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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 Let's be clear - it was "unpublished" – a smart editor discovered that she'd plagiarized three different web sources on a submitted story.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.


Barbara Renaud Gonzalez has a spicy story, but... but... her purported use of the English language is attrocious.

Roberto Salinas Price

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