#MediaMonday – Bennito Kelty

Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Bennito Kelty of the Tucson Sentinel.  He works the IDEA beat for Report for America and GroundTruth.  He also recently received a Spanish-language feature reporting award from the Arizona Press Club, along with a second-place award for community issue reporting.

Bennito, time to share:

I work with the TucsonSentinel.com as their local reporter on the IDEA beat, which watchdogs local government agencies, businesses and community activists that focus on Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access.

Our coverage for the beat explores cross-topic stories about ethnicity, race and poverty and changing demographics to tell stories that would otherwise go untold.

I’m also a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered communities. RFA is also part of the GroundTruth Project, whose mission is to train the next generation of journalists in on-the-ground reporting to advance sustainability, innovation and equity in journalism worldwide. I work with high school students at Pueblo High School as part of my RFA service.

Before joining the Sentinel, I worked for the Yuma Sun reporting on the Arizona-Mexico border and county government.  I started as a reporter when I was a journalism student at the University of Missouri (#Mizzou), which is located in my birthplace of Columbia, Mo. I sought out the journalism program because I heard it was competitive and I had an ambition to become a writer.

At Mizzou’s J-school, I reported on violent protests related to racial injustice in St. Louis and about the underfunding of the state’s oldest HBCU, Lincoln University. I was able to share a first place award for breaking news coverage from the Missouri Press Association for my work with the St. Louis American for the former, and, in the same year, I received honorable recognition for the latter story, which I did with the Columbia Missourian.

I’m working on a master’s thesis at the University of Arizona focused on business models in the journalism industry. I originally moved down to Tucson as a graduate student in the Journalism program at the UA when I joined the Sentinel. My goal is to earn a Phd because I believe strongly in the deep philosophical impact of academic contributions to the fields of journalism, media and the press as well as their industries.

The stories that standout to me the most that I’ve done with the Sentinel have been about the road leading into the historic Leon Cemetery in Vail, the story around the death of Mexican reporter Juanito Arjón in San Luis Rio Colorado and the turbulent last few months of the Pima County Constable Deborah Martinez. I also enjoyed my reporting in Columbia, Mo., about the formerly all-Black Douglass High School and the range of stories I did in Yuma about agriculture, immigration and the Colorado River.

I grew up in Aurora, Colo., and I still think of the diverse immigrant community I had around me as part of my roots along with my dad’s childhood in St. Louis and my mom’s life in southeastern Mexico City. I was always exposed to cultures from around the world and those that exist in America, and I’ve been able to get energy through my curiosity in them. Probably the clearest way that’s become true is through my love of world languages.

When I’m not working, I’m learning languages. Growing up in a bilingual household, I learned early on the lasting and fruitful benefits of knowing how to communicate as broadly as possible. I’ve taken classes in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish, and I know some Italian and German. I use Portuguese everyday, probably more than Spanish, to talk with my girlfriend, whom I met on a language learning app.

My favorite restaurants are probably Robert’s Restaurant near Grant and Country Club and Plazita Mexican Café on Broadway and Sarnoff. Both have really good black coffee and plenty of good breakfast and lunch options.

I love music. Rap and hip-hop have been the constants at least since I first had an iPod when I was about 10 years old. My love of languages has recently blended with that, so French-Tunisian hip-hop artist KOAST and Palestinian rapper Shabdjeed and his producer Al Nather are my favorite musicians right now. I also like Isaiah Rashad, Smino, Sam Wise, Mick Jenkins, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom and Mac Miller. I dance Cumbia, and on road trips I might listen to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The only other thing I’d like to share is that I’m immensely grateful to my readers and to serve them as a local reporter. I’m warmed by the sense that I’m a part of a community here in Tucson, and I love the people that are here with me. The greatest satisfaction I get from my work is feeling more and more like I’m connected to those around me.

On social media, you can follow me on Twitter

Photo by Clara Migoya

Written by
at Feb 6, 2023

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