As businesses closed and schools began operating remotely due to COVID-19, Olegario Tapia became concerned as he watched his mother leave to work in the fields around Dinuba.
“An abundance of the information my family consumed about the new virus came from unreliable social media outlets, and a lot of the time, it was misinformation that lacked facts,” said Tapia, who is a double major in Public Relations and Theatre and Dance, and a DACA recipient.
At the end of July, the California Department of Health reported Latinos accounted for 56 percent of the COVID-19 cases and 46 percent of the deaths, even though they account for 40 percent of the population. As the virus has spread, a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 86 percent of the Latino community is worried about it. Still, misinformation about “miracle cures” and prevention myths are circulating on social media platforms. Simultaneously, already struggling Spanish language news outlets have been going into survival mode by reducing their coverage or even failing.
Taking matters into his own hands, Tapia began gathering information from local and state government agencies and officials, and reputable media outlets. He also used fact-checking websites to vet information his family found on social media. He then began holding regular COVID-19 briefing sessions with his family to ensure they understood the latest safety information and regulations pertaining to their jobs.
Tapia said that’s when his lecturer, Jim Boren, introduced him to the idea of creating a video podcast.
“Olegario and I were discussing some writing concepts. He mentioned that he was aggregating COVID-19 news stories for family members and translating so they could keep up with the news,” said Boren. “I immediately thought that was a great service for his family and could have value for others who needed this information in their native language. So I suggested that we switch his writing project to a podcast on COVID-19 news to be delivered in Spanish.”
On May 19, Tapia launched his “LoNuevo y Mas” podcast on YouTube. The first episode took a deep dive into COVID-19 and included information on safety, shopping, events, and impacts of the illness on society.
Tapia said he had received a lot of positive feedback from his family and others who have stumbled upon his video.
“It was pretty informative by explaining the virus and how it spread, then going into the impact on small businesses with a couple of interviews of owners,” said Juan Esparza Loera, editor, Vida en el Valle.
Tapia is currently working on a second episode to provide more COVID-19 updates while learning podcast editing software to make the process easier.
“I would like to discuss where we are now with the pandemic, since the first video,” said Tapia.
After graduating, Tapia hopes to continue to find outlets to help the Latino community in the Central Valley.
“I believe that with education, anyone can achieve their goals, and this Media, Communications, and Journalism department has been a great asset to me personally.”
As for Tapia’s mom, she has a new routine when she comes home from work. She set up an area to change clothes and wash-up before she has contact with anyone else in the house.
She, and the rest of his family, are now taking COVID-19 more seriously and often share the podcast link with their coworkers. Tapia said as far as he knows, neither his family nor his family’s coworkers have caught COVID-19.