Raquel Reichard is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work focuses on Latinx issues — politics, culture, identity, and music.
She was previously the politics and culture editor at Latina magazine, an editor at Mitú, and a culture editor at Remezcla. In between her duties as editor, Raquel has also been doing freelance writing for a while, for both Latinx news outlets and more mainstream platforms.
In this interview, Raquel speaks about her career, the journalism industry, Latinx media, and what it’s like to be a freelance journalist and editor in the middle of a pandemic.
I find your work on healthcare access and reproductive justice incredibly interesting. What drew you to it? Why did you think it was — and is — important to shine a light on these issues?
I’ll preface this answer by saying that I believe the idea of objectivity in journalism is a myth and a really problematic one. I have been very upfront that my work comes from a very Latinx, feminist perspective, or lens. Now, saying that doesn’t mean that all my work isn’t fair or balanced, right? You can still do that and also be upfront that objectivity is a myth.
With that, issues like reproductive justice and sexual health have always been important to me in my work. When I was a college reporter, I focused on covering events by the reproductive rights groups on campus or the women’s groups on campus. This is something that I have been doing for a really long time, so it’s very natural for me to continue doing this in my professional career.
For me, these stories are critical, and they are not often told in Latinx publications — at least at the time. It’s gotten better now, but at the time, when I first started writing professionally, it wasn’t something you saw in the context of Latinx media. So it was very important for me to produce content that’s important for my community in a language accessible to them and interesting to them.
There’s a little more focus on reproductive justice issues in Latinx publications, but it’s just not enough. The research needs to start covering issues beyond abortion rights and the pro-choice movement. Can you tell me why you used the term “reproductive justice” in your work?
As you said, it’s not just abortion. Of course, abortion is critical and important, but it’s not the only issue. This country has a long history of forced sterilization towards marginalized women of color. Whether that be experimenting on women in Puerto Rico, whether that be Black women across the country, whether that be Mexican women in California, incarcerated women, or as we see now with immigrant women in Georgia.
There’s so much to cover, and there are so many layers and so many different angles. I definitely think it’s gotten better. When I first started, I felt kind of like a sole voice in Latinx media. I won’t say there weren’t Latina writers talking about this — there were definitely Latina writers, but they were maybe writing for publications that were specific to repro-health. There are more now, and it’s great to see.
The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for many. How has working as a freelance journalist and editor in the middle of a pandemic been? What have some of your biggest challenges been?
It’s been really hard. It’s been actually really difficult. The news media hasn’t been doing well for a really long time. When you look at ethnic media, it’s been far worse. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, people are getting let go left and right, and freelance budgets are being cut.
So it’s been difficult to actually attain work. I used to do freelance full-time and live a pretty decent life. Granted, I know I was very lucky and blessed because that’s not everyone’s story. But, for me, I had a pretty smooth and semi-sustainable workflow.
Things have gotten a little better now, but there was no work at the beginning [of the pandemic]. There were editors I used to write for who got laid off, so sections were no longer a part of sites. Maybe just temporarily, but temporarily we didn’t have that work.
It was really hard. I was barely making any money. Now things are picking up a little bit; people are hiring. All these roles are being filled again, so now these editors need writers, and freelance budgets are growing. So I’ve found more consistent work these days — still not at the same level as it was a year ago, but it’s definitely been more consistent.
However, because of all of this that’s going on, I’ve had to accompany my freelance writing with contracted social media work. Now I also create social media content for a few Latinx multimedia outlets and organizations, including a local radio station here in Orlando, Florida — the only Spanish language, feminist radio station in the country.
Given your extensive experience in the journalism industry, what would you say Latinx media lacks right now?
I think what we are really missing right now is good reporting.
There are great Latina platforms or even on social media accounts — folks who are creating content about the community that is really great. It’s educational, helpful, widens representation, and keeps people informed accessibly.
All that stuff is great, but a lot of it is regurgitation. It’s not on-the-ground reporting, so I think that’s really, really lacking right now. And that’s really unfortunate because there are so many issues taking place, especially at this moment.
Granted, with COVID, we can’t physically travel and do some of the investigative work that was previously possible. But even after this moment, I still feel like that’s the direction in which we are going in.
It’s really just news briefs — taking what one news outlet wrote and writing a news brief about it. Maybe making a meme about it and watching it go viral, but none of it is original.
We are not the ones asking the questions; We are not the ones doing the work. I think the content that comes out, while important, tends to be limited. I think we can do more, and I think our community deserves more.
But, you know, capital is really important and, sadly, that’s not really there. Folks are just making do with what they have. It’s a lot — It’s a whole messy, complicated situation.
What are you working on right now? Do you have any projects coming up that you’d like to tell us about?
I am currently working on this one piece that is coming out soon, and I am really excited about — actually, I’ll hold on to that [laughs].
But there is this other side project I am working on. I started this page called Vintage Latinas (@Vintage.Latinas) on Instagram about a month ago. It really started as a personal hobby project. It brought me joy to post photos and videos of amazing Latinas and Latin American women and femmes who were either entertainers or creating change.
I started posting photos and videos with short little bios, and it’s really taken off. It wasn’t something I expected, it wasn’t something I was going for, but it has. Now, it’s turned into something so much bigger in less than two months.
I’m really excited about that!