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Showing posts from 2016

The White House blacklisted journalist

Encounter of the unpleasant kind with a presidential candidate

Mesilla, N.M. - I can't help but recall each time I visit Old Mesilla the encounter I had with George W. Bush during an interview with him while he was campaigning for president in 2000. Bush, the Republican Party's nominee, was governor of Texas at the time.

The interview included only a handful of journalists: myself, El Paso Times Photographer Ruben Ramirez, and two other reporters from New Mexico newspapers and their photographers. 

Dick Cheney, the vice presidential nominee, was with and sat next to me at the table. It truly was a privileged opportunity as far as interviews with powerful people go. Several years before this, I was at the White House for a Hispanic journalists' round table with the younger Bush's father, George H. Bush.

Knowing ahead of time that Ruben and I might actually get this close to George W. Bush, I asked a senior editor for permission to ask questions about information related to …

California dreaming didn't last long for Hispanics

California is such a vast place that you best can describe it in its extremes. It possesses a richly varied topography. Tall pines and cool temperatures in the north, a middle area with once-rich farm lands, and a picturesque desert and beckoning beaches in the south.



I did a short stint (about 11 months) at the Modesto Bee in Modesto, California, and after leaving the Bee, I was fortunate to be hired on again by a Gannett property, the Desert Sun in Palm Springs.


The same media company owned the Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee and the Fresno Bee. I had hoped to work my way to the Sacramento paper to live in a city that had two large rivers and a central park with fragrant eucalyptus trees. The Tule fog season and the slow pace of the Modesto paper changed my mind: I wanted to leave.


My stint at the Bee's bureau in Turlock did not last long. I wrote stories and did a column for the paper. For some odd reason, I ended taking a photograph of kids with a cardboard toy train that ran on t…

Politics, drug trade, corruption discussed on KTEP Radio

Diana Washington Valdez and Louie Saenz talk about journalism trends, The Digie Zone and The Digie Zone Express and other interesting topics like politics, the drug trade and government corruption on KTEP Radio. 

Listen to the KTEP interview

The beauty pageant from hell

The beauty pageant from hell

El Paso, Texas became the host city of  the Miss USA beauty pageant in 1988. This was a big deal because of the kind of televised national and other publicity and money that the event would bring to El Paso. 

The credit for the pageant being held in the border city went to El Paso beauty pagent gurus Richard Guy and the late Rex Holt. The two talented men (GuyRex Associates) were responsible for helping five contenders in a row win the Miss Texas USA crown, an unparalleled achievement by any standard.

I was assigned to the El Paso Times features section working under Josie Weber, the section editor, and the late Paula Moore, who was the managing editor. Josie and Paula were capable journalists in their own right, which is why we made history with this particular pageant. 

At the time, the features staff rotated the beauty pageants as assignments, and this one fell on me. Personally, I did not care much for pageants because I believed they were trivial pursuits…

The '666' man in the El Paso Times newsroom

Call security!

It was the late 1980s when a stranger with "666" written on his forehead showed in the newsroom of the El Paso Times. I was still assigned to the features section, and Josie Weber was my editor.

After this man, I can't recall his name although I can describe him as Anglo, thin with beard and mustache and scraggly hair. It fell on me to interview him for a possible story. He said he wanted to complain that he was being harassed by law enforcement over his lifestyle. Apparently, he lived with his family others commune style in what must have been an old school bus. They were camping in El Paso temporarily, and planned to move on.

Of course, the first thought that came to our minds when we saw him was Charles Manson. And we all knew that '666' was a symbol that is generally associated with the anti-christ mentioned in the Bible in the book of Revelation. Was he a Charles Manson clone or fan? Appearance-wise, he fit the look that elicited some concerns…

Mayor sold interest in property rented by adult business

Memoir continued ...

Jonathan Rogers was an impressive politician and businessman

Jonathan Rogers served as mayor of El Paso, Texas from 1981 to 1989. I first met him when I was a reporter for the University of Texas at El Paso student newspaper, the Prospector. One of the university officials invited me to interview Rogers, a candidate for his first run as mayor.

