By Sherrie Voss Matthews
Anna Ruiz believes that despite facing an industry reeling from layoffs and struggling to find its way in a socially networked world, there is a future for young journalists.
As a writer for Austin’s Latinitas, an online magazine for Latina girls and teens, the freshman UIW communication arts student has used her writing talent to help young women discover where they fit within the wider world. An essay she wrote about her quinceañera, or coming of age ceremony when she turned 15, was a cover story for Latinitas. In it she explained how the event helped her accept who she is.
Ruiz, the daughter of a Mexican national and a Mexican American, was raised by her aunt. Ruiz’s mother died the day after she was born; her father was simply unable to care for a newborn.
Writing from the heart, Ruiz explained how her cultural identity crystallized as she sat in church for her quinceañera while surrounded by her mother’s family.
She would have been content to skip her quinceañera altogether because she felt she was more American than Hispanic. Yet surrounded by her family’s love, she accepted herself, her heritage and her connection with her mother during the celebration.
Ruiz knew the issue of Latinitas – complete with cover photo – was hitting newstands, but the impact of publishing her story didn’t sink in until she saw it in an airport after a vacation.
“It was pretty cool,” Ruiz recalls. “I came back from Las Vegas and was in the airport and saw it in the racks. Writing has always been a passion. You can write about what you chose; you don’t have to conform to a social idea. It gives you freedom, and I like that. Journalism gives my mind time to explore.”
Ruiz sees a career in journalism as a way to educate. “With writing, I always look for topics that are more controversial, those topics that people don’t want to touch. I try to find the subject and say, this is why it is.”
The first of her family to go to college, Ruiz is optimistic about her chances to follow in the footsteps of Diane Sawyer and Oprah, her journalistic heroes. She would like to launch a magazine for teen girls about faith, but she knows that journalism might not end up being her full-time job.
“It is kind of scary in a way. It doesn’t pay a lot, but it is my passion. I know I can be happy doing something like this for the rest of my life.”
The Austin native has joined several of Incarnate Word’s multiple student outlets for young journalists. She is a staff writer for the Logos student newspaper, and you can hear her deejay Thursday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. on KUIW radio.
“Radio is more impulsive thinking than thought-out thinking,” Ruiz says. “It’s fun; I don’t feel pressured. I pretend that nobody is listening, so I can talk and be pretty natural.”
Listen to Anna on www.kuiw.org on Thursday evenings from 6-8 p.m.