Maritza L. Félix
Maritza L. Félix began Conecta Arizona in May 2020 as a journalistic experiment on WhatsApp to counter misinformation about the pandemic among her family and friends on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. At the start, there were less than 20 people in the group and she expected the experiment to last a couple of months at most. But the project took off and during her 10-month JSK Community Impact Fellowship, which ended in May, Félix expanded the ways Conecta serves its growing community. Today, it powers information sharing on social media, through a newsletter and a talk show on a local Phoenix radio station and is partnering with media outlets across the border in Mexico. She has hosted more than 350 Horas del Cafecito on WhatsApp, invited 67 experts to the group and debunked more than 300 myths about the pandemic and the border. Her focus is on direct messaging, with experts on hand, good humor and a genuine commitment to two-way communication.
During her senior impact fellowship, Félix is focusing on developing a long-term sustainable business plan for Conecta Arizona with hopes of replicating the model in many places on both sides of the border. She is also receiving support for this work from her participation in the Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
“The secret is in knowing the community you serve and asking questions. … We will not disappear after the pandemic. We came to stay,’’ she recently wrote. “We put down roots in a community that was hungry for a different type of local journalism, where inspiration, not extraction, drives us to create original content with our narratives, our accents, and our identity.”
Félix’s freelance journalism has appeared in Discovery Channel, Organización Editorial Mexicana, The Nation, The Hechinger Report, Fi2W, Slate, The Americano, The Copper Courier, Uniradio, Prensa Arizona Univision and Telemundo. She has won five Emmys and multiple awards from the Arizona Press Club. In 2012 and 2013 the Phoenix New Times newspaper named Félix Best Spanish-Language Journalist in Arizona.