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Teresa Puente
Latina Voices
Chicago, IL

Assistant Journalism Professor
Columbia College
Chicago, IL

As opposed to a print newspaper column, Latina Voices online is "telling stories that need to be told, getting viewpoints that often not heard, and promote diversity and break stereotypes. It's the same mission, just a different platform."
Teresa Puente, in a fall, 2009, MGP interview

Photo Linked From: http://www.suntimes.com/images/cds/edboard/puente.jpg

Puente writes a blog focused on promoting ethnic diversity in Chicago

Profile by Dea Surjadi, Missouri School of Journalism, Nov. 2009

Teresa Puente takes pride in calling herself a Chicana and calling Chicago her hometown. She joined the Columbia College Chicago journalism faculty in August 2006 where she's now an assistant professor of journalism.

Puente is the founder of Latina Voices, a site that promotes opinion pieces, essays, and stories by or about Latina women. The site was founded with a New Media Women Entrepreneurs Grant. The grant was awarded by J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, and funded by the McCormick Foundation.

Puente is working with Columbia College Chicago students to write for the website. Some of the issues include education, teenage pregnancies, culture issues, stereotypes in the Hispanic community. She also writes for a blog called Chicanisima, which is run by Chicago Now and the Tribune Media Company.

In the past, she has worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune from 1995 to 2002. She was awarded the Studs Terkel Award by the Community Media Workshop for her coverage of Chicago's diverse communities.

In the fall of 2002, she moved to Guadalajara, Mexico where she did some freelance writing , teaching, and traveling.

She worked for the daily Chicago Sun-Times from 2007 to 2008 where she was a member of the editorial board and wrote an op-ed column.

Puente shared her concern that newsrooms are shrinking and part of the loss is journalists of color. There are not enough Hispanic journalists. She said there are not very many Hispanic women reporters. There are even fewer women who are editorial writers or opinion writers. "My site is important in writing about topics that don't get enough coverage" she said.

That's what inspired her to come up with Latina Voices. It covers news and opinions. The goal of the website is to get the not-so-often-heard viewpoints out there because they need to be heard.

Latina Voices also provides a place for those who'd like to contribute through creative non-fiction such as personal essays. Puente shared a story of her former student who became a teenage mom. Her student's personal essay talks about teen-age pregnancy and the issues surround it. Puente said," it's important because 54% of Hispanic women have become a teenage mom. It's a huge issue in the community and it has an impact nationwide. "

In May2009, there was concern that people were blaming Mexicans for spread of the swine flu. Puente then wrote a blog post in Latina Voices. The Chicago Tribune decided to pick it up. In her blog, Puente called it important not to stereotype Mexicans. A lot of people responded by saying it's the right thing for her to defend what she thinks is right since it matters a lot to the Hispanic community.

Puente hopes in the future there will be more citizen journalists, not just experts contributing to her website and blog. She would also like to reach not also younger writers, but also professional women through her Latina Voices website.

Everyone can submit their work for Latina Voices, not just Latinos.

Puente sees what she's doing right now as the same thing that she's been doing for years and years in the past. "I am a journalist. I see what I'm doing (the blog) as an online column. So it's similar to what I would do when I write a column for a newspaper. It varies in length but I approach it the same way in topics and focus."

She attributed her training in journalism as the reason her blog gets to where it is now. "My blog has a touch to it, I think it's because my training in journalism. I know how to make my point succinctly and get it across. So I really see my blog as an online column."

The bottom line, her philosophy in journalism is the same principle that's running her Chicanisima blog and Latina Voices site: "telling stories that need to be told, getting viewpoints that often not heard, and promote diversity and break stereotypes. "

"It's the same mission, just a different platform," she says.