Meet Andrea Valdez, the First Latina to Lead a Statewide Newsroom in Texas

After more than a decade at Texas Monthly, Andrea Valdez, BA ’05, left her home state for San Francisco in 2017, to become the web editor at Wired. In July, she returned to Texas, and was named editor-in-chief of the Texas Observer, the nonprofit political magazine founded in 1954. The Alcalde caught up with Valdez about coming home, covering the Texas political landscape, and her historic first.

Why have you come back to Texas and Texas media?

It seemed like a good time to get back to both those things. I know Texas very well and have covered it in a writing and editing capacity for 10 years. When I left Texas it revealed to me how much I loved and missed this place.

What issues are you ready to explore in the magazine?

I’m excited about the reporting the Observer is already doing. It’s excellent reporters doing good, smart, incremental and longform beat reporting. Some of the work on women’s health—and public health more generally—has been impressive. The border is important because of the national political ramifications. It’s also interesting because Texans have had this 1,200-plus-mile border for the entirety of our existence but it has transformed pretty radically even in the last 10 years.

At Wired we did a lot on climate change. I’m curious to know that better on the local and regional level. Environmental reporting is something the Observer has been good at—how climate change affects what is essentially an agricultural state.

Were you aware that you would be the first Latina to take over a statewide publication?

From what I can tell, it’s accurate, though I don’t want to discount some long-gone Texas publication that might have existed that I don’t know of. It’s really humbling. I hope that other people see these positions as something you can work your way into. I’m happy to be illustrative of that.

Any big initiatives right now?

I have an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality, so it’s continuing to do the good work of supporting the writers, their stories, and their reporting process. I would like to grow readership and be more involved in the community where and when it’s appropriate. I don’t exactly know what that looks like yet, but it’s being more involved and out there and bringing the awareness of the Observer to new readers. That’s the next year or two and into the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photo by Maria Lokke

 
 
 

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