Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval usually ask the questions. This time UC Davis students, staff and faculty interviewed them.
As foreign correspondents in Latin America, the married journalists have interviewed powerful people including Vicente Fox and Hugo Chavez. They spent decades living and working in Latin America and now work for The Sacramento Bee.
Ferriss and Sandoval were on campus for the most recent brown bag lunch presented by the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas. HIA brings in speakers from various fields to discuss Latin America in its lunchtime meetings.
“We hope to spark interest in Latin America and link people who are interested,” said Chuck Walker, director of HIA.
The couple discussed their experiences in Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela, as well as journalism itself. Sandoval said they enjoyed a full spectrum of experiences, from talking to townspeople to hosting diplomats.
“It’s important to do that to get that added perspective,” Sandoval said. “The main thing that really sold the experience for me though, that made it life changing, was that we got to go out and talk to a lot of average people.“
Sandoval and Ferris both said being a part of the community and spending time in the country they were covering helped them to find interesting stories editors back in the states wouldn’t know about. They discussed stories about the funeral of a U.S. Marine in Mexico and a man who became an archeologist despite humble origins selling trinkets to tourists near ancient ruins.
“These are dream jobs for reporters because you are on your own and it’s pure journalism,” Ferriss said. “You go out and get the stories.“
As Ferriss and Sandoval described the interesting and exciting places they’ve lived and covered, they also talked about the state of print journalism now. Ferriss recited a long list of positions for foreign correspondents that have disappeared.
“There are still reporters obviously covering the region, but what we consider professional journalists, there are fewer and fewer,” she said. “The vast majority of those jobs are gone.“
When the couple opened the floor to questions, the audience asked more about journalism in Latin America than the region itself.
“Ten years ago this would have been more on Mexico per se,” Walker said. “Today it was more on journalism.“
Ferriss and Sandoval currently live in Davis, making for an easy commute. Walker said the university community should take advantage of the valuable resources in the city of Davis.
In addition to writing for the Bee, Sandoval and Ferriss also recently co-authored the book, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworker’s Movement. Ferriss covers immigration and Sandoval is an assistant editor at The Sacramento Bee.
HIA’s next brown bag lunch will be Feb. 11. Jesus de Loera, a professor of mathematics at UC Davis, will talk on the topic “Practicing Math and Science in Latin America.“
ELYSSA THOME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.