The New Face Of SPJ

Sonny Albarado, new president of SPJI met Sonny Albarado when he was President-elect during the Excellence in Journalism Conference in New Orleans. That’s where I learned about the SPJ Diversity Leadership Fellows program.  This year I was one of the Diversity Fellows and I sat down with Sonny on the day he was installed as President of SPJ to find out what’s important to him in his new role.

Sandra: What is your biggest goal for SPJ as President?

Sonny: My biggest goal is to help SPJ reshape its image, because as an insider I see SPJ as a very diverse and active organization that’s on the forefront of helping journalists adapt to and manage the technological changes and the business changes that have come about in their profession, recognizing that SPJ stands for some very core values of the journalism profession.

We still have to make sure that people understand that we aren’t just a bunch of old print or old broadcast people who are stuck in some fantasy land of some long ago once it was wonderful golden age. SPJ is a vibrant organization. It is on the cutting edge of several things. We need to make sure that our members understand that, potential members understand that; the general public understands that.

Sandra: And part of the Diversity Fellowship comes with that, so your thoughts on that?

Sonny: To me it’s a crucial part of how SPJ keeps current and keeps becoming more representative of people in the profession. Because we bring in people from minority groups, marginalized groups and we say, “Okay here is what SPJ does.” We introduce them to SPJ’s culture.  We introduce them to SPJ leaders and SPJ activists, and they say, “Oh, maybe I can do that.” And that’s the whole idea.They can become active in their local chapters; they become active on a national level either on committees or other activities, and the hope is that they become members of the national board and ultimately maybe even president.

Sandra: What do you say to the those journalists who say, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of White guys!”?

Sonny: That’s one of my key goals. And it isn’t just a bunch of white guys. We have women. We have Latinos. We have Blacks. We have Asians. We have handicapped people. The organization is a lot more diverse than the image that we have and that’s my key message.

Sandra: We have presidential candidates that are courting the Latino vote from the West coast to the East coast all week long, immigration has been a hot topic, and Sonny you’re not the first, but it’s a good time for a Hispanic president to rise for SPJ.

Sonny: Yes, I think it is. I’ve told fellow SPJers from a Hispanic background I’ve never actually self identified as Hispanic although I know my heritage is Hispanic because it’s one of those situations where I grew up in Anglo culture, well I can’t even say that because I grew up in a Cajun culture. But ever since the census started putting the check mark where you can identify yourself as Hispanic, I made sure that I marked it because that is part of my heritage. Recognizing that, celebrating that, is something that ought be done.

In terms of someone with a Hispanic background becoming president of SPJ, I think it is fortuitous that we’re at a point in the country as a whole where Hispanic culture has become intermixed with our Anglo culture and despite the fears of anti-immigration folks and the folks who say, “Oh no, the White people are losing their identity,” no we are becoming a richer people for it.

Sandra: Last year you were really excited to announce your Hispanic heritage at the business meeting. What sparked that?

Sonny: Well I met Rebecca Aguilar, and she’s such a dynamo and we talked at length about my heritage, and she said, “Albarado, that has to be Spanish,” and so I told her a little bit about my family history. And then she told me the story of her family and it got me thinking there were some similarities there. I don’t speak French. My parents speak French, Cajun French. I don’t speak French because my parents grew up in a time when you were punished in school for speaking French, so they didn’t want their children speaking French, because of the stigma. They didn’t even want us to have an accent. I don’t have that accent. Talking to Rebecca about all these things, I realized I am Hispanic and I need to own that and that why I spoke so fervently at the meeting, and was a revelation: “I am Hispanic, and I need to own that even if I don’t identify as a Latino as someone who has been part of that culture all their lives.

Sandra: What country does this originate from?

Sonny: The Canary Islands; in 1783 Bernardo de Galvez who settled in Louisiana for the Spanish crown brought colonists over and they brought families. The men were hired as soldiers, but they were also brought here to claim land, farm it and raise families. You still have Gonzales’ and Rodriguez’, except the name got shortened to Rodrigue; and Albarados and Alvarez’. In St. Bernard Parish there’s actually a very strong “Islenos” culture.

