University of Texas at El Paso

Our Border Life: Engaging Community Across Borders Through Media

University of Texas at El Paso is one of the 2018 winners of the Challenge Fund. See all the winners.


  • Zita Arocha, Professor, UTEP
  • Dino Chiecchi, Professor, UTEP
  • Kate Gannon, Professor, UTEP
  • Kerry Doyle, Director, Rubin Gallery of Art, UTEP
  • Alex Hinojosa, Journalism Instructor, El Paso Community College
  • Dr. Santiago Gallur Santorun, Coordinator Journalism Program, Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez
  • Rocio Gallegos, News Director, La Verdad, Ciudad Juarez
  • Gabriela Minjares, Manager, La Verdad, Ciudad Juarez
  • Oscar Vasquez, Journalism Professor, Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez
  • Patrick Piotrowski, Director, KTEP
  • Julian Resendiz, Former Editor, El Diario de El Paso
  • Tim Archuleta Editor, El Paso Times
  • Aaron Montes, Reporter, El Paso Inc.
  • Secret Wherrett, Publisher, El Paso Inc.
  • Jose Luis Esparza, Publisher, Ser Empresario
  • Brenda de Anda, News Director, KVIA (ABC) TV
  • Uriel Posada, News Director, KINT TV Univision, 26
  • Karla Mariscal, Newscaster, Telemundo 48 El Paso
  • Robert Holguin, Newscaster, KFOX14 El Paso
  • Mario Porras, Binational Affairs Director, El Paso Community Foundation
  • Dr. Eva Moya, Professor of Health Sciences, UTEP
  • Dr. Joe Heyman, Director, Center for InterAmerican and Border Studies, UTEP
  • Diana Washington Valdez, Independent Author and Journalist 

Describe your project

Our Border Life is a bilingual multimedia news project to engage community stakeholders on both side of the Rio Grande through public conversations, multimedia journalism, podcasting and art to identify common concerns for storytelling about the border. Community members on the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border will assist Borderzine and local media in reporting what matters most to border residents. The project consists of several new multimedia news products about the U.S.-Mexico binational region, including a bilingual ebook (True Border: 100 Questions and Answers about the U.S.-Mexico Border), a project webpage on with multimedia stories, videos, photo galleries and a podcast. The multimedia stories and ebook will reflect a truer reality of the border which is often portrayed in media as a zone of conflict, crime and lawless immigration. The public conversations and news products will generate a sense of shared community through greater communication across the border divide.

What is your experiment?

With advice and support from local news media professionals and conversations with community members from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, journalism students from UTEP and neighboring Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ) will produce a bilingual ebook to answer simple and basic questions about the U.S.-Mexico southern border. The ebook (True Border: 100 Questions and Answers about the U.S.-Mexico Border) will be disseminated through a special projects page on the Borderzine site called Our Border Life.

The bilingual ebook, also available as print-on-demand in January 2020, is augmented by student-produced multimedia stories, photo galleries and a new podcast of conversations of residents on both sides, which we hope will become a regular feature of Borderzine.  Advertising students are now developing a publicity and marketing campaign for Our Border Life. A roll out of the overall project and ebook will occur at two public forums (El Paso and Juarez) at the end of the year with participation by our local news partners in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.

If the experiment works, what do you think might happen?

Our expectation is that the bilingual project, Our Border Life, will foster greater understanding of common issues affecting the border region, generate in depth storytelling on topics of mutual interest to both cities, surface solutions to border challenges, and engender more binational cooperation between local officials, community/business leaders and non-profit advocates on both sides of the border. Through public events and media products, the project will facilitate people-to-people collaboration. From an education perspective, the project will engage college students, professors and news professionals from the two cities to work together to develop the various news products including the ebook. 

How is this project unique and innovative?

It empowers community residents and leaders from both sides to identify common issues that deserve more in-depth news coverage, such as how to work together to improve air quality, conserve water in the arid desert region, and provide adequate medical care to the region’s two million residents. In addition, Borderzine faculty and students will participate with the UTEP art department to document an innovative art installation involving light beams and audio waves to connect residents from both sides. The art installation represents a core aspiration of the Borderzine project, which is to get ordinary people to communicate across geographic, cultural, and language divides.

In addition, we hope Our Border Life will engender a sense of shared mission among media professionals, faculty, and college students from El Paso/Ciudad Juarez to work together to tell a more complete story of the border through bilingual journalistic storytelling and the bilingual ebook, a simple primer about the border.

How might this experiment change teaching at your school or media practices in your partner’s newsroom?

It will create a model for storytelling collaboration by journalism students and faculty from two countries, two cities to work together to produce bilingual multimedia stories, podcast conversation and an explanatory ebook about the border zone. A goal is to continue the journalistic collaboration between UTEP and UACJ at the project’s conclusion. In the future, it may lead other twin border cities (there are a total of 14) to undertake similar binational storytelling projects for greater cross border understanding.