"Remember El Alma" First On-site Performance Challenging the Alamo, March 2010

"Remember El Alma," First on-site performance
challenging the Alamo
original poem written by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

Adapted by Virginia Grise; Produced by Bihl Haus Arts, Kellen McIntyre, Ph.D; Performed at Luminaria!
San Antonio, Hemisfair Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, March 13, 2010; 5 Actresses, 1 Musician
A cast of beautiful women, all ages and colors, from
all over San Antonio
; Foto Credit: Joan Frederick @2010

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kristina Ruiz Healy defends plagiarism: Part 3

Kristina called me back last night, Monday. Seems she's been out of town for a few weeks, when I was trying to get a quote from her on the Plagiarism Polka story.

After talking to her, my deepest fears were realized. Does language matter anymore in journalism? Have journalists forgotten how to tell the truth?

La Kristina's voice was crinkly, muy lastimada that she was fired. She believes she's a victim.

"I was an intern... I was learning...I wasn't a [full-time] person."

In case I didn't spell it out in the previous blogs about plagiarism, let me do it now. What Kristina did is called stealing. La girlfriend got caught before she left the house with the goods. It's poetic justice that a commentator who wrote about crime incessantly - committed a crime herself. But who doesn't think she deserves to go to jail.

The reason that the San Antonio Express-News should make the plagiarism public:

1. Bob Rivard, the Executive Editor, has made a national platform on the issue, i.e. Macarena Hernandez. He raised the bar, or does he want everyone to think that plagiarism is the rule not the exception over there? Kristina was, according to SAEN high-level sources, an intern and a little more - she was on her way to bigger and better things.

2. Kristina isn't just a nobody nadie. She was a public figure, known for her "Between Two Countries" series on the local public radio affiliate, Texas Public Radio. The fact that Rosemary Catacolos, the Executive Director of GeminiINK didn't know means that the SAEN's silence risks embarrassing this esteemed writer's organization and every other place where Kristina has spoken, or may speak, like at UTSA. Kristina led a workshop on writing in the month prior to her firing at GeminiINK. If 'd taken that class, I'd want my money back.

3. If Kristina doesn't understand what plagiarism is, and feels victimized as seemed apparent to me in our phone call, then the SAEN needs to help her and other journalists understand this word.

4. Since it doesn't look like the SA-EN will be transparent on this issue, as they demand of others, then it leaves me to conclude that Kristina was being groomed as an up-and-coming columnista because of her very influential connections.

And that there are now double standards for plagiarism. If you're a right-wing Jonathan Gurwitz you don't get fired, period. If you pick the best strawberries from someone else's plate like a Mexican fresa who has the right connections, then Chut-uuuup! As they say on the westside.

I"m not quoting exactly here, but Kristina said that everybody does it.

Besides, she indicated, she was the only Latina doing commentary for Texas Public Radio. When I tried to explain that she's not the only one with an opinion or story to tell, but the one most digestible to the advertisers and influentials in our commercialized media cloud, she refused to keep talking with me.

This always happens when I actually try to engage columnists in a real conversation. They don't want to defend their position - because they can't.

Anyways, I believe in the redemption of criminals. Though I doubt Kristina does. And though I forced myself to read her ouevre in order to write these blogs, who knows what or who she might become with a public platica.

I found myself wanting to like her in that one phone call. To encourage her to find her voice, and to quit trying to please others, to speak from her real corazon. No amount of glory can compensate for writing alot of nothing. I wanted to confess how I've also fucked-up, and that it can be a good thing if you learn the lesson.

