Public Citizen News / May-June 2023
This article appeared in the May/June 2023 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.
Born and raised in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Public Citizen’s Texas Press Officer José Medina first arrived in Texas to attend the journalism school at the University of Texas at Austin. After college, he landed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he worked as a freelance writer, covering high school sports for the Albuquerque Journal and the local paper Las Cruces Sun-News. He went on to become a full-time reporter for the latter. As a member of the newsroom, he covered various topics in southern New Mexico, including the courts, politics, and the commercial space industry. Medina returned to Austin to become the media coordinator at the ACLU of Texas and later served as the deputy communications director and senior communications strategist for the Texas Freedom Network.
Can you tell us a bit about your previous work experience?
Education was my initial beat as a newspaper reporter, but I later moved on to cover more political subjects. I loved writing for the local paper. I had a lot of memorable experiences during my time in Las Cruces. For example, I was there during the 2008 presidential election when New Mexico was a battleground state. Because Las Cruces is in a swing county, I got to cover a rally by then-Sen. Joe Biden. And I got to ride the Straight Talk Express with Sen. McCain briefly. I didn’t know it then, but a few moments before the senator joined us in the local press on the campaign bus, he had made his infamous gaffe about how many homes he owned.
As much as I loved being a reporter, there came a time when I felt I wanted to do something different. I left Austin within a few days of graduating from UT and regretted it. Austin is great and I carried this nagging feeling that I should have stuck around a little longer post-college and given the place a try as a non-student. The opportunity to return presented itself when the ACLU of Texas offered me its media coordinator position. A few years later, I moved over to the Texas Freedom Network, where I was the deputy communications director. After 11 years at TFN, the feeling that I wanted to do something different presented itself again. And that is what brought me to Public Citizen in May 2022.
What has been your favorite part of working at Public Citizen?
Before Public Citizen, I was fortunate to be part of some great teams. Good fortune followed me to Public Citizen. I have great colleagues in Austin and other parts of the state. They are a passionate and highly knowledgeable group that welcomed me and made me feel at home from day 1. This opportunity has also introduced me to new issues that impact Texans, who are, frankly, suffering the consequences of the actions and inactions of the people in power.
How would you describe the work you do at Public Citizen? What does a typical day look like?
We have a great communications team in the D.C. office; in the Texas office, the communications team is me. Our press statements, outreach to reporters, social media, advocacy alerts, writing for Public Citizen News, and anything else considered part of our office’s communications occupy most of my days.
We are currently in the middle of the 88th session of the Texas Legislature. The Legislature is an enormous part of the work of the Texas office. Anyone whose job involves what happens at the state Capitol can tell you that typical days are few. Still, I try to have some structure even during my busiest days.
What is one thing you’re hoping to achieve in the coming year?
I hope to develop a project that focuses on language justice. The most vulnerable communities, like those around the Houston Ship Channel, are increasingly Latino. The people who live in those communities already face a tough road when advocating to keep their neighborhoods healthy and the surrounding polluters in line. Language barriers make this already tough challenge even tougher.