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Untold stories

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Editor’s note: KJZZ, Arizona’s listener-supported public broadcasting station licensed to the Maricopa Community College District, recently launched the first regional news network of its kind. Annette Flores, the radio station’s public relations coordinator, shares with us the mission of this new endeavor focused on the Southwest and the people behind it.

By Annette Flores

“Truth never dies, but lives a wretched life,” goes an old Yiddish proverb. Until it is discovered by people who can create positive change.

A couple of weeks ago, Al Macias, managing editor of KJZZ’s new Changing America Desk, approached general manager Jim Paluzzi about an extraordinary story.

He said Las Cruces, N.M., reporter Mónica Ortiz discovered that a resident of El Paso, Texas, had to secure and transport his own blood donation to Juárez, Mexico, to help save his mother’s life, because no hospital in Juárez admitted to having the blood type she needed. There are no centralized blood banks in Juárez and no formal agreements between the U.S. and Mexico to share blood. Paluzzi shook his head and said, “Now, you don’t hear that kind of thing every day.”

It’s no surprise that Ortiz received the green light to investigate the Mexican blood donor and distribution system and the effects it has on people living on both sides of the border.

Since then, Ortiz has revealed that hospitals in Mexico are responsible for managing their own blood supplies. When patients require blood, they are responsible for replacing it, usually by getting friends and family members to donate.

The man who experienced the ordeal of securing and transporting blood donations for his mother was inspired to work for United Blood Services of El Paso and to help create a more unified donor system in Mexico. He has personally trained Mexican citizens and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in an effort to change the system.

Ortiz’s discovery of his story and the blood donor and distribution system in Mexico is a snapshot reflecting the primary mission, essence and power of KJZZ’s Changing America Desk. Here’s a closer look at this innovative news bureau for a better understanding of why Ortiz was able to uncover this story, and to learn how the community can help reveal hidden truths.

Focus on the Southwest

Stories about the Southwest’s recession and housing crisis, government budget shortfalls, illegal immigration issues and ongoing battles with drug cartels have pervaded local and national media headlines for some time now. The Changing America Desk was designed to investigate the facts behind those headlines and to explore hidden stories unique to southwestern states and border towns – stories that are ignored or overlooked by the media at large.

KJZZ’s Changing America Desk is part of the new Fronteras News Network, an unprecedented collaboration among seven public radio stations, led by a partnership between KJZZ and KPBS in San Diego and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The other participating stations are Nevada Public Radio (Las Vegas), KRWG (serving southwest New Mexico and Texas), Texas Public Radio, Arizona Public Media (Tucson) and Arizona Public Radio (Flagstaff). Two teams – KJZZ’s Changing America Desk and KPBS’s Border Team – are now producing content for the network. The other stations provide field offices and technical support.

Together they are transmitting a variety of in-depth news reports to 8.9 million radio listeners in five states about issues unique to the Southwest. Reporters are tackling a range of topics including immigration, conservation, demographics, economics, politics and culture. The primary mission is to identify trends, provide context and provoke discussion.

Mónica Ortiz, one of seven new KJZZ Changing America Desk reporters, focuses on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border near Texas and New Mexico. She knows the headlines all too well, and understands that the only way to get to the truth is to immerse herself in the community she is trying to serve. Ortiz is based in New Mexico, but she covers a lot of territory in terms of both geography and content.

“I love that the job allows me to further develop an expertise on Mexico and the southwest border,” says Ortiz. “It also gives me an opportunity to explore and report on issues in New Mexico, which have long been neglected. I also have a chance to continue reporting from my hometown on what is currently one of the most important stories in the world: the drug war in Mexico.”

See this story in print here:

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