Everyone has a voice that deserves its grito. I know.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The SAEN's double standard for plagiarism: Part 2

When you talk about plagiarism, ay que entender que there is a double standard. It depends on who says what. Here are excerpts of essays I wrote back in June 2003 about free-lance columnist Julio Noboa and Jonathan Gurwitz, who's a regular columnist on the Opinion pages of the San Antonio Express-News:

June 2003

This past March, Noboa’s Saturday columns were terminated from the San Antonio Express-News. The reasons given by Editorial Page Editor Lynell Burkett in the Opinion Pages were his heavy reliance on one source and a “lack of attribution” in a column, “Jenin survivors ending the silence” (SAEN, 3/1/03) regarding the well-documented Israeli assault on the Palestinian refugee town. These are charges, according to experienced journalists I’ve spoken with, that are unjust for a free-lance columnist. The attribution issue could have easily been handled in a subsequent column, they assert. Other professionals tell me that the termination is a veil for his defense of the “p” word - Palestine.

A couple of weeks after Noboa was terminated, Jonathan Gurwitz, a conservative columnist at the SAEN, plagiarized Colin Powell. In an essay published in the San Antonio Express-News (web-posted April 6, 2003) defending America’s warring posture, he concluded with these words: “The heroism of our armed forces is marked by humanity and restraint. And for their sacrifice, we ask not for oil or empire, but only enough land to bury those men and women who do not return.”

On April 13, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times said the same thing – though he referenced Colin Powell when he quoted him to an Egyptian journalist in his column: “America is as powerful as any empire in history, but when it has invaded other countries the only piece of land it has ever asked for was a tiny plot to bury its soldiers who would not be returning home.”

Both men, it seems, got this compelling line from an address Powell made to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 26, 2003. It was a partial response to a due consideration of “soft power.” Elegantly and memorably, Powell stated at that conference: “we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.” But he had said it before on February 14, 2002, in an MTV Global Discussion: “And did we ask for land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”

Plagiarism depends. It depends on who is taking from whom. As a writer and free-lance columnist, they are the only ammunition I have, and, therefore, esperanza, in creating a land we can all share. But it seems that people like Jonathan Gurwitz, and other writers serving the will of San Antonio's powerful will always take what is not rightfully theirs.

It doesn't matter how many have died, don't you see?

And that is why there is no land to bury the dead.

Kristina Ruiz Healy Fired for Plagiarism at the SAEN: Part 1

I never liked her columns or commentaries that had nothing to do with me. And now I understand why.

Turns out that a golden chica, Kristina Ruiz Healy, recently of Conexion and Texas Public Radio, was fired this November 4th for plagiarism. Let's be clear - it was "unpublished" – a smart editor discovered that she'd plagiarized three different web sources on a submitted story.

The word was marigold. Flowers for the dead.

The article I found that she published last was the Naco piece in the September 29 – October 5, 2000, issue for a total of 28 essays she published in Conexion this year (but I count worse than I write, so don’t quote me).

Why does the plagiarism matter? Because Rivard made a national podium for himself when the SAEN’s Macarena Hernandez, now a columnist of the Dallas Morning News, was plagiarized by the New York Times – you remember Jayson Blair, don’t you?

At the time of her firing, Kristina was free-lancing for Conexion and working 20 hours per week as an “intern,” say executives at the SAEN. She was going to be sent to a boot camp program at Vanderbilt – a prelude to big things, I was told.

So why the silence?

Texas Public Radio, the local public radio affiliate, my sources tell me, was informed, and Ruiz Healy resigned as a commentator before she could be terminated. Her photo, however, along with her “View from Two Countries,” introduction is still on their website.

I’ve done a lot of free-lancing myself, and it’s brutal. Every editor wants original work, and you work very hard for frijoles. It’s not for the weak. TPR’s sources describe Ruiz Healy as “lazy,” and suggest that the only reason she was a commentator there was due to her very influential connections. She’s not the typical little brown girl who crossed the Rio Grande. Her father is a physician, her uncle is Juan Ruiz Healy, a columnist with the very conservative Mexican newspaper Excelsior, and her aunt, Patricia, a former Mexican beauty queen, is on the board of the San Antonio Museum of Art. This couple owns two homes in Olmos Park: one for themselves, and one “just for their art collection,” says John Phillip Santos.

