Triad City Beat, along with Next City, is pleased to welcome Marielle Argueza as our Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow for Racial Justice Narratives.

Argueza, who previously worked with Next City, will join the nonprofit news organization covering solutions for equitable cities, for a four-month reporting fellowship in partnership with Triad City Beat. Based in Greensboro, the fellowship will explore urban policy and justice in the NC Piedmont Triad, with a focus on its vast immigrant and refugee communities.

Learn more about Next City and the fellowship here.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I was born and (partially) raised in rural Philippines before emigrating with my family to the suburban town of Marina, based in Monterey County, California. 

How and when did you get into journalism?

Spite. I’m only half kidding. Being an immigrant in the United States, I think there was a lot of pressure from my teachers and my community to assimilate and that often comes with the feeling of having to be more American than other Americans. For me, that meant excelling in English and related subjects. 

I majored in Modern Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While I enjoyed the analysis and expanding my perspective, I didn’t necessarily enjoy the academization of it and I realized that in my first quarter. I didn’t want my career to hinge on a 150-page essay analyzing two lines of  Shakespeare. It was a typical college student existential crisis for sure. 

During my first summer home, I decided to take an internship with the local paper The Monterey County Weekly. I fell in love with the whole process of journalism. This sounds weird post-Covid but I also fell in love with the office culture. The editorial department was creative, collaborative and supportive as they could be in a small independent-news room. 

Day to day, I spent a lot of time doing monotonous tasks like filing out calendar listings for the paper’s robust arts and entertainment calendar, but I also got the chance to write little features about my hometown and pitch stories about the lesser-known corners of my version of Monterey County. After that summer, it was clear to me that writing didn’t have to be siloed in university settings and contained to books dead men wrote. It could also be a way to stoke curiosity, find answers, hold people accountable and amplify a person’s story.

I kept coming back every summer and made myself an indispensable part of the team until they hired me as a reporter, mostly for K-12 education. After several years at the paper, I decided to further my education and attended Columbia as a Stabile Investigative Fellow and earned my master’s degree. 

What is your journalism philosophy?

I have several philosophies. First and foremost, society just works better when there’s responsible journalism present. When someone is watching and asking the right questions about people in power — it could be federal officials or a homeowners association — people tend to act for the interest of others rather than for seedier reasons.

On that theme, my second tenant to journalism is that local journalism in particular is essential and often one of the few tools that communities have to change their lives for the better. 

While national journalism is important to understanding and keeping up to date with federal policies and issues, often people feel local policies and decisions first. Read it. Support it. Participate in it. 

What is one of your favorite stories that you’ve written?

When Project Varsity Blues came out as a huge national story, I dug into the data of what college-ready competitiveness looked like on a local scale. I was working with the Monterey County Weekly at the time and it was the first time I remember really working with a large amount of data. 

I looked at the admission data of California’s top universities and who they were accepting from local schools as far back as ten years. It was really interesting to see that in the past, money did equal a spot. In almost every instance there was a 90- to 100-percent guarantee that a high school senior who graduated either from a very expensive private school or a well-funded public (mostly white) public school would have a spot in these highly competitive universities.

But those numbers evolved with school policy and I saw it change over time when public high school graduates were producing university admissions and enrollment numbers on par and even exceeding wealthier and better-resourced students. It had a lot to do with the leg work public schools put in college readiness programs, but also changing requirements and considerations by public universities. 

Meeting the kids bucking those trends was also fascinating. All the kids I met were really smart. It was eye-opening to meet students who were really the most well-rounded level-headed people you could ever meet, but also so devastating to see that some students had so much anxiety over the next four years of their life. 

What kind of stories are you excited to write for TCB?

So my focus will be on the city of Greensboro which has a long history with refugee resettlement and immigration in general. For me that presents so many possibilities. So I’m excited to write stories that shed light on how immigrant communities are contributing to the culture and infrastructure of the city. But I’m also interested in writing nuanced stories about how different waves of immigrant populations are seen, helped, or maybe even harmed by changing city policies and urban solutions. 

Why did you want to apply for this fellowship?

I really enjoyed my time at Next City before, but I do miss the scrappiness and the connection of local journalism — especially alternative weeklies. This fellowship was an opportunity to work with a team I know and trust(Yay! Next City!) and join a team that embraces the gung-ho and enterprising spirit of alternative weeklies. 

To be clear, I have never reported in the South. But I’ve been on the West and East Coast, why not have the experience of working in the South too? The U.S. is a big country and all these national issues look so different when you’re on the ground covering them. 

What’s your favorite part about journalism?

There’s something so gratifying about making a visible impact in a community. I think it’s so easy to scroll through the news, say you “saw it in the news,” and retain nothing. But the journalism I’ll be doing with TCB is my favorite kind of journalism, because it’s close enough to the audience that it can have that resonance. It doesn’t have to be deep, but if it’s just deep enough that they’ll attend a regularly scheduled council meeting or inform their neighbor about an issue, that’s the best feeling. 

Good journalism just has this way of calling people to action and doing its part in fighting apathy and all those things are my favorite parts about this and art and science. 

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