Media, Mentors and the Truth
by Kate Yingling Hector, photo by Riannon Rowley
A letter of thanks can be found in the history of the College of Mass Communications, written by Billy Ross. Written shortly after Robert Montemayor received his Pulitzer Prize, Montemayor wrote a letter to Ross. A portion of the letter read: “Well, the little old boy from Tahoka, Texas, finally got it done. I can’t possibly convey to you and the members of your department what the Pulitzer Prize has done for me. I am still floating above the clouds. Obviously, it is a tremendous personal achievement, and will forever be a source of professional gratification. It is what a journalist dreams about from the first day in a journalism class. While it may be a personal triumph for me, I would also like to share the award with all of you who guided me, trained me and put up with me for years. Thank all of you, I am beaming with pride and if any of your students should ever insinuate that small town people can’t possibly make it big time. Tell them that ain’t true. The big city slickers don’t do things any better than the country bumpkins from Tahoka. Believe me.”
Texas Tech’s College of Mass Communications hosted the 2012 Cathryn Anne Hansen Buesseler Lectureship in February this year. The featured speaker was alumnus Robert Montemayor, Pulitzer Prize winner and director of Rutgers’ Latin Information Network.
Robert Montemayor was part of a Los Angeles Times team that was awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for a comprehensive 21-part series of stories published in 1983 about Latinos in Southern California. Montemayor earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1975 from the College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech University.
Journalist, veteran marketing executive, consultant, author, and college professor, Montemayor has more than 35 years of media experience. Currently, Montemayor is a journalism instructor in Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information in New Brunswick, N.J. He is also the director of the Latino Information Network at Rutgers, a project launched in the summer of 2010 to create a database of Latino-related research and stories that will feed a website focusing on the ever-growing, diverse Latino communities within the United States.
Montemayor was editor of Texas Tech’s campus newspaper, the University Daily, now the Daily Toreador, during the 1974-1975 school year. Montemayor is remembered as editor for his masthead, “The purpose of this newspaper is to raise constructive hell.” Bill Dean was the faculty adviser of the newspaper at the time, Dean said, “Sometimes he raised constructive hell, mostly he just raised hell.”
In the summer of 1975, he took a job with the Dallas Times Herald as a staff writer. His most important body of work involved reporting and writing numerous stories involving the alleged civil rights violations of Mexican-Americans in Texas -– most killed while in police custody. Montemayor was a member of reporting teams that twice were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 and 1978, and one which earned a George Polk Award in 1978 for its coverage of these civil rights cases.
Montemayor joined the Los Angeles Times in November 1978 as a staff writer based in San Diego, Calif. The work of Montemayor and the Times team, which was awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, was later published as a book. Montemayor co-authored the lead story in the series, as well as three other stories and was the most prolific staff writer involved in the project.
In 1986, Montemayor graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a Master of Business Administration degree in marketing. During the next 22 years, he held a number of executive media and marketing management posts, working in mid- to upper-level managerial assignments at companies such as Dow Jones Inc., the McGraw-Hill Companies, and VNU Business Media. He has worked in virtually all aspects of media, including editorial, advertising, marketing, distribution, direct marketing in all forms, including consumer- and business-to-business marketing, and in the development and management of customer databases. He managed business operations in the United States and internationally. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
In 2004, Montemayor was the primary author of the book, “Right Before Our Eyes: Latinos Past, Present and Future,” a 160-page treatment focusing on the economic, political and social impact of the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States.
In his lecture, Montemayor spoke about “Media, Mentors and the Truth,” and he rattled off many statistics about media and the changing world. He focused on the extreme growth of the Internet and mobile phones and India and China rising as global powers. Montemayor said with so much dissonance and data to sort through, it is more important than ever to “remain resolute to the codes and principles of journalism.”
Montemayor said when he first arrived at Texas Tech when he was 18 and read the Society of Professional Journalism’s code of ethics it was an epiphany for him. “I instantly said to myself, this is how I want to live my life. This fits me like a glove.” From then on Montemayor was dedicated to nuts and bolts fundamentals.
Montemayor attributes his success to his many mentors over the years. He gave particular thanks to the lectureship series namesake, “Cathy” Buesseler. Montemayor was a student in Buesseler’s magazine writing class. He sold the first thing he ever wrote for Buesseler and said he thought, “Huh, I can get paid for sitting on my butt in an air-conditioned office and not have to work out in the field, this is OK.”
Montemayor said he is not sure what Buesseler saw in him, but Cathy and her husband Dr. John Buesseler spent a great deal of time with Montemayor.
“They became sort of like my second set of parents. They were educators for me, but they were also mentors. We would have these discussions over dinner at their house, and I was this wild-haired maniac talking trash. Here were these people very calm and collected, but we could argue into the night and they would basically coach me on how to position it and how not to position it. And I listened. They knew how to nudge me so I would know which way to go. And that relationship has lasted more than 40 years.”
“Most of all I want to give my love out to my queen, Catheryn Buesseler,” Montemayor said with tears in his eyes, pausing to gather himself. It is a special relationship, I love that woman. She had me at ‘I am your magazine writing teacher’ after that it was all good.” mc
Kate Yingling Hector is a May 2012 public relations graduate from Harker Heights, Texas.
Riannon Rowley is a senior electronic media & communications major from El Paso, Texas.