First, on behalf of myself and my co-chair Naveena, thank you so much for considering the unique location of the #SEJ2022 conference; we truly appreciate it. This conference is organized by journalists, for journalists, and Texas’ politics are not necessarily those of most of its major cities. Harris County, where the conference will take place, is the most diverse county in the country and is led by a 30-year-old progressive Latina.
Beyond that, as a Texan, currently living in Texas, I can’t stress enough how important it is to not turn away from these issues, precisely because of the communities who are impacted and the inaction of political leaders. As a kid living in the border town of El Paso, I used to play on a playground that I later found was built over the city’s oldest landfill. Being right on the border also meant the air quality was usually much worse than other places, and our neighborhood was near an oil refinery — but my family knew none of this. Working in Houston, I can’t tell you how many times I was the first to inform a family of the pollution and increased cancer risks they faced simply because of where they could afford to live.
As part of this conference, about 20 of my colleagues have signed on to spotlight the issues facing Houston, which are reflective of those facing underserved communities — particularly those of color — elsewhere in the country. One of our missions as journalists is for our work to bring about change and we won’t do that unless we expose the harm and wrongs being committed. That’s part of our responsibility and what we hope to do next year during SEJ’s annual conference. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is also reflected in the lineup of tours, panelists, and the businesses we plan to engage with.
We hope you will plan to join us in Houston to have more robust discussions about what’s happening on the ground, especially in places where too many people face an uphill battle.
Perla Trevizo, reporter with the ProPublica/Texas Tribune Investigative Unit and #SEJ2022 conference co-chair