UPDATE: Media Chica has been postponed until Saturday, September 18 from 10:30 am-1 pm. Sign up for the event here.
Representation matters too much to wait around for the right journalists to cover big topics in Latinx culture.
That’s why Austin nonprofit Latinitas, which is on a mission to empower girls to innovate through media and technology, is taking matters into its own hands, giving young writers of color a chance to share their experience and gain industry expertise through its Latinitas Magazine.
On Saturday, July 31, and every three months, chicas get a chance to talk shop with other media professionals in Latinitas’ Media Chica workshop series.
“The fun part for me is having the girls get to know not only me, and see my face, but to see the faces of all of these other women that have been working and hustling,” says Latinitas Magazine editor Elisa Garcia.
The first installment focused on social media. Guest speaker Silvia Higareda, social media manager at Pluralsight, discussed growing an audience and promoting work on LinkedIn and Twitter. The most widely requested topic after the first session was podcasting. For Media Chica’s second installation on Saturday, podcaster Samantha Rae Lopez is talking about starting a project in the popular medium.
Before each workshop, attendees fill out a form to gauge experience and interest in certain related topics. The responses shape the course over two and a half hours and ensure that the course stays relevant at the perfect level. After the event, attendees rate their experience, reflect on their personal growth and request new topics.
Lopez will discuss turning interests into ideas for shows and how to be confident in tackling those topics. She’ll also discuss formatting (thinking about how many voices to feature and whether to use a script), editing tips, promotion, and collaboration. Each piece of advice spotlights free resources to be sure there is little to no financial barrier.
After the initial presentation, the group will split up by age into breakout rooms and work on group projects that suit their interests. In each room, a professional mentor facilitates brainstorming on Google Jamboards and encourages further conversation. This is some of the closest networking young writers can get with professionals, especially if it’s their first foray into the industry. The mentors get complete control for their ability to read the room, and it often turns into a multigenerational bonding experience. Sometimes they offer their personal emails to stay in touch.
“If you want to talk about challenges in the field and the reality of working in media, I encourage that,” says Garcia. “The girls need to be aware that it’s not always easy — along with any job. So I always encourage mentors to just be real with the girls.”
Media Chica is available both to the general public and to Latinitas’ 21 writers, who the publication wants to keep up to date with skills and networking. Those writers earn $14 for a content article and $20 for editorial, and don’t need any prior experience. Polls by the magazine have found that readers favor the “Soy Latina” profiles section and anything related to politics or activism.
A similar program, the yearly Startup Chica conference, tasks girls to create a business that is meaningful to the community, giving them a full day to develop a pitch. A five-week summer camp, wrapping up days before Media Chica, samples a new topic every week, including cinema, design (magazine and fashion), entrepreneurship, healthy living, and gaming. Latinitas’ most intensive offering is a six-week course for a deep dive in coding, culminating in a certificate. Like Media Chica, Code Chica is extended past the summer-camp age range to high schoolers.
It all comes back to Latinitas’ key purpose: “Latinas are underestimated and underrepresented. It’s time for Latinas to know that they are important; they deserve to see their experiences reflected honestly and accurately,” the nonprofit’s website notes.
And no matter which courses a chica takes, or how long she stays, she is always welcome in the growing community of support.
“We’ve had past magazine writers go on to school, or maybe they get a little busy so they leave the magazine, which is totally fine,” Garcia says. “I consider the magazine a stepping stone for a lot of these young writers, and so when they find their next calling, they reach out.”
Sign-ups for this quarter’s Media Chica end when the workshop begins at 10:30 am on July 31. Any girls or nonbinary students in high school or college can join with a $10 ticket from Eventbrite. Space is limited. The next Media Chica event will happen in three months, but until then, chicas can send pitches to latinitasmagazine.org.