of that year.

The students were put in pairs to work for several weeks.

Echo students could teach the class about mechanics, “how to”, and journalistic purpose. Students in the Spanish class would bring the cultural element by choosing story ideas and thinking of the audience when writing the article.

Traditionally, written work is prepared in the workshop and improved in language lessons. In contrast, journalism courses take a more passive approach, which Seales struggled with at first.

It’s not about us; It’s about them, she remembered Hettinga telling her.

Towards the end of the semester, The Echo editors selected a few articles for publication in their journal.

At first Seales said the students had no particular reaction to the task. It was just something they had to finish. Over the years, Seales and Hettinga have made sure to speak explicitly about the positive aspects of the partnership.

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“In my class, I insist, ‘Now you have a handwriting sample (and) you are making your voice heard permanently,’” Seales said.

Cal Lutheran junior Magally López, 20, is currently editor-in-chief of El Eco. She was in Seales’ class in the fall of 2019, which was her first experience with The Echo and El Eco.

The following semester, she was accepted as Associate Editor-in-Chief of El Eco.

López is native Spanish speaker and grew up in Los Angeles in a Spanish speaking household. She said joining El Eco made her realize how much she needed to practice Spanish.

“I think I didn’t realize the difference when I went into this,” López said. Writing in Spanish, she said, required a different vocabulary than she was used to.

Last semester, Seales and Hettinga had to bring the partnership online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two students from Seales’ class are paired with a journalism mentor from Hettinga’s group due to the small class size.

Seales said she had received great feedback, especially on the El Eco mission. She thinks it has everything to do with the November general election and “students understand the importance of the media in a way that we as a nation did not understand” before.

El Eco expands in class

This semester, in addition to the partnership, El Eco is a one-credit lab class taught by Rodriguez, a first-time adjunct professor.

“This is basically the pilot semester,” she said.

There are currently nine students enrolled, including López. Not all of them are interested in journalism, but most have Spanish as a major or minor.

So far, Rodriguez said the experience had been great and that she was impressed with the students. Even in the stories they present, the students think beyond the Cal Lutheran campus in Thousand Oaks and focus on local and national issues, she explained.

As editor-in-chief of El Eco, López said she was working with The Echo’s editor-in-chief, Isabella Breda, to also come up with stories that would be interesting and informative for the Spanish-speaking communities in the region.

López said that once the stories are received, she edits them and sends them to Breda.

In terms of production, The Echo produces content on a weekly basis and El Eco on a bi-weekly basis. Class 301 partnership is producing content for the end of the semester.

Rodriguez said his goals are to connect students with industry professionals and give them an understanding of on-demand news.

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“I want them to see that you can do that too, as a career,” she said. So far, she has asked Univision photojournalist Héctor González and Telemundo producer Grecia Lopez to talk about their experiences.

Separately, Rodriguez wants his students to think beyond the traditional printed article. In this digital age where on-demand information is common, she wants them to consider using other formats like podcast and social media.

Potential minor in Spanish media

Hettinga and Wigginton are officially proposing an interdisciplinary minor in Spanish media to the university. If successful, they hope to start offering the minor as early as this fall.

The minor in Spanish media would include courses in the departments of communication and languages ​​and culture. The El Eco course would be a course in the minor’s program.

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Rodriguez is happy that there is a chance that Cal Lutheran will get the minor from the Spanish media as there is a demand for it. Between the pandemic and the November elections, Rodriguez – who also works full-time as a bilingual content producer for the university – said businesses and media must tap into their Spanish audience.

She said offering the minor would show how progressive the university is.

“We understand the area,” Rodriguez explained. “We understand how the industry and the world are becoming bilingual.”

Shivani Patel covers education for The Star as a member of the Report for America corps. Contact her at [email protected] or 805-603-6573. She is also on Twitter at @shivaaanip.

Sylvester L. Goldfarb