In 1984 a group of Latino reporters for the Los Angeles Times were bestowed with print journalism's most coveted award--the Pulitzer Prize.
Douglas filmmaker, Roberto Gudino, left, with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist George Ramos at Morro Bay, California after an on location interview.
In a 26-minute documentary, "Below The Fold: The Pulitzer That Defined Latino Journalism," directed and produced by Douglas native Roberto Gudiņo, their stories unfold as they encounter obstacles and resistance from editors and peers alike when they set out to write unbiased stories about Latinos.
Their groundbreaking series, entitled, "Southern California's Latino Community," offered an in-depth exploration of the Latino community at a time when most media accounts of Latinos were distorted and stereotyped.
As their stories aimed to correct a long history of negative reporting about Latinos, the reporters themselves also faced a certain amount of discrimination.
Their white counterparts at the LA Times would ask if they were going to write the stories in graffiti. When the reporters asked to have their stories entered for the Pulitzer Prize, the editor said there wasn't any more room for their series.
The reporters then decided to enter the series on their own. In went on to win the prize for best Public Service writing.
Yet even as they enjoyed journalism's most tangible symbol of success, the reporters faced another dispiriting turn of events. The editor who first refused to nominate the series accepted the prize on their behalf at the awards ceremony, but did not acknowledge the reporters or their work.
"Below The Fold was my last film at the University of Arizona as a senior media arts student," Gudiņo said. "I felt it was my last opportunity to shed some light on a little known group of people who forever changed the coverage of Latinos and other minorities not only in print media but also in other media outlets."
Gudino said the documentary was a humble effort to show the abysmal number of minorities involved in media making with the intent of inciting action to include more minorities not only in media coverage but also in media production.
The film ends with an epilogue on where each reporter is now.
Gudiņo's film points out the institutional prejudice that Latino reporters faced during the mid 1980's. He cites from an American Society of Newspaper Editors statistic that says the number of minority journalists in news outlets today has declined by about 13 percent, with almost 5 percent of those being Latino.
But if the number of working reporters has declined, perhaps the attitude toward Latino reporters and issues has gained some acceptance during the last two decades.
In 2006 LA Times reporter Sonia Nazario won the Pulitzer for her stories, "Enrique's Journey," a three-part series that chronicles a 16-year-old boy's dangerous and heartbreaking journey from El Salvador to the United States as he rides atop trains, faces constant thirst and hunger, encounters violent gang members and crosses the US/Mexico border in search of his mother, whom he adores and idolizes.
Nazario turned her series into a book. In the credits, she thanked her editors, among others, for their support and guidance, perhaps signaling the changing attitude toward Latino issues and writers.
Gudiņo's film presents a powerful and heartfelt account of the journalists who set out to change the stereotypical reporting on Latinos in southern California as they faced discrimination from an institution that should have prided itself for its objectivity.
Gudiņo was a reporter and photographer for The Daily Dispatch in Douglas, a Cochise College student, and an intern for the City of Douglas. He was accepted into the film program at UCLA.
He has written, directed and photographed several short films including "Just Coffee," "Toy Soldier," "Polvo," and "Share This." "Share This" was selected for the Damah Film Festival in Culver City, California and No Festival Required in Phoenix, Ariz., while "Just Coffee" has been selected to festivals throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Most recently, "Toy Soldier" was selected for the Arizona International Film Festival while "Polvo" was selected for the Reel Inspiration Film Festival and the All Souls Film Festival.
"I'm deeply indebted to all those people who have helped me along this wonderful journey, and am especially blessed to have been born and raised in Douglas, Arizona," Gudiņo said.