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NY Times correspondent named ASU Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor

Fernanda Santos

New York Times Southwest correspondent Fernanda Santos is joining the Cronkite School as a Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor. Photo by Nick Oza

July 18, 2017

Fernanda Santos, an award-winning author and Southwest correspondent for The New York Times, is joining the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as a Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor, Arizona State University has announced.

Santos, who covers Arizona and New Mexico for the Times, has reported extensively on border and immigration issues as well as wildfires in the Southwest. Her recent book, “The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots,” covered the deadliest wildfire in Arizona history.

Santos, who starts Aug. 16, will teach short- and long-form narrative journalism to undergraduate and graduate students. She will hold the rank of professor of practice.

“I’m a firm believer in sharing my knowledge, and I can think of no better way to do that than to work with the next generation of journalists at Cronkite, a school that believes in diversity of culture, background and point of view — diversity in its true form,” Santos said. “This is an amazing opportunity to help students become better writers and to mentor them.”

Since joining the Times in 2005, Santos has covered New York City’s public school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s City Hall and the New York borough of Queens as well as rural and suburban communities in the state of New York. Her story on the first year of freedom for a wrongfully convicted man won awards from the Associated Press Media Editors and the Society of Silurians.

As Phoenix bureau chief, she has reported on the ongoing issues surrounding President Donald Trump’s plan to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as on a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Phoenix that was once targeted for demolition.  

“Fernanda’s stories for the Times have brought national and international attention to the important issues of the Southwest through skilled reporting and powerful narrative,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are thrilled she will be sharing her passion for storytelling with our students and are excited for her to be an integral part of our school.”

Santos, who speaks four languages — English, Portuguese, Spanish and French — got her start in journalism in her home country of Brazil, where she found a passion for storytelling in Rio de Janeiro. There, she said she witnessed “violence, inequality and immeasurable hope.”

In 1998, she came to the U.S. and started reporting for newspapers in Massachusetts. At the Eagle-Tribune, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, she was part of the reporting team that won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service for a multipart series on racial relations in New England. 

She went on to work at the New York Daily News and People Magazine before joining The New York Times.

Santos also was a fellow at the International Reporting Project, hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., in 2005. For the fellowship, she traveled to Colombia to explore the reasons behind a steep decline in the rate of violent crimes in Bogotá.

“I've been a journalist for 20 years, 12 of those at The New York Times, where I learned from some of the best editors and reporters in the business,” she said. “This was the perfect time in my career to step away from daily newspapers. Cronkite gave me a home when I took a leave of absence from The Times to write a book about the deadly wildfire of 2013. I’m honored to be joining the full-time faculty at the school, and I can't wait to bring my passion and skills to the classroom.”

Published in 2016, “The Fire Line” provides a narrative of the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 firefighters. The book received the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award for Best First Nonfiction Book.

At the Cronkite School, Santos will be part of the ASU Southwest Borderlands Initiative. The borderlands initiative, created in 2001 to enhance research and teaching focused on the Southwest and the U.S.-Mexico border, has more than two dozen faculty members across a wide array of disciplines.

Santos will join Cronkite’s Southwest Borderlands Professor Rick Rodriguez, the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and the first Latino president of the American Society of News Editors. Santos, Rodriguez and Vanessa Ruiz, a former lead anchor on 12 News Phoenix and an award-winning bilingual correspondent who also starts at Cronkite next month, are part of a growing cadre of faculty members specializing in coverage of the border and Latino issues.

Santos is a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a board member of the Arizona Latino Media Association and a member of the Journalism and Women Symposium.

She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in communications and sociology from Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro.

“Joining Cronkite is truly an honor,” Santos said. “This is an incredible opportunity to be part of a stellar faculty in one of the best journalism schools in the country.”

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