Francisco Vara-Orta has been named director of diversity and inclusion at IRE, based in San Antonio.
He takes on the new role after joining the journalism non-profit in 2019 as training director.
Vara-Orta previously spent almost two decades in newsrooms across the country, working as a reporter and writer for the Austin American-Statesman, the Los Angeles Times. The L.A Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the San Antonio Express-News, among other publications.
“I had worked for IRE while in grad school in 2015-16 as went back to school in my early 30s – against some conventional wisdom – to get a master’s in data and investigative journalism after hitting walls to advance my work and career,” Vara-Orta tells Media Moves.
“The staff at IRE had helped me reinvent myself into a data journalist and stayed in touch to keep tabs on me after graduation. They asked me to apply when a trainer position opened a few years later. I felt after 18 years since my first newsroom job at a bilingual community newspaper that perhaps I was ready to try something new and help my colleagues out in a new capacity. They saw through my impostor syndrome better than I could. I always dreamed of being an editor or teacher so becoming a trainer allowed me to help journalists work with data, open records, shape some of our conference programming elevating great speakers and provide coaching and mentoring.”
He says the new position came just at the right time.
“It’s important we help our colleagues improve their newsroom environments and provide nuanced, thoughtful coverage for all communities, including those historically marginalized, to whom I have dedicated my whole career to making sure they know they aren’t forgotten. I will still be training hands on in newsrooms and classrooms we partner with, which is backbone of what I love about my gig at IRE.”