Sandra Gonzalez is an award winning reporter.  She is currently a reporter at  KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, NV.  She’s a 2012 SPJ Diversity Fellow and a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. 

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  • AndrewMSeaman

    As far as I know, AirPlay is part of a conference put together by Region 3 of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Regional arms of SPJ – again, as far as I know – are allowed to control the programming of their conferences. In this case, a national board member is organizing AirPlay and one of the highest ranking members of the organization will sit on a panel. I don’t know how much more involved SPJ can be. Also, I’m unaware how Gawker’s transgressions fit in with AirPlay, but I don’t follow GamerGate. You may want to contact Michael -the organizer – at for more information.

  • AndrewMSeaman

    I’m not dismissing any organization’s transgressions, @QhL9yP1zLr:disqus. In case you haven’t noticed, this blog post is calling out what I consider an ethical violation by Gawker. Also, other organizations, such as NBC, are often violating our standards on checkbook journalism. Some Gawker staffers distanced themselves from the article since the beginning. I’m not going to label all of them unethical. If you want to, go ahead.

  • halosydne

    “Ah, so anyone who purchases sex for money should be ‘outed’ as a john?”

    As someone who works in anti-human trafficking efforts among nonprofits and state entities: yes. Next question, please.

  • Matt Derrick

    There are many layers to this onion and I have no doubt journalism ethics classes will enjoy debating this over the next few years. I myself have had a healthy debate with a colleague over elements of this story.

    I do think it was a poorly structured story in that there was a lot of insinuation without concrete facts and largely singled sourced. I wouldn’t have published it for those years.

    A separate debate, which this SPJ posts highlights, is the definition of a private individual. While I notice Mr. Seaman was careful not to identify the individual by name in the initial overview of the Gawker post, enough information was given to identify him. Later, a quote from Gawker’s retraction identified the individual by full name. This post now carries his full name and an overview of Gawker’s allegations against him.

    Is that appropriate if SPJ ethics deem him a private individual? I grant you that I do consider him a public individual; he has a significant public role in a major and influential media company which he did of his own accord and is consistent with seeking power, influence or attention. But a healthy debate exists about his classification of a private individual. This post seems to suggest he is a private individual, then clearly identifies him and the allegations against him.

  • Internet_Zen_Master

    So Nick Denton took down the original article and put this up in its place:

    If anything, the second paragraph of Denton’s post reeks of insincerity and desperately trying to justify Gawker’s reasoning in my opinion. The paragraph is as follows: “The story involves extortion, illegality and reckless behavior, sufficient justification at least in tabloid news terms. The account was true and well-reported. It concerns a senior business executive at one of the most powerful media companies on the planet.”

    I’m actually amused, because he’s playing the ‘tabloid news’ card, since Gawker loves to try and pass itself off as more than just a tabloid rag when it has positive press.

  • Derp

    Adam Weinstein apparently left the company over this:

  • Mark Neil

    But to date, only the Florida region (in addition to region 3 that is hosting it)has come out supporting Airplay, while the other regions just observe and/or baulk at it. It may be something to consider showing more interest on your part. And to be clear, I didn’t say “involved”, I said invested”. Most of the panalists are funding their own participation due to a lack of funding. By your own admission, you don’t know many details on the subject. I would argue that demonstrates a lack of investment, at least on your part, and on many of the regions, if my understanding is correct.

    As to the relation between Gawker and Gamergate… Gawker (and more specifically, it’s gaming arm Kotaku) are some of the most egregious ethical offenders gamergate has been battling against for this last year (10 months under gamergate, years prior to the hashtag). gawker has used it’s media influence to villainize the gamergate movement, and gamergate has repeatedly given gawker a bloody nose, including costing them 7 figures in revenue when they informed advertisers about the ethical violations and attitudes.

    So again, perhaps it is something you may wish to show a little more interest in, if you’re wanting to call Gawker out. Because they have needed calling out for a long time, and the fact you’re only noticing now, despite gamergate doing it almost a year, calls into question your own credibility.

    And that’s all I’m saying… you may want to consider paying more attention to it, for good or bad. I think it’s more relevant than you realize.

  • Mark Neil

    “I’m not dismissing any organization’s transgressions”

    Then what was the purpose of this statement?

