“My mother swears that when I was three or four, I used to take a notebook and a pencil, and even though I did not know how to write, I would go interview my neighbors and then come back to the kitchen and tell everyone what was going on in our neighborhood.”
Inez Russell Gomez is the editorial page editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican – notable that we haven’t talked to an editorial page editor or a New Mexican yet. Her journalism career spans more than 40 years, much of that in New Mexico.
Inez talked about her journalism origin story and her present role both writing editorials and producing an editorial page. She also discussed the relationship that her newspaper has with the city of Santa Fe.
You can hear the full interview here. Below are three things I learned in my conversation with her.
1) The Santa Fe New Mexican has a special connection with readers.
“Well, I am the most proud of the fact that we and our readers have a wonderful love affair, and that means they get mad at us sometimes and they are happy with us sometimes. “But during the pandemic I would venture to say that we might be one of the few papers in the country where readers passed the hat and bought full-page ads and other ads in our paper to say, ‘Thank you for being here.’
We treasure local journalism and wow, that meant so much because as soon as everything shut down, obviously we lost all our advertising. We immediately kind of tightened the belt. And there was a small layoff of a few people. They cut everyone’s hours or salary.
And we hunkered down because we didn’t know how long it would be. And people started calling and saying, how can we help? What can we do? And they started purchasing ads. I’ll never forget that.”
I think it exists because we have a long connection with our local community … And then we have a lot of people who retire here who just like to read. Santa Fe has an enormous number of used bookstores and new bookstores and independent bookstores. People here read and they appreciate what local journalism is and what it means to their knowledge about the world.
2) When running an editorial page, inclusivity is key
“I write editorials six days a week. I edit all the letters. I edit all the ‘My Views.’ We have a very robust reader community and they write letters. They have opinions and they send them. So there’s a lot of just like sitting down and physically editing every day.
There’s a lot of reading other publications, newspapers, blogs, whatever, to come up with the ideas that you want to put in, and there’s also time to reach out to communities that you might miss because the Hispanic community obviously plays a huge role in our coverage and what we write about. But then so does the indigenous community and they are people that have been left out of news coverage for years for different reasons.
“And it’s really important that you get that perspective, and you speak to lots of different people. So, part of what you do is you’re waiting for stuff to come in and part of what you do is you’re going out to seek it because you want to make sure that your paper … Robin Martin, who’s the owner of our paper, who’s the reason we’re independent, she inherited it from her dad and has kept it robust and thriving.
She wants the editorial page to be a place where people can have a conversation that is civil and produces solutions. So, we have to make that happen.”
3)Being a journalist has changed how she relates to her family
“I think it really affects my relationships with my family because I cannot tell you how many times, they have said to me, ‘This is off the record.’ And I always tell them, if you tell me something, and it’s really juicy, nothing is ever off the record, so don’t tell me.
And especially when I got back to New Mexico, I have, I have a million first cousins, some of whom were doing things that were newsworthy and that I learned about. They would call me if they wanted to share it, but a lot of times they would tell me on accident and then say, ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to.’
But to me, everything is a story.”
Listen to the full interview with Inez here.