Citizen Power in the Humanizing America Series With Maria Hinojosa

As the guy who leads the Futuro Media Group’s digital efforts across four media properties, I have the pleasure to witness up close the variety of projects journalist Maria Hinojosa and her FMG staff create.

This year, besides seeing the Latino USA team produce a weekly Peabody-winning NPR show or the award-winning America By The Numbers team drop a primetime PBS special about the “new deciders” of the 2016 election or getting to be part of a fast-growing political POC podcast, I was also incredibly honored to help with and promote the launch of Humanizing America, a digital-only short video series anchored by Maria.

When conceptualizing the series last January, we wanted to go beyond the typical video format that so many people see on Facebook these days: capitalize on a popular news story, do some lighting-fast edits and produce clips that you hope “go viral.” Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

Instead, we asked ourselves: What does it mean to have someone like Maria as a “digital anchor” to report on stories about individuals who deconstruct stereotypes by presenting the human stories behind the American electorate and beyond?

The results were nine videos featured on outlets such as NBCNews.com and Al Jazeera‘s The Stream. As I write this post, the series’ videos have garnered more than 850,000 online views with no advertising, special arrangements or buying of views. Maria’s reporting style —a staple of superior American journalism— resonated not only with the people she interviewed, but also with the viewers who value the work that FMG has delivered consistently for years.

Last week, as a culmination of all the work the Humanizing America team completed in 2016, we hosted a live YouTube Live/Google Hangout event with three individuals from the series: Tony Valdovinos of Episode 8: La Machine, Reema Ahmad of Episode 4: Young & Muslim, and Jung Rae Jang of Episode 1: Undocumented & Asian.

Thanks to the generous support from the Narrative Collaboratory (who also funded two of the series’ nine videos), Maria and her guests had a very informative (and yes, passionate) discussion about citizen power. Some of the questions they addressed included: How do you define citizen power? What are some ways in which you exercise your citizen power? What are some ways in others could too? What tools are available? What do you wish people did more of to make change?

As the person who ran the live streaming event behind the scenes (with some big help from Janice Llamoca and FMG’s Charlotte Mangin), I got to experience a conversation we rarely see these days: active members of society comparing notes and offering suggestions for how citizens of this world can be more engaged with the issues they care deeply about. (Full confession: I was so into the conversation that at times I forgot to change the shot in my “control room” when someone was speaking.)

We also got to feature four of the Humanizing America videos. Here they are in order of appearance:

Episode 9: Standing Rock

Episode 8: La Machine

Episode 4: Young & Muslim

Episode 1: Undocumented & Asian

I also wanted to share the remaining five Humanizing America episodes, in the order that they premiered:

Episode 2: Republican & Black

Episode 3: Progressive & Senior

Episode 5: Young & Latino

Episode 6: Woman for Trump

Episode 7: Leaders of Color

To learn more about the series, you can visit HumanizingAmerica.org

Special thanks to Sandra Lilley of NBC Latino, who believed in this project from the very beginning and featured our videos on NBC Latino’s Facebook page.