Home > finals > Penelope Leon, El Perico’s voice for the people in the Latino community

Penelope Leon, El Perico’s voice for the people in the Latino community

Penelope Leon holds sign in support of LB 623.

Penelope Leon holds sign in support of LB 623. (Photo Courtesy of the Heartland Workers Center).

By Magdalena Cazarez

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Penelope Leon believes in using her position as editor to educate her community on important issues and current events.

As an editor, she said she has to to think about the greater good of all the people.

“There are causes that need to be told and we have the obligation to tell the community,” said Leon, a part-time copy editor at El Perico, a bilingual newspaper in Omaha.

The newspaper reaches about 25,000 Spanish-speaking residents monthly.

Leon, who has worked at El Perico since March 2014, said a controversial topic has been  popular right now. El Perico has covered Legislative Bill 623, which would grant driver’s licenses to children in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I am very confident that the bill will pass …  not because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ or it is a ‘safety’ issue, but because it is an economical issue that will benefit the whole state,” said Leon during an interview in her Omaha office.

Leon said that editors have the power to inform people on important topics, such as LB 623, which affect the community. With that power, comes responsibility. Editors have to be careful with the way they introduce or focus a story, she said. Leon feels strongly about LB623, but as an editor it is her job to be objective.

Leon does not have favorite stories. She said there are too many.  Her favorite types of stories are about people, such as a story in El Perico about the young people who would be affected by LB 623.

“We hear about celebrities and important icons on television, radio, everywhere, but when do you read about the local people? Regular people in the community have a story to tell too. They are the stories with emotion – the ones that make you (feel) something when you are reading it.  Those are my favorite,” said Leon.

Leon is also the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Outreach Trainer for the Heartland Workers Center in Omaha, which advocates for civic participation, leadership development and voting. In her part-time position, she trains and educates employees who would work in the construction field.

Leon’s advice for beginning editors is to start as a reporter.

Although it was not her cup of tea, it was a position that taught her how to handle many things.

Learn the basics of journalism and execute your skills, she said.

Before she was offered a job with El Perico, Leon was a daily reader of the newspaper.

However, she noticed was something off. The Spanish content was translated perfectly – too perfectly. Leon said the content was awkward and too straightforward.

In the journalism field, she said content is supposed to be direct, but the problem was there was limited creativity and compelling story telling. She expressed her concerns to Editor John Heaston and was offered the editor position.

El Perico was founded in 1999. El Perico means The Parrot, known for receiving and repeating messages.

The newspaper has sections including auto, services, health, entertainment, real estate, employment, sports and social. The newspaper is written in Spanish and English to accommodate for the Latino population in South Omaha.

Leon received a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism from the Universidad Iberoamerica in Mexico City. Leon began her career as a reporter by creating her own newspaper in Texas. She called the newspaper Supplement or La Voz de la Gente, which means The Voice of the People. Similar to El Perico, the newspaper focused on reporting local news. She gained much of her experience with Supplement in Spanish.

Although reporting was not her expertise, it was her way of putting herself on the other side of the newsroom.

Leon wore many hats. She was the designer, the editor and the reporter of Supplement in Spanish for years.

As technology has advanced, Leon’s daily tasks have become easier.

Advancement in technology allows her to edit her reporter’s stories from her office at Heartland Workers Center, a few blocks from El Perico headquarters. This allows for faster publication, she said.

Every newspaper should know how to communicate digitally in order to stay relevant, Leon said.

Much of the success from El Perico has been being active online, she said. Online journalism has given the newspaper the advantage to reach a wider audience and inform readers on issues affecting their community.

“There are many newspapers that have died out because they have not been able to successfully transition onto online journalism,” she said.

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