MERCED, CALIF. – Alma Martinez, who started her journalism career with the nonprofit radio network, is hitting a milestone in her career as the first executive director of Central Valley Journalism Collaborative.
Central Valley Journalism Collaborative (CVJC) made the announcement of Martinez’s position on July 6. Regarding her appointment, Martinez noted her excitement at taking on the new role as she ambitiously looks towards the future of the CVJC.
“I believe access to timely, fact-based, quality local news in a region as culturally and economically rich as ours is key to a prosperous future,” Martinez said.
Martinez was born in Mexico; her family emigrated to the Central Valley when she was three. She attended Los Banos High School and California State University, Fresno. She got her start in journalism when she became the first environmental health reporter for the radio network Radio Bilingue. She spent the next 12 and a half years reporting on issues that impacted the Valley’s Latino population.
She is also the founding director of Central Valley Latino Leadership Academy. According to the Academy’s website, the organization “aims to build the capacity of the next generation of Latino Professionals. The Academy aims to provide leadership tools, networking and mentoring to selected cohort participants.”
On its website, CVJC notes its purpose “is to enable and identify paths towards sustainability for local journalism through collaboration.” According to Martinez, collaboration involves input from anyone who cares about independent journalism.
“The onus (of preserving independent journalism) is not just on us,” Martinez said. “It takes all of us.”
Martinez noted the acknowledgement that CVJC cannot preserve independent journalism on its own; it requires partners.
“We have to engage the consumer; we have to engage philanthropy; we have to engage partners at the local level,” Martinez said.
Martinez said each community faces different challenges with respect to supporting its independent news outlets. CVJC responds to these challenges by offering different types of support.
“Maybe providing operational support (to a newsroom),” she said. “Or helping (an organization) hire a reporter, or partnering with organizations to hire a reporter.”
When she was a reporter for Radio Bilingue, Martinez saw the transformative change media could affect in people’s lives simply by telling their stories. She said that as executive director, she will continue to champion the simple idea that independent journalism can empower communities and give them a voice by providing information in a truthful way.
“As a journalist, I saw unincorporated areas that had issues with water; that didn’t have water access,” Martinez said. “Or areas that had poor air quality.”
From Martinez’s account, to address these issues, these communities got together and did their own air monitoring. She said they were able to provide this information to state government officials in order to get their policies changed – even with pesticide-drift issues.
CVJC was launched in 2021 by The James B. McClatchy Foundation. According to its mission statement, CVJC’s purpose is to keep local journalism alive, primarily through collaboration. These collaborative efforts include acquiring media entities, advocating for journalists, employing journalists and ensuring that money is available to fund these enterprises.
In addition to McClatchy, CVJC receives funding from the James Irvine Foundation, Microsoft Local Journalism Initiative and the Central Valley Community Foundation.