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Top editor sharpens focus on Latino news coverage

February 07, 2008

Rick Rodriguez, former executive editor of the Sacramento Bee and the first Latino president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, is joining the faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Rodriguez, 53, will be the school’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor and hold the faculty rank of professor of practice. He joins the faculty March 3.

“Rick Rodriguez is one of the leading editors of his generation, a national voice who has always championed great journalism and in-depth, investigative news reporting,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “He has been a teacher in the newsroom for more than 30 years, and now our students will benefit enormously from his passion, values and integrity.”


Rodriguez will develop a new cross-disciplinary specialization at the Cronkite School in the coverage of issues relating to Latinos and the U.S.-Mexico border.


“Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population,” Callahan said. “We need to create a cadre of young journalists who can not only speak the language, but are equipped with a deep understanding of the cultural, historical, political, religious and sociological backgrounds of the wide variety of Latino populations. There is no one better to do that than Rick Rodriguez, who has been a national leader of ethnic diversity in newsrooms and news products.”

Rodriguez was the top editor at the Sacramento Bee, one of the 10 largest daily newspapers in the West, from 1998 until his resignation in October. Last year his newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

The Salinas, Calif., native graduated from Stanford University in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

He was only 18 when he began his career with his hometown newspaper, The Salinas Californian. One of his first assignments was interviewing legendary farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, and he says that reporting on Chavez’s career is among his proudest achievements as a reporter.

Rodriguez worked for another McClatchy newspaper, The Fresno Bee, before joining the Sacramento Bee in 1982 as a political writer. He was the Bee’s managing editor for five years before being named executive editor.

Rodriguez was the first Latino to serve as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Both in the newsroom and as president of ASNE, Rodriguez was known as a champion of watchdog journalism.

“I am very impressed with the Cronkite School’s commitment to educating the next generation of journalists,” Rodriguez said. “And I’m pleased that I will be joining such a distinguished faculty and being part of that great effort.”

Rodriguez continues to serve as a consultant to the vice president for news at The McClatchy Co., which owns the Bee.

Rodriguez is the 14th new full-time professor to join the Cronkite School in the past two years. Others include former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, former Minneapolis Star Tribune Editor Tim McGuire, BET Vice President Retha Hill, former Akron Beacon Journal Publisher James Crutchfield and digital media leader Dan Gillmor. New visiting professors include Ellen Soeteber, former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who is the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics.

The Cronkite School, a nationally recognized professional journalism program with 1,500 students, is home to the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, the New Media Innovation Lab, the Knight Chair in Journalism and the Frank Russell Chair in the Business of Journalism.

Cronkite students last year took first place nationally in both the Hearst Awards and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence awards.

The school, located on ASU’s Tempe campus, will move into a new six-story, $71 million journalism education complex in downtown Phoenix in August.