Remember the spring, when the world was shutting down, and the curve was fixing to be flattened, and it felt like we could wash our hands and cough into our elbows right through the pandemic?
At Poynter, we started telling the stories of local journalists, how they were covering their communities and the onset of the coronavirus. One of them was about Enrique Limón, then the editor of an alt-weekly in Salt Lake City.
Shortly after that piece ran, Limón’s job was eliminated.
Oh also — as we learned that COVID-19 is airborne and a respiratory illness — he found out he had asthma.
Limón started applying for jobs like it was his job as he navigated unemployment. And he had to go back to the basics of why he became a journalist.
“Working in the alt industry, I was always too something,” he said. “Fill in the blank … Too brown, too queer, too something.”
Now jobless, in an industry contracting fast because of the pandemic, Limón used the time he had to do the thing he’d been preaching to his own staff for years. He went out and found stories.
For months, he covered the protests that followed George Floyd’s death and the local police shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal. Using his trusty iPhone 6, Limón covered at least 30 protests, which he reported on through social media. His coverage got picked up by local newsrooms, where he also freelanced. And he worked to earn the trust of the activist community and local government.
“I think that helped me regain my sanity,” Limón said. “I think a lot of media people will tell you we love our job, we love what we do, we’re gluttons for punishment, but we also know our job will never love us back.”
He covered a memorial in Provo, Utah, a Juneteenth flag raising, and sometimes had several stories a day.
Limón also reported out how to ace interviews and studied the places he was applying for. He had second and third interviews. He applied to major newsrooms.
Then, a job came up that would rely on a part of himself he’d left out of the newsroom. Limón, who grew up a border kid between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, hadn’t reported or worked in Spanish for years.
Recently, he announced his new gig as the founding editor for the Independent en Español. He’ll be crafting the brand of the U.K.-based newspaper for Spanish-speaking countries across the globe.
At the end of November, Limón introduced himself to readers with a column about his great-grandfather, Hernando Limón Hernández, “a general in the Mexican Army who after retiring founded El Hispano Americano, a first-of-its-kind bilingual newspaper that was distributed on both sides of the US/Mexico border.”
The fact that my Independent en Español appointment came about a couple of days before what would have been his 141st birthday isn’t lost on me. Gen. Limón is a tough act to follow, but after earning my own stripes at a trio of newsrooms across the American West, my own mission is clear: To deliver, just like he did, fearless journalism rooted in facts and strengthened through unerring ethics (albeit in plainer clothes).
Local news remains at the core of all news, Limón said, and it’s something he’ll still be deeply involved with, this time for communities in East LA, Chicago, the Bronx, Miami’s Little Havana, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Caracas and more.