Everyone has a code.

I think I may have insulted a really good friend last night. And really more than one, but only one was around to hear what I said.

See I’ve been having a difficult time defining success. The fear of failure is ever lurking particularly when you work in journalism and particularly when half your company has been let go.

People don’t just get let go because they’ve failed at their job. But when we try to work harder in order to keep our job, we adopt the opposite thinking. Having becomes success, and losing becomes failure.

All sorts of characteristics come out in people when it appears you may be on a sinking ship. Or at least a ship where everyone is getting thrown overboard. You have people who never use the internet, updating their resumes and online profiles. People having drinks with other people they normally wouldn’t have but now they have something in common. The need for success.

I used to think that success could not be measured by dollar signs or material wealth. And now I feel that too, is incredibly insulting.

Now I’m going to say something even more insulting. I used to think that simply raising a family wasn’t enough. That it was good but that there had to be something else in order for a person to be truly successful.

Maybe it’s because my mother was so adamant about how hard she worked. How she would always say that if she could raise me and have a job, so could everyone else. It was as if not having a job was the epitome of failure.

I still have mine. But as I see co-workers and journalists walk out the door for the last time, donning a look of uncertainty, I can’t help but think–wait, it’s 2014.

Right now, having a job doesn’t mean keeping a job. The entrepreneurs and freelancers that I know today are rocking it. I want to be just like them. Not having a job can be success. Being your own boss is what we talk about at those happy hours with people we used to not have anything in common with. So what’s success?

Money, power, security, family, time?

We’re all playing Mastermind against ourselves. Trying to figure out just the right combination of all the things we think equal success. Sometimes we look at other people’s boards. We judge some people for finishing too quickly, we judge others for having too easy or too hard of a code. And we judge ourselves most of all for not getting it “right” always.

I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over what my code is. A lot of time scrutinizing other people’s codes. Today, I’m going to throw out the board. Maybe eat a donut grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe I won’t have a job. Maybe I’ll invent my own job. Maybe I’ll invent a better sandwich. But I’m done wasting time on my code. And I’m done looking at yours.


Why our newspaper asked what you think should happen to the undocumented immigrants who survived the Goliad County wreck that killed 15

We all know those stories. The ones that call on reporters to ask the hard questions.

Many have spoken out about the question of the day in which we asked “What do you think should happen to the nine survivors of the Goliad wreck?”

(You can read about the story here, 15 undocumented immigrants were killed, 8 were injured in a wreck in Goliad County.)

Commenters have said that we are opening up a can of worms, that the question was in poor taste because we knew we were going to get racist comments, that the question is just asking for trouble and that we asked the question because we felt it would incite drama.

These responses are examples of why the question was necessary. It is our responsibility as journalists to ask these controversial questions so sensitive issues continue to be discussed.

This wasn’t just another immigration question. It was very specific. We asked this question in the wake of a recent tragedy because it was relevant and affected our community in the here and now.

The Society of Professional Journalist code of ethics states, “Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.”

We want to ensure that these people receive respect and are treated as human beings.

Many of the comments on this question suggested these individuals try to apply for a green card, or work visa or that they should have just come into the country legally.

There are five main ways a person can obtain permanent residency, or green card, for the United States according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

  • Green card through family
  • Green card through a job
  • Green card through refugee or asylee status
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
  • Other (includes person born to foreign diplomat in United States, Cuban native, victim of trafficking, etc. You can click here for a list of special circumstances.)

Anyone who has looked for a job in the past few months knows how hard it is to find one in this economy. The chances that someone from outside the country will be able to secure employment in order to obtain a green card through an employer are low.

For those who are fortunate enough to have family in the U.S., they can have a petitioner apply for them. The petitioner must prove that they can support their relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line. And the only people a petitioner can apply for are immediate relatives. This includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older.

