If you ask him, Fernando Diaz will tell you he doesn’t deserve his Terkel just yet. While the president-elect of the Chicago Headline Club runs one of the few daily newspapers in town as managing editor of Hoy Chicago; and works every day to infuse Studs Terkel’s storytelling techniques into mentoring his news team. Diaz, 33, is still humbled by being named one of this year’s winners.
“I don’t feel I’ve gotten it yet, but it’s a tremendous encouragement that we’re doing some things right, that I’m doing some things right even if I’m not doing everything right,” Diaz said. “It helps to continue to motivate me to strive towards that goal of feeling I’ve finally earned something that would be worthy of him (Studs) reading and saying ‘That’s a great story.’”
Hailing from Maryland, Diaz proudly claims Chicago as the birthplace of his journalism career, “I love Chicago, I love being here. I love the fact that all but a year and a half of my journalism career has been in Chicago and Chicagoland.”
After receiving his bachelors in journalism from Columbia College in 2004, Diaz went to work for the Daily Herald. For the next five years, Diaz reported, edited and produced for The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.; The Chicago Reporter; Chi-town Daily News; and ChicagoNow.
Bilingual in English and Spanish, Diaz’s body of work has covered issues of labor, immigration, criminal justice, government and politics.
Diaz’s career also shows a pattern of moves made to further his enthusiasm for fusing technology and media. While working for The Chicago Reporter, he took a paycut to join the Chi-town Daily News, a non-profit local news organization that existed solely online. Diaz saw his opportunity to not just report on labor issues, but to learn how to code, build software and expand his skills in interactive storytelling.
His intuitive approach is one of the main reasons he was asked to lead Hoy Chicago’s media transition almost three years ago. As the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country, Diaz employs efficiency in his print and online strategy that is delivered with just a team of 12.
“It’s exciting. I work all the time and I love it,” Diaz said. “We are always on the edge of a breakthrough.”
Continually pushing his news team to produce better, Diaz has championed the need for community reporting.
“Stories still matter. There’s nothing more boring than a processed story that is numbers, and data, and talking heads, and politicians who are trying their best to get a publishable soundbite out of their interaction with a reporter,” Diaz said. “But people love stories about people. That’s what I learned from Studs, and that’s what I’m trying to get us to do.”
Follow the links below to see more of Fernando and read some of his award-winning work:
Fernando’s latest work at Hoy Chicago