Jaime Longoria was an intern for The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute in 2016 and is now the Don and Doris Shaffer Research Fellow at The Nation Institute. Winter/Spring 2017 intern Brandon Jordan talks to Jaime about his experience at the Institute and his aspirations as a writer.
1. What was your experience as an intern at The Investigative Fund like?
My experience was an extremely rewarding one. I learned to be persistent, to get out of my comfort zone, and to truly challenge myself. I still remember my first fact check — I was scared out of my mind! I also received a deep level of exposure to the world of investigative journalism and the rigor that it demands. Working closely with the extraordinary editors here at the Investigative Fund, it would have been impossible not to be inspired by their dedication to the work. The relationships that I've built through the internship program have proven, without a doubt, to be invaluable. After my time as an intern came to a close, I felt very well equipped to move up in my career in media, confident that I had learned the skills necessary to contribute meaningfully in another position.
2. Why did you want to apply to The Investigative Fund internship, and how did you feel when you were accepted?
I applied to the internship with The Investigative Fund because of the work that the team had done in South Texas. It's easy to feel forgotten out there, on the US-México border, which was the main reason that I decided to turn to journalism. Besides the conditions within my own community, the Rio Grande Valley is a major corridor for border crossings. The work that the Investigative Fund produced in Brooks County shed light on the high number of immigrant deaths that occurred as people attempted to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas. It was coverage of these deaths and other border and immigration issues that drew me to The Investigative Fund.
I honestly couldn't believe it, when I got accepted. I remember I took so long to answer the acceptance email, Naomi, the internship director, had to email me to ask if I was still interested. I had no expectation of getting into a program that I was genuinely interested in — those things you just don't expect to happen.
3. Currently, you are a research fellow at The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund. What have you learned while researching at the Investigative Fund?
Flexibility, willingness to learn (and teach yourself), and problem solving skills are everything when it comes to the research that I do. Most of the tasks that come up in my job are things I had no idea how to do before I got here. I kind of hit the ground running. But I found that experience to be beneficial, since I've learned how to work and perform efficiently under pressure.
Also — be nice to FOIA officers. They can ruin your life.
I wasn't much of a reader when I was a kid. I think I associated books — and writing in general—to the very Eurocentric curricula that were administered at the public schools I attended. Also, books and reading weren't a huge presence in my family's life. But I do have some vague memories of writers that I aspired to be like. Sandra Cisneros was definitely one of them. There was also this book of South Texas folklore called Stories That Must Not Die by Juan Sauvageau that I really liked. I also remember reading Gloria Anzaldúa, though I think at the time, her transformative writing fell a bit flat on 16-year-old me, unfortunately.
5. You helped found a magazine called -ismo. What made you want to create a space for "the marginalized, the colonized, the subjugated"?
The idea for the magazine manifested over some beers and enchiladas with a paisana of mine named Andrea Negrete. We went to high school together, but didn't become friends until — out of the blue — I attended one of her plays here in New York City. We both felt frustrated at the lack of access that many in our community felt when it came to publishing their work. For many, having an outlet feature their work as a poet, photographer, or writer didn't seem possible — for many it genuinely was out of reach. So we decided that we didn't want to keep waiting, and we made this magazine with the help of those around us, with the purpose to elevate the voices that we felt were missing in the mainstream discourse. Shameless plug — go check it out.
6. What do you envision for yourself in the future as a writer and researcher?
7. Do you have any advice for recent, present, and future Nation interns?
Never be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid to admit that you are wrong. Never be afraid to admit that you don't know something. It's very important to remain humble. It helps you grow as a person, and I feel it's one of the most respectable characteristics one could have.