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Reporter explores how the U.S. ‘blue jean capital’ recovered from lost jobs

el pasoTo cover the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Monica Ortiz Uribe, senior field correspondent for Fronteras Desk, takes the audience to her hometown of El Paso. Her story looks at how the city, which the story notes was once known as “America’s Blue Jean Capital,” recovered from lost manufacturing jobs. The solution was to offer transportation, accounting and other services to the “job-snatching” factories, the story says.

The story cites business owners along the border that have benefited from cross-border trade. Monica says a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas highlighted the trade as a “strong economic force.” To find those businesses, she contacted friends, sources, a local business association, and accounting and law firms that have clients in the trade, she says.

Monica says her biggest challenge was sidestepping the politics involved in NAFTA. “Since new free trade agreements with other countries are still being debated by the federal government, any statement as to NAFTA’s success or failure could affect future policy,” she says. “It was a challenge to find neutral information.”

Monica Ortiz Uribe

She relied on multiple studies and expert opinions, she says. She used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Department to back up information from her sources. She had someone from each agency guide her to online data over the phone to be sure she had the correct information, she says.

“Trying to skirt fact checking and research to turn around a story faster will come back to bite you later on,” Monica says. “When you sit down to write as a reporter, you must feel confident that the information you have is the most accurate possible.”

For reporters interested in writing about cross-border trade, Monica suggests a story on public/private partnerships for infrastructure improvements.

“The backlog at the border costs the cross-border trade industry billions, and rather than waiting on the federal government to engineer and fund better infrastructure, the private sector is starting to put up the money and plans to do it themselves,” she says.

Partnerships exist at non-commercial crossings in Arizona and outside San Diego she says.

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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