    “Unfortunately, a lot of the ethical violations you point out about Gawker were also committed by “traditional” media.”

    Because it very much looks like making an excuse for not having called them out earlier. It very much looks like damage control. But if I’m misunderstanding this quote, or your intent in saying it, feel free to clarify.

    “In case you haven’t noticed, this blog post is calling out what I consider an ethical violation by Gawker.”

    Yeah, I get that you’re finally calling them out, but that’s not the issue @derp was speaking too… You can’t make the kind of response you made and then think the fact you finally called them out, once, negates the comment you JUST made, after the call out.

  • AndrewMSeaman

    You know, I had a response typed out to you in one of your other comments. Instead, I feel like engaging with you any more would be a lesson in poor time management. Have a great weekend, Mark.

  • Mark Neil

    How unfortunate you feel that way, but not entirely surprising.

  • I can’t even understand the reasoning that went on with Gawker’s editorial staff. It was the pointless trashing of someone’s reputation, and the only possible reason to do it was to drive traffic. It had absolutely no news value. Web-only publications have been making a concerted effort to be taken seriously as journalistic outlets, and Gawker just reverted back to 19th century tabloid journalism with a dose of National Enquirer.

  • bryoneill11

    People SPJ is doing this article now because of GamerGate calling them out. “We Expected Better, Gawker” Yeah? since when? Gawker is doing this for years and years. How come this story is different? Why everybody is calling them out last night? I tell you why, because GamerGate. The fact that SPJ expected better means that they knew nothing about them. GamerGate is doing in just 1 year what SPj supposed to be doing since forever

  • Ryan Freire

    Why, why would you think they’re better than that? They’ve never been better than that.

  • ParasamGateZero

    So you equate prostitution with human trafficking? You think that all prostitutes were have been kidnapped and enslaved?

    Also, you didn’t address any of my other points. So it’s a little disingenuous for you to say ‘next question’.

  • Mr.Sixes

    @1:25 in the video you can see she’s even surprised by hearing that and then spends the rest of the video trying to make it sound like it ain’t that bad. Then at 2:20 she looks like she just saw someone get shot.
    Then she gets called out on ALL THE CRAP!

  • halosydne

    They don’t have to have been kidnapped — do you think human trafficking is what you’ve seen in Taken? No, not all sex workers are involuntary — but the vast majority are. And johns, particularly repeat johns, are usually connected to a trafficker in some way. Usually these women are coerced or even forced by people they know, conditioned to say they’re doing it of their own accord when they’re arrested or asked by johns. Teenage girls are made to think they’re in relationships and then told by their trafficker “if you love me, you’ll do this for us!” Kidnapping doesn’t ever even have to enter the equation. Let’s watch how we throw around the word disingenuous if you think one of the largest criminal industries in the world is most accurately depicted by a Liam Neeson film.

    There were no actual questions in the latter half of your comment, and I did not disagree with you about people being someone else’s property. The rest of your post is laughable enough it does not warrant reply, on the term “feminazi” alone, and suggests you have no idea what feminism actually is.

  • Lost Question

    I think the bigger problem is the rush to publish thing’s when reporting online it’s far to easy to rush a article out then go back and correct screw ups or pull the article after. problem is once you the article is out there almost no one see’s the corrections made after the fact.

  • Random Chatter

    And all this time I thought liberals view of sexual liaisons was “it’s a private matter and no one’s business.”

  • ParasamGateZero

    I could care less what feminism actually is, and you have no citations to back up your claims.

  • halosydne

    The fact that you’d come back after two weeks just to show your ass tells me how willfully unintelligent you are. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has basic information about some cases available on its website (such as:, which is as recent as 2014) on a rotating basis. I’ve also been working in this field for five years. I hope you read those stories and educate yourself. I’m done here. Good luck getting your head out of the sand.

  • ParasamGateZero

    I’ve had a busy two weeks and haven’t had time to return to this forum, which is not my preferred venue for discussions anyway. What you’ve presented is not any sort of citation, but a rotating collection of anecdotes. A citation would be to an actual study which both defines and quantifies human trafficking. What you’re doing is not science based and not fact based. You’re just spreading a narrative.

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