by Wanda Padilla, Santa Fe New Mexican
July 8, 2017

Hallelujah! The most promising and hopeful talk at the fifth annual Kids Count Conference, celebrating 30 years of New Mexico Voices for Children, was given by Ray Rivera, editor of The New Mexican and founder of Searchlight New Mexico, a “nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative reporting and innovative data journalism.”

My news, like most folks because of my mistrust of “corporate media,” had mostly been coming from email, National Public Radio, radio talk show personalities and of course, Saturday Night Live. When Rivera got up to speak, the first question he asked the audience was, “Are there any candidates for governor present?” No hands went up. “How about Congress?” “Local government?” Again no hands went up. Shameful, especially when our education system really needs the attention of our state and local leaders.

I had assumed that no print media would give me the news in a sane, trustworthy manner. As a longtime community activist in many areas, I perked up when I learned about Searchlight New Mexico. Its mission is to “spur reform by exposing abuses of power by government, business and other institutions through high impact investigative journalism on topics of local, regional and national interest.” Music to my ears.

We know that great reporting does empower people to demand honest, effective public policy. Searchlight’s No. 1 project is the well-being of children in New Mexico, including education. Music to my ears again. I discouraged my recently divorced daughter, who is now a single mom with an 8-year-old son, from moving to New Mexico based on the education offered here. She checked the data and changed her mind — too risky. She could not afford private school tuition.

As a former teacher with a great concern for public education and its survival, I offer loads of kudos to Rivera for speaking out on his topic: “Searching for Light: Investigative Journalism, A Children’s Agenda for New Mexico.” I have been a 23-year resident of Santa Fe and I love it. With the brilliant minds here, we can and will do better. I am playing my part to be a part of the solution. I am hopeful.

Wanda Ross Padilla is a community activist, holistic/wellness life coach and Santa Fe resident.

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