Kristina’s other uncle, Eduardo Ruiz Healy, is a radio journalist in Mexico with leftist views, I’m told.

My SAEN sources say that Rivard pushed for a public disclosure of the matter, but that he acquiesced to the Conexion management’s decision. She’s not an employee, the Conexion sources say. It's not like fulltime employees haven't been outed, I was reminded. Thelma Garza. Albert Flores. This is different. “It was caught before it happened.”

If you only think about committing murder, you didn’t commit it. So it's not a crime, me dijo un source.

“It breaks my heart,” one senior-level executive said, explaining that no, her wealthy and right-wing connections had nothing to do with her status at the SAEN. “I thought she had talent…Kristina has a master’s, she has been up and down in academia, she understood the concept [of plagiarism].”

“We wanted to make something big out of her.”

But, I wonder. Since when isn’t Rivard the final authority at the San Antonio Express-News? He’s known for his authoritarian ways, and I was the personal recipient of his wrath years ago, causing a very public scene when I dared to confront him about the Philip True story – (watch for Debbie Nathan’s upcoming book review in the Texas Observer come early January).

“The idea that the editors would overrule [Rivard’s opinion] is preposterous,” other journalists say. He’s responsible, he has to make the decision, just like the time of Phillip True, they argue.

Pero wait. It couldn’t be - because of Rivard’s weakness for certain Latinas at the office, could it? Something that other high-level sources have bemoaned and accepted as a given. (more on this telenovela in a future blog)

So why the hush-hush? Not even the staff knows, though maybe they’re getting told now that I’m writing this and Rivard hasn’t called me back. Neither has Kristina.

Do we need to know? Hell yes. I called Rosemary Cat├ícolos, the Executive Director of GeminiInk, the well-regarded writer’s non-profit collaborative in the city, where Kristina led a writer’s workshop right before her termination. Did you know?, I asked Rosemary.

“No.” She hadn’t been told.

Maria Anglin, another Latina columnist, is now running a weekly column in Conexion. “The Latina voice has not been silenced,” my sources say. She’s a more liberal voice, no entiendes. Ummm, if you say so. I remember a column Maria wrote recently supporting the death penalty for Tookie, the former Crip’s founder in California and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who was executed on December 12th in California.

If Kristina was so hot, then where’s her audience? Texas Public Radio sources tell me that no one has complained about not hearing her anymore – that their audience has actually increased since her departure. The SAEN peeps told me that no reader has called missing her stories.

“You’re the first one.”

Kristina, says another friend, “was just another fiction that Latinas in this city have a voice.”

I think Kristina’s conflicted, compromised, twilight zone of a voz was just what the newspaper wanted. Don’t say anything that matters. Or say only what the powerful can tolerate.


Well, plagiarize this. Por favor.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Censorship at the San Antonio Express-News

"If you keep this up," said Lynell Burkett, Editorial Page Editor, (mas o menos, because I didn't take notes). Soft and sweet, because she's a nice lady who either doesn't care or doesn't have a clue. "If you keep this up," threatening me suavecito for criticizing the refried columns in the Opinion Pages. Before and after 9/11.

"You won't be published."

And she said this with a smile.

So began the magical odyssey of the San Antonio Express-News as columnist after columnist echoed, shadowed, boot-licked, the White House chinga-chinga policy after the Twin Tower attacks and it only got worse when President Bush and his compadres decided to invade Iraq.

I want you to know that I was censured at the very moment we were supposedly fighting for democracy.

I want you to know that the full-time columnists there were blinded by their individual and collective prejudice - and fear.

Since 9/11, some of the best journalists have left the SA-EN, fired or quit, because they want to write stories that a corporate media doesn't want you to know:

Dick J. Reavis
Macarena Hernandez
Julio Noboa (like me, a free-lance columnist)
and there are more

In this space, I will not be afraid to tell the stories of San Antonio.

Dale Shine!