Many have read his writing for Fresno State News, have seen him at countless campus events and may have recently read about his induction as a Hall of Fame fellow to the media, communications and journalism department in November. Tomorrow, Dec. 6, Tom Uribes will retire from his position as public information officer for university communications after 30 years of service.
His accomplishments run a long list, but to Uribes, it’s all in a day’s work. He gave a small laugh at the thought of sitting down for an interview with The Collegian to discuss his career.
“When I first saw your email my first thought was ‘Why do you want to write a story about me?’” he said.
Since his time at Fresno State, Uribes has become the backbone of university communications.
The Collegian sat down him to discuss retirement plans, the highlights of being Fresno State’s PIO and the role his parents played in becoming the journalist he is today.
The following is an interview granted to The Collegian on Dec. 5.
Q: “What are some of the emotions you’re feeling as your last day as PIO approaches?”
A: “Well it is a mixed emotion kind of feeling. Knowing any time, I guess I’m kind of sentimental, knowing anything comes to an end, I always stop to think about things like that. I’m definitely looking forward to not working anymore. At least not the way I was, I’m sure I’ll keep busy somehow. I’m really looking forward to that break. I have to admit there are moments of ‘Man I’m going to miss the hectic, craziness the new life is about,’ but I really am looking forward to it. I’m going to miss all the people I work with both here on campus and off campus because I got to work so much with especially news folks throughout mostly the region, even sometimes beyond. So mostly it’s kind of a mixed feeling.”
Q: “You and I were kind of talking before about how you’re going to help with the transitional process [of hiring a new PIO] but what’s next for you after? What are you going to be doing?”
A: “The primary plan I have in mind is simply one of visiting with my father more often. He’s 96-years-old. He lives in the veteran’s home. He was a World War II veteran, here in Fresno. He just moved back. He had lived in the veterans home in Yountville, California by Napa for about 20 years. So when we would visit him it would be a nice four-hour drive up there to visit him. Then he decided he wanted to move back home because this is where we all grew up in Sanger. So he’s there now and I hope to spend a lot more time with him. That’s primarily what I anticipate doing. Obviously I’ll be doing other things. I’ll just kind of relax mainly. I have a little dog, CoCo, so I’d like to walk her and get some exercise. Actually get a lot more exercise. That’s one of the things that happened here was that, even though as busy as I was, as non-stop as my daily routine was, it actually was in my head and not in my legs. I was at desk most of the time, and even though I would get out to go places on campus, you know because we have a great walking park here, it was minimal. It’ll be more visiting with my dad and being more with my family. And somewhere along the way, as far as doing other things, the fun things that retired people are supposed to do, we’ll see what comes up.”
Q: “Was your dad a big inspiration to you growing up?”
A: “He was not only an inspiration, he was the backbone for my family. Him and my mother, because they obviously promoted education. They wanted us to get an education. I’ve been born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, with many other latinos, most of whom had somewhat the experience of working in the fields. We didn’t. Our family didn’t. Our family didn’t as much. Well our parents did. My dad grew up in Minkler, east of Sanger, on a ranch and worked heavily with agriculture. But I think their feeling was is that they wanted to encourage us to get an education. They worked hard, and had many kinds of jobs. My dad was actually a carpenter and a construction man. He would do a lot of fine cabinetry work. He later worked for Self-Help Enterprises, which was his career, where he helped low income families build their own homes, mostly farm workers in rural communities. From that they learned a trade and were able to get out of the fields and move up to a higher-paying job. My mom worked in packing sheds and later on she became a school secretary, it was called then, an administrative aide. They really pushed us to do our school work, to go to college. To do something to make sure we really improved our lives. They were a big inspiration. One of my first jobs was in the sixth or seventh grade as a paperboy for the Fresno Bee in Sanger. My dad was always helping us with that when we needed it, if it was rainy day and we needed help. My dad was always building something to help. He actually built a darkroom in our garage for me when I was in high school. He also built a dark box. It was basically just a big box with a glass window on top of it with light shining through it. That’s how we would paste the paper. When we worked on The Collegian and La Voz in those days it was just a sheet laid out. Each of these columns were typed set for us. We would do all of this by hand. We would use exacto knives, a hot wax plate. I did that in high school for both our newspaper and yearbook. Later on I worked on this committee in Sanger called the Comite Civico Americano that did the 16 of September celebration. I did a book for them. We would do all the layout at my house at home cause he built that little light box for me. I could take pictures, develop them to my piece up room and sit there to put this book together.”
Uribe’s work for the committee was the forerunner for the creation of Sentimentos, a magazine publication he released and contributed to while obtaining his undergraduate degree at Fresno State. His main goal was to promote stories from within the Chicano student community. When he returned to Fresno State as a professional he began Destinos that was made up of Chicano journalism students.
“The whole concept, as was much of my philosophy as a journalist, was to try to create ways that one, young chicano students, have opportunities to be involved in journalism. And ways to have to try to promote the positive things happening in our community, with the concept being we have a lot of good things going and we face a lot of negativity in the community or in the media so how do we fight that? Before us a lot of activists had to fight it in a very hard way. They had to protest, they had to picket, they had to demonstrate. They had to do all that, and it kind of worked. I mean it did work because people started to pay attention and lots or programs started that help students come to college. That’s all we were looking for. We were looking for an opportunity to do what my parents wanted for us to do, which was to get a education.”
Q: “What is your advice to aspiring journalists?”
A: “We need journalists to dig in and pursue now more than ever the principles and ideals of journalism. To get out there to question issues, to question people, to report on it. Tell stories, tell good stories, you have to tell bad stories too. But to get out there to tell the story. I would hope there would be a renewed interest amongst young people to pursue the profession in journalism. To not be discouraged if they’re seeing a lot of commotion out there, if it sounds like it’s disgusting and you don’t want to be involved in it. Take it as a challenge to show how you can keep the ideals of journalism. It’s kind of what I’ve had to face as a chicano journalist, having to prove myself. To be an objective, and a competent and a professional as much as anybody else. Journalists in a way have to really do that now because we’re being attacked with fake news and there are a lot of outlets out there that are slanting things and are going on an agenda. It’s becoming hard for people to discern who is like that. There’s a lot of attack, and when the president of the U.S. is constantly attacking the fourth estate, the media, and people buy it, it’s undermining. I hope that young journalists will take it serious, pursue it, learn about the history of journalism and the many journalists who have come and contributed to it. It’s journalism, you know, it’s not rocket science and it’s not the cure for cancer but it is a form, a part of our democratic society that is important to what we’re all about. So I hope that the in that pursuit and the idea is something that our young journalists will pursue.”