This story was written by Torey Van Oot, Daily Trojan
Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) weren't the only two candidates campaigning last week for a coveted spot at this fall's Democratic National Convention.
Hundreds of entrants have been courting voters in an online contest to snag a press pass for the convention, at which the party officially names its nominee. Though Obama amassed enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination last week, an online battle to represent Latino youth on the airwaves wages on with a Trojan as a frontrunner.
Wendy Carrillo, a 27-year-old community organizer, radio journalist and incoming student into the USC Annenberg School for Communication master's program in specialized journalism, was, on Tuesday, slightly trailing the frontrunner in the SiTV's "Crash the Party 2008" contest, co-sponsored by the Latino cable network and Vote Latino, an organization aimed at educating and empowering Latino voters.
Two winners will be selected based on results from the online voting, which ends June 18, and input from a panel of celebrity judges.
Entrants uploaded video essays to personal profile pages about why they should represent SiTV viewers at the convention and the issues they think are most important to the Latino community.
Carrillo hopes by focusing on a wide range of issues important to young voters, she can chip away at the public perception that immigration is the only issue that matters to Latino voters.
Though the immigration debate has dominated media coverage of the Latino community over the last year, a recent poll found that only 3 percent of Latino voters rank immigration as their top issue in the upcoming election. Carrillo says if selected, her coverage would highlight the vast variety of issues of importance to the country's 50 million Latinos, including jobs, the economy and, most of all, education.
"Latinos are not just single mindedly focused on immigration. I think that's a big misconception. We're just as complicated as any other American. We care about issues like the economy, jobs, the environment, health care reform, definitely the war in Iraq," she said in her 5-minute video posted on the contest's website, crashtheparties08.com.
Carrillo's personal politics lean left; she is an active member of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats. But the community organizer says her personal ideology doesn't cloud her journalistic objectivity, but instead adds to the multitude of voices and viewpoints traveling the airwaves of national media.
"I follow social journalism more than I follow traditional journalism," she said. "Yeah, be objective about it, but also be involved in it - how else are you going to tell the story of people unless you walk a mile in their shoes?"
This philosophy on journalism has served as the foundation for Carrillo's work on the Los Angeles airwaves, where she hosts two shows aimed at educating and empowering young voters. She describes her shows, "Knowledge is Power," on Power 106 FM and "Movin Minds" on 93.9 FM, as a "guerrilla style [experiment in] the idea that you can be cool and you can be political and it's OK."
"We've been able to push this really socially conscious, political alternative to youth radio," she said.
Already, Carrillo has used her entry into the contest as a launch pad for discussion about the election's top issues, encouraging voters to voice their opinions and submit questions they want the candidates to answer in the comments section on her contestant profile page.
She said if she wins, she will use the questions as a basis for her reporting.
"I just happen to be the vessel, if I get to go, which would be awesome, it would be my responsibiity to ask those questions," she said.
With more than 5,500 votes cast in her favor, Carrillo has already demonstrated a broad showing of support online among family, friends and fans.
Norma Vega, a friend of Carrillo's who works in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office, praised Carrillo for her commitment to social justice.
"Frankly, you can't learn or teach Wendy's passion, fire in the belly, class, professionalism and history of work for social justice," she wrote in an e-mail. "She's no fly-by-night journalist seeking an opportunity to boost her rsum. This is who she is and she will be representing and challenging the issues affecting our community long after [the contest]."
Despite being locked in a tight battle for votes - Carrillo and the current frontrunner, a Texan active in the state's Democratic Party, have been trading the top spot for a week - the love lost between the top Democrats isn't reflected in this race.
"I would be happy with him winning because I know his level of experience," she said of her competitor.
To register to vote in the contest, visit crashtheparties08.com. Users are allotted one vote per day. Voting closes June 18, and the winner will be announced July 8.