BUIES CREEK - Hailing from Florida - which he calls the “Candyland of American journalism” and a freak show when it comes to politics - Manny Garcia has covered some of the nation’s biggest stories and most talked-about elections.
He shared his experiences and offered insight to a lecture hall packed with journalism and political science students Thursday at Campbell University’s annual Lecture Symposium. Garcia, executive editor and general manager El Nuevo Herald and former investigative reporter for Pulitzer Prize-winning projects at the Miami Herald, spoke on “Ethical Political Coverage in an Era of Instant News” and shared his thoughts on current events such as the media’s handling of the Trayvon Martin murder case.
His advice for the students - you don’t have to be part of a big newsroom to produce quality journalism. Knowledge, he said, is the best weapon a journalist can have.
“Knowledge is power,” Garcia said, “especially when covering politics. Know who’s running for office, learn all you can about them and then push them hard. This whole monopoly (newspapers) used to have … we were the big Moses on the mountain, telling you what you wanted to read.
That doesn’t work anymore. You can have a blog, and you can report on these candidates, and you can make an impact.”
Garcia showed videos of instances of political videos shot by non-traditional journalists earning millions of views and, at times, derailing campaigns. One example was the 2006 re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who used the word “macaca” in reference to an Indian-American who was filming his stump speeches. Video of Allen using the racially charged word - which means “monkey” - garnered millions of web hits and led to Allen’s defeat in that year’s election.
He also spoke of recent projects uncovering poor housing conditions at the University of Minnesota and exposing immigrant smugglers who robbed the men and women they were bringing into the country, and pointed out that they were stories done by college students.
“People like you are doing this work right now. Important work,” he said.
Garcia, invited to the series by Campbell Communications Studies professor Dr. Michael Smith, brought an impressive resume to the Lecture Series. He was lead writer on two Pulitzer Prize winning projects and has won numerous awards for investigative reporting. His nickname is "Father Manny," because he has gotten people to confess to crimes and other nefarious behavior over the years.
As a manager, Garcia served as The Miami Herald's Special Projects Editor, Metro Editor and Senior News Editor his last post before joining El Nuevo Herald, the most influential Spanish-speaking newspaper in the Western hemisphere.
“I’m living the american dream,” Garcia said Thursday. “I was born in Cuba, and my parents lost everything. But they wanted to give me an opportunity to live free. So here I am leading a newsroom in Spanish, and our key beat is Cuba - a communist country with no free press that doesn’t allow our reporters in.”
He shared the words he lives by to the students, taken from Luke 12:2-3.
“Whatever’s done in the darkness will come out in the light. Whatever’s whispered in closets will be shouted from the rooftops.
Story by Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications
Photo courtesy of Trevor Normile