David Remnick (center), Pulitzer Prize-winning editor or the New Yorker magazine, asked Snow College student Sergio Arellano for a copy of his winning essay. Remnick is shown with Arellano (right) and his Snow College English instructor Celia Benson.

 

Snow student’s essay on democracy

gets him Salt Lake foundation award

 

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer

Nov. 2, 2017

 

EPHRAIM—Sergio Arellano, an international student from Mexico attending Snow College, has a somewhat different viewpoint than many Americans when it comes to the principles of democracy.

“Americans think their government is really bad. That’s because they haven’t experienced Mexican government or the governments of much of the rest of the world,” he said.

It’s a perspective that apparently served him well in a recent prestigious essay contest. Arellano, a Snow College senior majoring in commercial music, was recently named the winner an essay contest sponsored by the McCarthey Family Foundation of Salt Lake City. The foundation was established by the family that formerly owned the Salt Lake Tribune.

Arellano was recognized last Saturday, Oct. 28 at the McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture Series titled “In Praise of Independent Journalism” at Rowland Hall school in Salt Lake City. Arellano originally submitted an essay on the topic and then was invited to present his essay orally. He also received a $2,500 cash award.

Although Arellano is a music major, he “has always been such a good writer and a deep thinker,” his English instructor Celia Benson said. “He has a really interesting perspective on life and on politics.”

Arellano reads the New York Times “at least four times a day,” she said.

Arellano, who is from Mexico City, has been attending Snow on a student visa. Both his parents are economists and he said he grew up “close to things that made me think. I grew up liking to observe the world around me.”

This year’s 102 contestants were asked to write an essay on a statement by former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, who oversaw the publication of the Watergate scandal stories by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein:

“As long as a journalist tells the truth, in conscience and fairness, it is not his job to worry about consequences. The truth is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run. I truly believe the truth sets men free.”

In his essay, Arellano wrote,  “Preserving freedom of speech and accurate reporting have always been a challenge for journalism, but that challenge has never been greater than it is in the internet era. Today, a single tweet can deny the research of the entire scientific community, it can shape racial relations—it can win presidential elections. Information, true or not, is so readily available now that the press has to vehemently fight for its audience’s attention.

“…The words of Ben Bradlee have never been more relevant,” he added. “It is in the truth, and the rejection of lies, that men can really be free. It is the journalists who have to spearhead the fight against lies, for the news outlets and for society at large.”

Arellano said his $2,500 will go for the remainder of his tuition. “I’m still grasping it,” he said of his win. “The judges are some of the most important people in journalism in Utah. It is such an honor.”

The jury for this year’s essay contest included Sarah McCarthey, who is a professor of education at the University of Illinois; Tom K. McCarthey, former associate editor of the Salt Lake Tribune; Lois Collins, Deseret News columnist and reporter; Lex Hemphill, sportswriter, columnist and former Salt Lake Tribune reporter; Nancy Melich, former Salt Lake Tribune reporter and theatre critic; Terry Orme, former Salt Lake Tribune editor; and John Saltas, publisher of Salt Lake City Weekly publisher.

The essay competition, which has been going on since 2009, is designed to encourage students to reflect on independent journalism and the role it plays in democracy. This is the first year a Snow College student has won. Previous winners include two University of Utah students; two from BYU; two from Westminster and one from Utah State University.

After he graduates, Arellano said it is his number one goal to write for the New York Times “50 Places to Go” column, enabling him to travel the world and write about his experiences.

The McCarthey family established the annual lecture series to honor their great-grandfather U.S. Sen. Thomas Kearns, founder of the Salt Lake Tribune, as well as a request by their father, Thomas K. McCarthey, to cultivate a “lasting legacy for an independent press.”

The guest lecturer at this year’s forum was Pulitzer-prize winning author and New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick, who spoke on “Press in the age of Trump.” Previous lecturers include Helen Thomas, Arianna Huffington, Madeleine Albright, Bob Costas and Tom Brokaw.

Arellano’s father Xavier and his brother Hector, 18, flew to Salt Lake City from Mexico City to see him accept the award.