Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Juan Gonzalez, an American Investigative journalist, attended West Chester University, on Nov. 16, to speak to first-year journalism students about his career and potential career developments for young journalists. Gonzalez’s visit was in part with the Big Read Program that connects WCU students with others in the West Chester community through literature.

Gonzalez is a co-host on “Democracy Now,” a news and opinion program about current affairs. The show is aired out of New York City and runs about 60 minutes. It has been on the air since 1996.

Gonzalez was raised in Brooklyn, NY, and attended Franklin Killian High School. In high school Gonzalez worked as the editor of his school newspaper. He spoke about his high school English teacher, also the advisor of the school newspaper. She encouraged her students to pursue their dreams and encouraged them all to write.

Other well known journalists that attended school with Gonzalez, and learned under this same teacher were Steve Handleman from the Toronto Star, Janet Millin, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Carol Carmichael, Business Editor for the Philadelphia Daily News.

Gonzalez attended Columbia University where he began a career of political activism. Gonzalez never took any journalism courses while enrolled in Columbia, however he did work for the University newspaper reporting events that happened in New York City, and on the universities campus. Gonzalez was kicked out of Columbia University in 1968 for activism demonstrations, leaving him a few credits shy of graduating.

After moving to Philadelphia and working a factory job, Gonzalez enrolled in a journalism course at Temple University, where soon after he landed a job at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1978. Gonzalez said that he was reluctant to work as a journalist but he knew that he was qualified for the position. While working at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gonzalez edited raw copies of well-known journalists of that time, with out a journalism degree he still had the ability to see the mistakes and fix them.

Gonzalez took a reporting job at the New York Daily News in 1987, where he received the position as a columnist. The New York Daily News is the fifth most-widely circulated daily newspaper in the United States. As of June 2009, the daily circulation was about 632,595.

As a reporter for the past 30 years for the New York Daily News, and many years before that with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gonzalez has seen and written about many different events.

Gonzalez said that “there are two things at the heart of good journalism; they are good reporting, and good writing.”

In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and New York City, Gonzalez quickly got to work reporting about the recent events. The columns that Gonzalez wrote described the events and the aftermath of the devastating tragedy. He was trying to explain that there was a major environmental disaster right in the heart of New York City. On Sept. 25, 2001 Gonzalez’s article hit the front page of the newspaper, his very next column was pulled. He kept writing his columns knowing that most people were disputing what he was writing while trying to hide it.

Gonzalez realized that this tragedy was too complex to just write about in newspapers, which was why he then wrote Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse.

Other books Gonzalez wrote are “Harvest of Empire: A history of Latinos in America,” and “Roll Down Your Window: Stories of a Forgotten America.”

While speaking to the first-year journalism students Gonzalez explained that writing does take time. For him it could take him two to three months to fully research his topics, and it may only take him two to three months to write up his articles. He said that “a lot of work goes into writing, but if you really love writing you should not just write for newspapers.”

Caitlin McNamee is a fifth-year student majoring in Professional Studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at CM645986@wcupa.edu.

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