Meet the Sheroe Leading NAHJ's Media Diversity Efforts

Publishable article by Richard Leiby courtesy BIPOCXChange


National Association of Hispanic Journalists president Yvette Cabrera is inspiring when she outlines some of the things her organization has achieved in recent years – for example, the new Adelante Academy, just off its inaugural run and gearing up for another round.

“It’s a Latina leadership program to develop leaders within the newsroom,” she says. “Just because you may be a good editor doesn’t mean you're necessarily a good manager.”

What makes news such as this as shared by Cabrera, especially inspiring is that the leader of the 40-year-old, 3,600-member organization has a backstory of deep personal understanding of the many uphill battles that have faced Hispanics.

View MMCA 2024 Sheroes in Media Awards acceptance speech

She starts with her parents: “They came with nothing to the United States,” Ms. Cabrera says. “Not even speaking the language. And my dad was a gardener. My mom cleaned homes. 

“And my mom was like one of those moms who gave us tough love. And whenever we would complain, my mom would say, ‘You need to go to college. So you can have a better life.’”

On that score, Cabrera has done pretty well: An accomplished environmental reporter with a keen eye for considering the relationship between economic and environmental marginalization, she’s held a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residents Fellowship, just picked up a National Academy of Sciences award, has helped stand up the journalist-of-color Uproot Project, and currently works at the Center for Public Integrity.

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In one sense, journalism has always been part of her life, starting with her childhood,  with her father, later in college and early in her career. 

“I remember growing up watching him read the paper,” she recalls of her father. “He was a faithful watcher of Univision that was coming out of LA, that we would get here in Santa Barbara, growing up.

“And I remember he would read the Santa Barbara News-Press in English because he was trying to learn English at the time, and so he was an example. He was also a great storyteller, and I always credit him with inspiring the storyteller in me. Because he was. He shared the story of what it was like for him, growing up in Mexico, through these stories that he would tell us in the car.”

View MMCA 2024 Sheroes in Media Award Interview Clip (Photo credit MMCA)

As an undergraduate at Los Angeles’ Occidental College, a story she submitted to the college paper profiling the college’s cafeteria workers – including a Honduran migrant sending his wages home – was well-received by her newsroom and readers alike, and the sense of journalism as a service profession spoke to her. She received a scholarship from the California Chicano News Media Association, which she considered  a “message that this group of professional journalists, Latino journalists, believed in me, believed I could do it.”

Ever since, she hasn’t stopped returning the favor – by active leadership and advocacy work: “One of the things I say about diversity, that it’s not just about race and ethnicity, that it’s about supporting people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s about gender. It’s about geography. You know, making sure that we have people that have grown up in these neighborhoods.

“I worked for a long time in the city of Santana, which is highly immigrant working-class. People whose stories have been misconstrued by outsiders,” she says. “And being able to myself, having grown up the daughter of immigrants, working class, we understood the sacrifices that had to be made to survive.

“And so I approach my journalism in that way and look for people that have that same understanding that may not have graduated from Columbia journalism school, but have that grit to survive, but also the empathy and compassion. And so they know how to connect with these communities. That's really where I think we, as an industry, can look for solutions to survive.”








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