If you can’t find employment and you don’t have a family member in the U.S. who can meet the criteria for being a petitioner, you can try to enter the Green Card Lottery. Each year, 50,000 immigrant visas (green cards) are made available through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Only electronic entries will be accepted, no paper entries. The registration period is only open for one month each year.

Among the list of things that makes someone ineligible for applying are: being a terrorist, subversives, members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war criminals and having used illegal means to enter the United States.

The winners are chosen at random. But not all country citizens are allowed to enter. Citizens from certain countries that have already sent more than 50,000 immigrants in last five years are ineligible.

For 2012, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply:
Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, south Korea, united kingdom (except northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

If you don’t make the cut for the lottery, there is an option for asylum and refugee status. Foreign nationals who are arriving or already in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status, can apply for asylum.

Asylum is a form of protection available to foreign nationals who have been persecuted or have fear of future persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, if they were to return to their home country or country of last habitual residence. Generally, foreign nationals must apply for asylum within one year since they last entered to the U.S.

One may be barred from applying for asylum if they do not apply within that time frame.

You must have been admitted into the country as a refugee or received asylum status before you can apply for a green card this way.

Another way to apply is to achieve T nonimmigrant status, also known as the T visa. This provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. The T visa allows victims to remain in the United States.

Of the many who voiced their opinion on this question, some said the survivors should be given a chance to stay in the country and obtain a work visa, given citizenship, sent back to their countries and be advised on how to come to the states legally.

Unfortunately, the reality is if they do not receive asylum or a T visa, they will have a very hard time applying for a green card if deported.

The Immigration and Nationality Act states a foreign national is inadmissible for three years after deportation if he or she had been in the US more than 180 days and less than one year. That person would be inadmissible for 10 years if he or she had been in the US for one year or more.

In the follow up story today, we quote the Rev. Stan DeBoe, of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Victoria.

“I think we need to be aware of the plight of the migrants, and recognize there are those who are coming here for economic opportunities and those who are coming through with crime, and drug smuggling,” he said. Those who died in the wreck were “not coming here to disrupt our society.”

We don’t know why these 23 people willingly took on this dangerous venture. We don’t know what is going to happen to the nine survivors. But we hope the questions we asked and the stories we told will help in answering their fate as well as the fate of many others who are going through the same process.

Our intention is to inform the public of these events and provide a platform through which informed citizens can come to conclusions about these serious issues that affect us all.

sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Path2USA


About being a journalist

I know there are days when you can’t help but bring your work home with you.

We’ve all done it and on certain occasions, it is truly unavoidable. I got into this industry to talk to people, learn about different lives and try my best to help others while experiencing new things . One thing a journalist strives to be is unbiased. Perhaps a bit unattached in order to present information in a way that is ready to be interpreted rather than instructed.

But some days, we all feel it.

Chris Cobler shared The Victoria Advocate’s status.

Our condolences to his family, friends. That has been a difficult day.
We just learned that Daniel Teinert passed away in this morning. According to his Facebook page, he was a firefighter. Do you know Daniel? I’d like to talk to you about his life and what kind of a person he was. Please message us or call us at 361-580-6504

Jennifer Lee Preyss via The Victoria Advocate

Father who beat man molesting 5-year-old will not be charged.

Angeli Wright

Today was awful. Why is it somehow easier when people do horrible things to other people? Today I had to deal with things that just happened, because things happen. Maybe it’s because it’s just the world, there is no one to blame. My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone on this tragic day, and to all the journalists that have to bring it home with them.

Carolina Astrain

Great story today by Sonny Long on the Shiner beating death. It was a crazy day for news. Three different wrecks, several fatalities and then this 911 call. The video should be up shortly.

Caty Hirst ‏@caty_belle

Hard second day at work; I’m so sorry to all the families who lost a loved one today @Vicadvocate

Dianna Wray

Today was so normal. And then it wasn’t.

John Hornberg

First, dead person in a motorcycle accident. Then dead teen in a car accident. Then decision not to prosecute the father that beat a man about to molest his daughter to death. Then two more dead kids. Then the dead mother. And there’s still two more hours to this day.

