Kent Paterson is an investigative journalist who documents stories that are overwhelmingly honest, and have created a lasting impact on my perspective. He has written about police militarization, institutionalized injustice, disappearances, uprisings, poverty, and femicide on both sides of the border.
Kent Paterson is the editor of Frontera NorteSur, published by the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University, which provides online news stories about events taking place near the US-Mexico border. He’s also produced stories for multiple publications such as Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, as well as producing audio stories. He was a storyteller through audio before digital audio editing even existed – when you had to literally cut and paste. I admire his journalism, regardless of medium or outlet. All of his stories contain such passion for human rights. I’m still trying to figure out my passions and I have found that it takes wisdom and bravery in order to stand for what you believe in. I do know that I believe in human rights. Not everyone believes in human rights, but Kent does.
Kent Paterson’s work reassures me of this idea: that journalism has the ability to change society. Listening to his radio documentary “The Bell of Justice: Behind the Cross-Border Femicides” created a heavy feeling in my heart. These stories of trauma and tragedy were so powerfully spoken with emotion and strength. Listening to them, I realized the potential of audio to explore those stories. I am a very visual thinker, so I would imagine that print or video would best convey these stories that aren’t often heard. His audio stories created vivid images in my head, and I began to notice how audio can be just as powerful. He uses audio to transport the reader to the location of the story. The injustices in the stories are difficult to listen to, but they need to be heard. Hearing the stories uprooted my own emotions, and I immediately realized that this is the journalism that could change society, one person at a time.
As a journalist, I have always been asking myself whether or not I am telling the story with honor, truth, and respect. I’ve seen journalism as a form of art and appreciation because it is such a gift to be able to capture life experiences. Ever since I started the Fellowship, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about this on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to meet Kent is special because he lives and breathes journalism. He knows there’s more to it than drafts and deadlines. Kent understands that journalism is the window to how we can understand the social and political realities around us – and not only that – but why we need to search for hope and justice in our journalism as well.
Talking with Kent about his work, he speaks very deliberately – remembering names, places, and times. This reveals his dedication to his journalism, and to the stories that he tells. But it’s more than just a story to him. When he spoke about the femicides, he mentioned that the story of the femicides stays the same – year after year – but that the number of women killed increases. This made me think about the bigger picture of journalism: the practice of consciously investigating and revisiting these important issues that society must address. The issues may be local, but they have national, or even global implications. The issues are not just a headline for one day, they are not simply print and paper – they convey the stories of humans and their realities. Their lives are constantly evolving and developing over time, and therefore their stories must, as well. Those stories must speculate on the our morals as humans and as a community. They deal with life and death, just like we all do.
I’ve always felt that journalism is very contradictory when it is taught in a classroom space. For example, ethics and values are an important aspect of a journalist’s education, but so is objectivity. I did not know if my political values or opinions had a role in the media that I create. I’m only now realizing that reflection is essential to all types of journalism. Objectivity isn’t possible, because the human experience is subjective. Understanding this helps create true journalism.
The beauty in Kent’s work is not only in his subject matter, but in his perspective that gives vibrancy to his stories. He connects red chile harvests to mechanization, or New Mexico police militarization to Israeli military trainers in Mexico. Even his investment in journalism is influential to me, because the danger of the profession is ever-rising. It scares me to know that being a journalist can sometimes put your life at risk. Kent spoke about journalists that he has known that have been put in danger for their stories, and those who have even been killed for it. On top of the dangers of working as an international journalist, the number of journalists are shrinking steadily over the years.
Having faith in the purpose of journalism is extremely important and Kent really reminded me that we are not alone in our pursuit of journalism. This is something that I struggle with – the concept that I am alone in journalism because of my perspective, or because I am a woman of color. He took this fear and transformed it into strength: that journalists are collaborators that support one another for the future, and for our safety. I am never alone as a journalist.