By Lupita Peimbert.
Latino Journalists of California (formerly known as CCNMA) is recognizing the longevity and outstanding work done by radio and television broadcaster Celina Rodriguez, a well-liked media personality in Northern California. Celina Rodriguez holds an impressive media trajectory: 35 years working in Spanish-language radio, television, and newspapers in Mexico and in the United States.
The ceremony will take place on Friday, June 5, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Celina is one of three media professionals to be honored by CCNMA. Her recognition is for career achievement in journalism.
Currently, Celina is CEO of Rodriguez Media Productions. Her news and interviews program “Buenas Tardes con Celina,” is on 1370 AM Spanish-language radio. Celina is often invited as keynote speaker and mistress of ceremonies for important events.
Her career started in 1980, working for “Noti-sistemas” radio, in Guadalajara Mexico. A journalism fellowship at Stanford University brought her to the Bay Area, and in 1987, after reporting for El Mensajero, she became the co-founding news anchor for Noticiero 48, at KSTS-Telemundo, now owned by NBC Universal. Years later, she was anchor for CNN Español’s “Noticias Mexico.” She has also worked with Univision-14 in San Francisco, and La Oferta Review, a newspaper published in San Jose.
I had a conversation with Celina a few days ago, and took the opportunity to ask her about the meaning of excellence in journalism, the challenges and rewards of being on her own, and about Latinos, the audience she serves.
Here is our Q&A:
Lupitanews: How do you feel about this recognition?
CR: ”I feel very honored and happy because this award gives me an incentive to keep going. Being an independent media professional is a bigger challenge than being employed by a news organization. It represents a lot more work, in every way: to tell the audience, and to keep yourself updated and on top of current events.”
Lupitanews: What does excellence in journalism means to you?
CR: ”Excellence is that intention that propels you to always give your best; your best to the service of informing the public. When you are presenting the news, you must include experts and sources that will add analysis. When it comes to immigration, it is the responsibility of journalists not to create panic or sensationalize a story, but at the same time the seriousness of the issue must be maintained. Furthermore, we must make practical recommendations to the community we serve.”
Anybody who has worked with Celina or seen her in action knows that the entrepreneurial journalist works hard, she is great at interviewing, and she possesses a level of empathy and compassion rarely accomplished by journalists and other media professionals.
Lupitanews: How do you cultivate empathy and compassion? Why have you made these qualities an intrinsic part of your career?
CR: “Compassion is something that was seen within our family in Mexico. I had strong teachings at home, specially from my father. He always taught us to be conscious of others, to pay attention to people who are in need. In my years as student at ITESO –know called La Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, the Jesuits teachings also had a strong emphasis on empathy and social awareness.
I was very lucky to have Felipe Cobian as my first boss at Noti-sistemas, where he was news director. I remember that in 1980, at the beginning of my career I was assigned to report on serious problems happening at a “vecindad,” or low-income housing, in Guadalajara. Felipe Cobian told me clearly: “Do your job as journalist, but more than anything, see how they can be helped.” That and many other instances, had an impact on me, and set a standard on my career.”
In 2006, Celina embarked on a new adventure: to have her own radio show. If the reader must know, independent radio producers do not earn a salary; to the contrary, they buy time from radio stations. Therefore, they must sell their product while producing it.
Lupitanews: It has been said that one cannot combine news/information with sales. How do you do it?
CR: “These are two very different things. One is selling services and publicity, and it does not have to compromise your integrity in news. It is clear to me. I make decisions about this daily. I have suspended clients after finding out they were not providing an honest service to my audience, or that their business was questionable.”
Lnews: You’ve been on your own for a while. 9 years to be exact. Do you recommend it? If so, what are the keys to success?
CR: “Do I recommend it? Yes, but we must get educated about finances, and hire an accountant or financial consultant. Also, we must pray to the sky to find good sales professionals. What I like about being on my own is that I have full control, and I can dedicate more time to topics and issues that matter. I have 100% editorial control. I do not need to dig into the “nota roja” or police reports, but I cover the basis. I prefer to focus on student achievement, programs that help, events can shape our feature. I really like to include news that make us think, become more aware.”
Lnews: Another element of this award is recognizing that the recipient has contributed to a better understanding of Latinos. Tell us about that:
CR: “What I know is that being a Mexican/Latino journalist in this country has given me a more ample sense of the profession in that, Spanish-language media in the US has been noted as a vehicle to inform and to be of service to our audience, instead of just presenting the news.
“During my fellowship at Stanford University, I used to ride my bike to East Palo Alto to get to know more about our community. I soon realized that people really needed information. In the 80s, that area was filled with drugs and prostitution, and Mexican and Latino immigrants had to live there; they could not afford to live in a better neighborhood. Even in East San Jose in the 90s, in the “Sal Si Puedes” neighborhood, the living conditions were bad. I could go on and on about our community needing to be informed about services and programs.
“I believe our news programs have helped to improve people’s lives. I continue to show success stories: students who achieve academically, small business owners who grow, immigrant men and women who despite their losses keep on working and sending money to their families.
It is important to remember how resilient Latino immigrants, are, and how they have turned their pain into strength: mothers who left their children in another country, workers who see the years go by without seen their family, and all the sacrifices and challenges new immigrants have to endure. My respect to them. They are the people we journalists must serve. ”
Currently, Celina lives in San Jose, California; her son Diego is a college student. She is part of several community organizations and has a close-knit group of friends, while her siblings live in Mexico. Celina is one of the most recognized and loved media personalities in Spanish-language households in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Content by Lupita Peimbert, a bilingual content writer and publisher of Lupitanews.
Photography by Rosario Vital, a Spanish-language journalist.
All Rights Reserved. 2015.