It's fair to say taking on the Tucson Weekly as managing editor has had its share of transitions—mostly those pesky holiday deadlines and crafting out a new vision for Tucson's alternative newsweekly. That's meant some staff changes. Before the end of the year we had a chance to introduce you to our new food and music writer Heather Hoch, who came to us by way of the Phoenix New Times. We've heard amazing feedback from our downtown friends and others who've enjoyed her food coverage so far, and we're pleased she wised up and figured out the Moldy Pueblo is a good place to call home.
This week, I want to introduce you to our new staff writer, Maria Ines Taracena, who joined the Tucson Weekly on Dec. 16, 2014 leaving AZPM after working for the UA public radio and TV outfit the past year and a half. Taracena is no stranger to the Weekly. She was one of our favorite interns when she attended the UA where she studied journalism and Latin American Studies. You're going to want to get to know our new staff writer, which has always been a catch-all position at times. However, firmly under her watch are education, immigration issues and medical marijuana. Want to share a story idea with her? Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You came to the U.S. from Guatemala at age 13. How did that experience inform you as a journalist in Arizona?
I am able to bring a strange foreigner angle into a lot of things happening here. Growing up in a country, where at first I didn't know the language and had to get used to a very, very different culture, it sort of opens you up in a different way—different than someone who hasn't had to forcibly adjust to a new environment.
Newspapers are having a hard time. Why journalism and why the Tucson Weekly?
I am still rather green in this world, but I've already been face-to-face with situations that will either reinforce your love for what you do, or make you run and apply for a public relations or marketing gig. Survival in this field comes down to your passion. That's really cliche but most cliches are also very true, and I forget who said that. Yes, print journalism is having a hard time, but that doesn't mean that journalism is disappearing—there's online. For as long as there are people going through peaks and pits, journalists are going to be relevant. We are here to tell your story, to make some noise, to not have a filter. This is why I feel at home at the Weekly, because we tell human stories.
What have you enjoyed writing about so far?
For the past couple of weeks, I have been following the Tucson Unified School District v. Arizona Department of Education dilemma. I got to sit in one of the classes that John Huppenthal pointed out to be in violation of the state's anti-Mexican-American studies law—more specifically, the one where Rage Against the Machine lyrics were used—and that was awesome to say the least. Again, getting to meet the humans who are directly affected by this law and by the actions of the state, it was a great experience and truly inspiring to write about. I also have gotten to write about two huge landmarks, one local and another statewide: Tucson police officers can't ask students their immigration status in TUSD public schools, and DREAMers can now get driver's licenses.
If I'm a potential source, what local coffee shop should I meet you at?
Cafe Passe on Fourth Avenue. Started going there many, many years ago, when the place was no bigger than a small hallway-like space with small wooden tables and I was a young Pima Community College student. My coffee shop of choice until the end (her editor's favorite place, too).
If you could, pick anyone, who would you want to interview?
The president of Uruguay, José Alberto Mujica Cordano, the so-called "poorest president in the world." Much of his money goes to the people of his country and their well-being rather than mansions, mid-life crisis sports cars and Swiss banks. I would then interview the president of my country, Otto Pérez Molina, and ask him why money that's supposed to go to maintaining hospitals, public schools, etc. is ending up in his wallet.
Mari Herreras, Managing Editor