Five years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas told the public he was an undocumented immigrant — transforming himself from news reporter to news maker.
Since then, he’s visited 46 states and spoken at hundreds of events. And he’s speaking out through his latest project, #EmergingUS, a digital platform devoted to stories on race, immigration, culture and identity in America.
“He saw that America is not really reflected in the media as well as it could be, and stories aren’t told with any sort of nuance or complexity,” said Jenna Pittaway MA ’15, the lead video editor for the platform and a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “His goal now is to create a media platform that tells some of those stories with more attention to what’s happening.”
Alumna sees untold stories
Vargas, Pittaway and the rest of their team pride themselves on connecting with individuals and groups that have long been neglected by mainstream media. Their content, which includes videos, essays, podcasts and other digital content, will allow people to share their opinions and stories.
So far, they’ve met with countless American immigrants. They’ve interviewed the founders of #BlackLivesMatter. They’ve gotten people’s responses to the narrow racial categories on the U.S. Census. They’ve also spent time with organizations like HapaSC, a social group comprising people of mixed-ethnicity, or “hapas.”
The#EmergingUS team launched a crowdfunding campaign through Beacon to back their work. If they can raise $1 million, they’ll release content — which they’ve been producing for a year — as soon as April.
Pittaway, a hapa herself, was sold on joining the #EmergingUS team after being shown the video on HapaSC during her interview last year. In her experience, very few people know what a hapa is and are able to discuss it productively.
“I definitely don’t see myself in the media,” Pittaway said. Mixed-race people are going to be a growing segment of the population, “but it’s still really not represented well.”
Pittaway said the content produced by #EmergingUS is different from anything she’s seen before. Since graduating from the USC Annenberg, she’s made a point of working on one-of-a-kind projects.
The trio worked closely both at USC Annenberg and on their trip, which is why the startup environment at #EmergingUS appealed to Pittaway. Joining another small team of devoted reporters, she said, “felt very natural to me.”