Grooming the Next Generation

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Three years since stepping away From daily journalism, Rick Rodriuez is optimistic about news coverage of immigration issues. The shrinking news industry certainly doesn't stoke his hopeful outlook, but college student journalists do.

As a Carnegie Professor of Journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication since 2008, Rodriguez has launched a cross-disciplinary specialty in reporting on Latinos and U.S. Mexico border issues. To that end, he teaches a in-depth reporting class that encourages young people to ask tough questions and has also started a seminar course involving ASU faculty from different departments who have borderland expertise. Among other things, the seminar explores political, legal and religious aspects of Latino life.

Cronkite School officials added the new Latino reporting specialty to the curriculum thanks in part to grants by the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation.

Rodriguez, the former editor of the Sacramento Bee, never considered teaching a class on the side while working full-time for daily newspapers for 25 years. Yet he was immediately intrigued when Cronkite School officials contacted him for the job. Amid ongoing financial cutbacks at news organizations nationally, Rodriguez sees a growing absence of sophisticated coverage on complex, hot-button issues like immigration "in favor of churning out short, snappy things."

Rodriguez pushes students to view and explore stories from multiple angles and to try to overcome their shortcomings. For instance, he doesn't consider language barriers an acceptable excuse in determining the direction of an assignment or even an interview. "I make them get translators or take Berlitz or some other crash course in Spanish."

The first Latino to serve as president of the American Society of News Editors, Rodriguez began his career as a teenager when he quit a grocery store job to become a copy boy at his hometown Salinas Californian newspaper. …