City elections are non-partisan, candidates do not run according to a political party, but it was well known that Rogers and his strongest supporters were Republicans. A meeting for him took place at a home on Crazy Cat Mountain, where several elites and other well-to-do El Pasoans lived.

I still recall the quiet tone of the people gathered around him; they actually did not expect him to win. To the surprise of the entire community, Rogers won the race handily, and would be reelected to several successive terms. His accessibility and civility impressed me then and later over the years. I was invited to interview him about what h…

When Subcomandante Marcos came to the border

Marcos spoke out against the femicides in Juarez, Mexico

Yoko Ono donated a painting to the 2010 ArtMarch in Phildadelphia in solidarity with the Juarez femicide victims. Yoko Ono easily can command thousands of dollars for a painting of hers.

The 2010 ArtMarch included a traveling exhibit. Back then, asked the ArtMarch organizers if they were willing to bring the exhibit to El Paso, where it made sense to display the artwork with such a theme.

The gentleman at the other end of the line said, paraphrasing here, 'we offered the exhibit to the el paso art museum but the (official) rejected it, saying it wasn't needed in El Paso.'

I wonder who will give the Norwegian visiting artist Lise Bjorne Linnert the cold shoulder because her artwork puts a spotlight on what has become an unpleasant topic for some. I am eager to see how community leaders react to her interactive Proyecto Desconocida exhibit, artwork that lends solidarity and invites the community to participate. I suggest…

Reporting on the selection of UTEP President Diana Natalicio

The newsroom circuit

In 1988, I was reporting for the features section of the El Paso Times. Josie Weber was the section editor. Tom Fenton, a former Associated Press newsman, was the new publisher and editor of the El Paso daily. The features section was different from the paper's successive lifestyle sections, because back then, in addition to softer lifestyle articles, features reporters also worked on hard-hitting, investigative stories.

 Anyhow, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was in the middle of the process to select a new president, and it was believed that Diana Natalicio, a linguistics professor who had worked her way up the ranks, was an applicant.

Fenton told the newsroom's senior editors that the El Paso Times should be reporting on the process and identifying the candidates who were seeking the position. Ramon Renteria was the education reporter. I was yanked out of the features section temporarily to work with Renteria on the story that Fenton wanted, and…

"The Killing Fields" was my signature project

There are certain aspects of the investigations that led to the El Paso Times news series "Death Stalks the Border" and the books "The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women" and "Cosecha de Mujeres" that can be disclosed to the broader public. The key editors who were key to the success of the newspaper series were Bob Moore, Dan Williams and Mary Benanti.

As time goes on, I will share more behind-the-scenes details, to include my meeting at Landry's  El Paso with two intriguing people, Mexican journalist and author Isabel Arvide, who was arrested in Chihuahua, and Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a high-ranking Mexican federal attorney general official, who was killed in a 2008 plane crash in Mexico City.
Here is a backgrounder that was prepared for me several years ago about the project:


Behind the “Killing Fields: Harvest of Women”

Diana Washington Valdez is a courageous career journalist who has dedicated her life to serving the public through her work. Her…

Were Texas lottery jackpots also rigged?

Mysterious caller alleged that Texas lottery jackpots were rigged

The Chicago Tribune and other news media outlets recently published stories about a scheme to rig multistate lottery jackpots.The case involved prizes that 'winners' collected in Oklahoma and Colorado, according to the investigators in Iowa that cracked the case.

The Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press reported that last year Eddie Tipton, ex-security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, was convicted of fixing a $16.5 million Hot Lotto jackpot in 2010. His brother, Tommy Tipton, who served as a justice of peace judge and reserve police officer in Texas, is the latest to face charges in the ongoing investigation.
More than 15 years ago, a man who called the El Paso Times newsroom alleged that Texas state lottery jackpots were rigged. For some reason, I ended up with that phone call. I asked him how that could happen since the winning numbers were selected at random. At around that same time, a new…

Encounter at the Rio Grande, Joe Olvera and David M. Hancock

More on Joe Olvera

I first met Joe when he began working for the El Paso Times. He was constantly challenging other Hispanic journalists to fight for their rights. For example, he felt strongly that news media companies should pay Hispanic journalists a supplement if they were required to translate for the non-Spanish speaking reporters who needed help with their stories.

