The Borders Within

This past Sunday, the newspaper where my husband and I work published a special report called The Borders Within. For my husband Tony and our good friend Chase Purdy it was the culmination of a year's worth of reporting about the growing Hispanic population in our town.

And for me, it marked the end of an incredibly busy week spent designing the six-page section. This is undoubtedly the project I am post proud of during my two years designing for The News Virginian. I'm also quite proud of the work that Tony and Chase completed with their reporting which makes this even more meaningful to me. I don't often share my graphic design work on this blog, but I wanted to make an exception for this particular project.

Click on any of the images for a closer look at the design, or view a pdf of the full section here.

One aspect of the design that came together even better than I'd expected was the map on page two. I created a map of our small town, and used it to plot different points of significance to Waynesboro's Hispanic community, like the a church offering weekly services in Spanish and a park where many people -- including former Mexican professional league players -- play fútbol. Local and regional statistics surround the map to complete the infographic.

Everything for this section was completed by Tony, Chase, and me. Reporting, writing, photography, design -- we did it all. So we all feel a real sense of ownership about this section. The photos that Tony and Chase took turned out so well, and they drive the design for the section. I was able to use a variety of large dominant photos and truly give a face to this community that is often overlooked.

We were also all excited to see that our section had been featured on Charles Apple's The Visual Side of Journalism blog. Charles had many complimentary things to say about The Borders Within, and specifically appreciated the visual appeal of the infographics, and the design of the section overall. Reading his post truly made my day, and was ceretianly a highlight after such a hectic week (and weekend) preparing for the section's publication.

And here's a bit more about the section, in Tony's words:

At its most basic, the idea behind the reporting in this section is not new. Like many reporters, we chose to explore an unfamiliar immigrant community and one that struggles with a language barrier.

But we thought we could deliver something meaningful to readers by bringing our curiosity to Waynesboro’s Hispanic community in particular — a community nestled into a small town and one that still remembers the first who came from Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, and elsewhere. They remember because those pioneers arrived not so long ago.

Because of the short time these families have lived here, we find them on the cusp of transition. As that population meets more frequently with the broader community, those unfamiliar words and nameless faces become harder to ignore, or to refuse to understand. Their needs have grown. Their successes are mounting.

We chose to approach in Spanish whenever possible, no matter how much we’d stumble. We focused on people, not politics, and the ordinary as often as the extreme.

This project first arose in fall 2009, but it might not have started without an unsolicited call and a soft threat. The caller told us to feature Kim Romero’s struggle to bring her husband Rigo back from Mexico, where he’d become mired in immigration bureaucracy. If we wouldn’t write the story, some other reporter would, the caller said.

The Romeros’ story turned from one chapter to the next just after midnight Sept. 10, when Rigo came legally into Kim’s arms at Dulles International Airport. We were there. Rigo has since gained residency through 2020.

Their story isn’t over. Nor is our work.

Tony and Chase had already won the International Perspectives award from the Associated Press Managing Editors contest for their coverage of the Romeros earlier this year, and I think that is just the beginning for the recognition they will receive for their work. Read all of the articles in The Borders Within series here.