This week’s Hispanic PR Blog interview is with Hispanic blogger Juan Castillo who through his blog Somos Austin, targets anyone and everyone with an interest in Latino news, happenings, culture and events.
Hispanic PR Blog: Tell us about your self, any relevant journalism experience you have and why you started your blog?

Juan Castillo: I’m the father of two lovely girls, Monica Elizabeth and Maya Xitlali who are my inspiration. I grew up in deep South Texas, in McAllen just a few miles from Mexico, and though I haven’t lived there in more than two decades I still consider myself a “citizen of the border,” if you will.
I’ve been a journalist now for more than 30 years — writing, reporting, editing, managing,  supervising and blogging , mostly for Texas newspapers but with a stint in radio early in my career. My degree is in mass communications, from Pan American University, now the University of Texas-Pan American.  In 2002-2003, I was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and it was during my time there that I decided to return to reporting after having been the national and foreign editor here (at the Austin American-Statesman.)
On my return, I created a race and immigration beat here in which I focused on writing about race, minorities, shifting demographics and immigration trends, and their impact and implications. Currently, I’m the community affairs reporter, a beat that allows me to write about people and diversity.

HPRB: Who is the target audience of your blog and what data can you provide us about the size of your audience?

JC: Really, as I wrote when I debuted Somos Austin, the target is anyone and everyone with an interest in Latino news, happenings, culture and events. Data the first year showed that Somos Austin was slowly building a following, occasionally cracking the top 100 among stories getting the most hits on our Web site: www.statesman.com.  You can find Somos Austin at www.statesman.com/go/somosaustin
I do have quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that people in the community are following. These days I hear quite a bit from readers who want to pitch a “story idea” for Somos Austin. When I’m out covering events, I hear occasionally from people who recognize me as much, if not more, for the blog as for the byline.
Here’s an excerpt from that debut blog in 2009:
Welcome to “Somos Austin,” a new forum about things Latino in Austin. Somos is Spanish for “we are.” My hope is that “Somos Austin” is a name befitting this blog’s spirit of inclusiveness. Austin is a great city made up of many diverse parts, including Hispanics, and Somos Austin intends to reflect that…But while this online corner will focus on Hispanic news, observations, happenings and culture, it will seek to resonate with everyone who appreciates the city’s rich multicultural mosaic and history and the ever-evolving contributions of Latinos.

HPRB: What makes your blog unique and when did you first start blogging?

JC: Besides the mission, which is unique to our broad variety of blogs here, Somos Austin is notable because it covers a breadth of topics that I think is unmatched — breaking news, features, education, the arts, history, government, society, culture, immigration diversity, trends, you get the picture. It runs the gamut.
I started Somos Austin in January 2009.

HPRB: Do you have any accompanying Twitter, Facebook or other social media contact information you would like to share?

JC: I have a Twitter account: www.twitter.com/somosaustin
HPRB: What is your blog’s web address and how frequently do you update your post?

JC: my blog web address is www.statesman.com/go/somosaustin.

Unfortunately I’m not able to update nearly as much as I’d like.  In the first year, I was blogging two or three times a day, which wasn’t easy because I was bringing journalism and reporting standards to the work.  Many blogs were long and had all the hallmarks of a news story printed in a major daily newspaper. Along with this, I still had to fulfill my duties as a Metro desk reporter. My beat comes with high demands, so I must devote my energy to getting that work done. But often, the reporting bleeds over into the blogging, and I’m able to blog versions of the stories I write for the paper.

HPRB: What is the key contact information for you and or your blog?

JC: I can be reached at 512-445-3635 or 512-653-5197, or email:  jcastillo@statesman.com

HPRB: What topics are of special interest to your blog and which ones are definitely not?

JC: I’m a newsman at heart, and I have quite a broad span of interests, so virtually every topic is up for discussion. I think that’s what makes Somos Austin attractive to some  — you’re liable to read one day about the Sor Juana Festival, the next day about an unsung community leader who died unexpectedly, and the next about a controversy surrounding the use of an ethnic slur on local radio. The next week might bring blogs on immigration policy or Tejano history.
Because I’m a Metro reporter here, I have to be very careful about story or blog “pitches” that involve a commercial venture.  Those are pretty much off limits, of course, if the intent is to promote a specific business.

HPRB: What are the best days and hours to reach you and/or your staff with a specific type of story or interview?  What are the worst days/times?

JC: Days are best, any hour.

HPRB: What are your policies in terms of accepting press kits, photos and/or multimedia video files?

JC: I consider them and accept them. Again though, I’m greatly limited in how much time I can spend reviewing them and I can’t promise I’ll use them.

HPRB: Is there anything you would like to add about your blog or about working with you?

JC: I enjoy writing for Somos Austin. One of the reasons I created it is because Austin is a city with a growing and vibrant Latino community, and in my work as a reporter I was struck by the number of interesting events, news, anecdotes, etc. outside my beat which for a number of reasons often didn’t make it into the newspaper. I thought Somos Austin could be a good home for them.