J.R. Ortega

Such a busy day. Such a sad day. My thoughts are with all the families involved in today’s wrecks. Six people killed in three wrecks. Also a family of three from our area killed. I have seen things today I would never wish anyone else to see. Please be careful on the roads.

There’s a video of the audio from the 911 call played during the press conference posted here.

Victoria firefighter, 22, dies in motorcycle wreck.

Mother of 2 boys shot in Laredo found dead in El Campo

Family of 4 killed in 3-vehicle wreck near Hallettsville

West senior dies in head-on crash on U.S. 87

My heart goes out to the people who suffered this day and to those who will continue to.


In the middle of Sunshine Week, Justice Department urges changes to protect new category of gov’t secrets

Sunshine Week isn’t about the weather or maintaining a shining attitude this week.

It is a national initiative to promote a dialogue and educate the public about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

It was launched in March of 2005 by the American Society of News Editors. The organization chose this week to coincide with James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Day, March 16th.

“The Sunshine Week initiative is increasing public awareness, it’s coming up more often in policy conversations, and the efforts of participants are being cited as real forces for moving the public away from simply accepting excessive and unwarranted government secrecy,” explained on

This Sunday, the beginning of Sunshine Week, you may have seen newspapers publish a list of how to contact local lawmakers in honor of the initiative.

So it might come as a bit of a shock to learn that today, the government urged Congress to keep secret a whole new category of information even under the Freedom of Information Act.

Apparently, the White House organized a conference call with two senior administration officials to preview an announcement by President Barack Obama about an important China trade issue but told reporters that no one could be quoted by name, reports AP.

The officials were U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Michael Froman.

A little background on the Freedom of Information Act, “Enacted in 1966, and taking effect on July 5, 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.”

Each agency handles their own request, there is no set fee, no set form and anyone can make a request.

The White House has drawn criticism in the past for promising to be transparent and yet declining access to information such as the name and vintage of wines served during the June 2011 state dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

While amusing, this isn’t so we all start bombarding the White House with requests. The point of Sunshine week is to increase public awareness and participation so that we can become real forces for moving the public away from simply accepting excessive and unwarranted government secrecy.

Whether you blog about it or write your lawmakers about the importance of open government and the freedom of information, I encourage you to stay informed. Knowledge is power people.


Just another life after college blog

It’s the little, annoying things you can’t help but notice and dwell on when you are trying to write.

Even when you think about maybe trying to write, you suddenly feel you can’t ignore this little blue cup that has been sitting on the corner of your desk since always. How did that get there? What was the last thing I put in that? Did I steal that?

Do you listen to music a lot? I’ve grown a dependency and my serotonin levels correlate with what I am listening to. I am like a human metronome. When the music stops abruptly I swear my heart stops.

Damn it now I have to go to the bathroom. Just keep thinking about writing. Can’t get it out of my head. Now I’m fighting with the toilet paper. It won’t roll and I can only pull one sheet at a time. This is oddly defeating. Maybe I can blame my writer’s block on this.

Walk back to my desk. Boy that monster is really starting to kick in. Now I remember why I stopped drinking these things.

So many distractions. Stand up, sit down. Stand up again. Sit down somewhere else. Stand up. Walk around, sit down.

Thank God for smart phones or this would be more incoherent than intended.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what’s next. Where do I want to go and what do I want to do. I know where I want to go, but I draw blanks when I think about what I’ll actually do.

This is a bad habit of mine.

When I’m scared or doubtful, I avoid.

Avoiding things works 9 out of 10 times. I don’t care what you think. Avoiding things works. Obviously not for weird rashes, stalkers, pregnancy tests, bills and my bosses emails. But for things that don’t really have a due date, why not stall?

I’ll tell you why. Because when you just do what you’ve been putting off, that’s one more pound of scared that you can rip off your shoulder.

Sounds gloriously easy. And it’s harder than breathing.