Joe, the Chicano activist of our profession, was right. He was a front-line advocate that helped paved the way for many who followed him, especially when newsrooms were still predominantly Anglo.

Encounter at the Rio Grande

Before Joe worked at the El Paso Times, an Associated Press (AP) reporter who was based elsewhere, not at the AP bureau in El Paso, called the newspaper asking for assistance with translation and photography in Juarez, Mexico.

Photographer Joel Salcido and I agreed to help the Associated Press reporter, and AP agreed to pay us $250. Paula Moore, the paper's managing editor at the time, said this ag…

What to expect from this unraveling in El Paso, Texas

This blog's future takes will include items about El Paso's hidden history, local politics, not-so-local politics, and other meanderings. A memoir ought to reflect the winding course of life as it unfolds. It is in essence a testimony because it is unfiltered.

Most of my life took place in downtown El Paso, between West Overland at Paisano and Campbell at Mills. Although I traveled and lived away from El Paso for several years, in other cities and countries, I kept returning. Something kept bringing me back.

Ironically, my role in the formal workplace began in 1971 in the same building that housed the El Paso Times, the company I retired from in 2016. It is the same red brick structure that formerly housed the Hicks-Ponder Company. Back in 1971, Hicks-Ponder also occupied the annex building across the street from 500 West Overland, the annex where I also worked in 1972.

According to court documents related to a labor dispute, Hicks-Ponder manufactured and distributed men's sl…

Self-esteem in El Paso, Texas

This is a picture of a map hanging in the El Paso Museum of History that shows how El Paso, Texas, saw itself in the past. Things seemed to changed after World War II. Old-timers say East Texas politicians kept the city on the border at bay. Over time, fewer resources were allocated to this region, and more formidable companies began a gradual but definite departure from the zone. El Paso could have become a Phoenix, Arizona, before Phoenix was Phoenix, a real economic powerhouse. El Paso had more going for it in its beginnings as a modern metropolis than many other U.S. cities. A medical specialist who is from another state commented to me once that "there used to be money" in El Paso. He could tell this from the quality of the construction and architecture of older buildings. As you moved farther away from the central part of El Paso, out into the early suburbs, less money was spent on the design and construction of new homes and other buildings. His observations were accu…

El Paso, Texas pioneering Chicano journalist Joe Olvera died

Joe Olvera ran for mayor to raise issues

EL PASO, TEXAS - Our good friend and fellow journalist Joe Olvera died March 4 of a heart attack, his relatives said. He was 71 years old.

Olvera was known as a fiery advocate for his community, especially for the low-income Hispanics of El Paso. He believed in using the power of the pen to effect changes and expose injustices.

Olvera worked for the El Paso Times, El Paso Herald-Post, USA Today/Gannett and KDBC-TV (when it was known as KROD TV). He was best known for his passionate columns in the El Paso Times which he signed with "sin fin" (without end or so it goes).

His book "Chicano - Sin Fin!" (Zapata 1910 Press, 2007) recounts his experiences growing in El Paso's Segundo Barrio, his stint with the Air Force, and his extraordinary career in journalism, including an undercover investigation following undocumented immigrants in their journey to the U.S. and an unprecented trip to Cuba.

His series on immigration for the El …

Rumor is it's the lithium in the water

Diana writes © By Diana Washington Valdez

I am writer who grew up in El Paso, Texas, a city that in 1925 saw itself as the center of influence for a 400-mile radius. The city on the U.S.-Mexico is an epicenter of sorts, although more than 100 years later it is still seeking its identity. El Paso exists across from Juarez, Mexico, in an uneasy juxtaposition geographically, culturally and socially. The most amazing things have happened in this place.


The Border City

EL PASO, TEXAS -- Rumor is that there's enough lithium in the water to keep the masses from openly rebelling like they did (on the Mexican side anyway) during the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

The same substance keeps people in El Paso from getting too anxious or curious about their state of affairs.

 It's a unique place to live in. Everyday people co-exist with unsavory and violent drug dealers, corrupt officials, army soldiers, immigrants, university students, bureaucrats and laughable politicians.

 That was on which side of …