April 8, 2014

Hello friends,

Last Friday I had my first (and maybe last, my shadowing is up this week) photo assignment with the Texas Tribune. It was a little hectic, there was a miscommunication about transportation, but once it was started it worked out very smoothly.

I was sent to document the headquarters of Dulce Vida Spirits in Dripping Springs, for a story on the brand new market for tequila in China, after president Xi Jinping lifted the ban this past summer. Both Mexican and American tequila companies are scrambling to put their product on the shelves of the top alcohol consumption force in the world.

I was disappointed to discover that in order for tequila to be considered tequila, it must be distilled, bottled, and sealed in Mexico - so no distillery photos for us.

The headquarters is a modest warehouse with a big Texas dance hall feel; country music plays on the speakers and twinkle lights are strung across the main entrance. There was even a stage with two acoustic guitars just waiting to be picked up and played by a pair of cowboy boots and denim jeans. The owner takes a lot of pride in his company, informing us, while he sips on a rich brown añejo tequila I'm told, that they are the most awarded tequila company and are independently owned, as well as their products are the only completely organic, 100 proof (whatever that means - I'm 20), and kosher tequila in the world.

While the reporter Cathaleen, an intern from Chicago, interviewed the owner and director of sales, I went to do my thing. I listened to what she was looking to gain from the interview, and from what I heard, the Texas Tribune wanted a Texan tequila company's perspective, since there are stories from freelancers in Mexico over Mexican tequila companies.

I made sure to get as many options for the editors as possible and to make it as Texan as possible, which proved to be easy, considering there was a Texan flag in nearly every shot I took. I walked around the facility ('strolled' would probably be more appropriate, considering the setting), made sure to capture the offices in the back, and listened to the interview for a little while. It was fascinating to listen to how careful the questions had to be worded, and to just watch how intricate the interviewing process really is. To my laymen ear, the reporter seemed to be cautious as to not explore favoritism bias for that company in what she recorded and asked, but rather how they, as a tequila company, independent from their practice and how good their product may be, plan to venture into the new market in China, how it will affect business, etc.

It was a very fun experience for me, and I can see myself doing this for a long time to come. I know nothing about tequila and next to nothing about foreign affairs, but being in a new environment and observing and listening to stories is a blast. I always love listening to people talk about things they're most passionate about, I think it's very connective. I was ecstatic that although I'm inexperienced and probably (definitely) naive, that the Tribune would give me this opportunity and trust me enough to not make a blunder of their piece. 

Stuck in traffic on the way back to Austin, I was able to chat with Cathaleen and it was really nice to gush with someone about how cool it is to be at the Tribune, how much we love journalism and how the Tribune is the future of journalism and so on. She told me that the owners had offered her a bottle of tequila as thanks for stopping by, and she was so upset that she had to turn it down because it was unethical to accept gifts. Shoot!

Keep an eye out for the article on the TT website, you can search for the keyword "tequila", as I'm not sure when it'll be up.