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Latina Lista embarks on new path to bring value to news

LatinaLista — In this era of New Media, there are countless news sites struggling to figure out what 21st Century journalism should look like, how it should be delivered and most importantly how to sustain it and its creators.

Since 2006, when Latina Lista officially blossomed from a blog into a site that offered a full buffet of original editorial content supplied, in part, by generous contributors, it has always been the goal of one day paying these writers and reporters for their work. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when I was invited to participate in a special gathering of other like-minded New Media entrepreneurs that I learned of one way to help pay contributors what they deserve for all their hard work.

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It’s a site called and the idea is that this site helps fundraise money to pay a writer for a story. The process involves pitching a story, getting it approved, setting up a fundraising goal and then spreading the word to try to raise the necessary money to meet that goal.

At the same time, I learned about, I was approached by a Philadelphia-based freelance multimedia reporter named Gustavo Martinez. For the past two years, he had been following the case of four teenagers accused in the unprovoked attack and murder of an undocumented immigrant named Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in July of 2008.

Gustavo wanted to cover the hate crime trial of the two teens who had been acquitted of third-degree murder in a previous trial but whom witnesses had testified had killed Ramirez Zavala.

To cover the trial, Gustavo would have to temporarily relocate to Scranton where the federal trial would take place. His coverage of the trial not only included writing daily posts in both English and Spanish about the day’s proceedings, but also creating bilingual podcasts, as well as, twittering about it.

He wanted to know if Latina Lista would collaborate with him. As one of the first cases in the country of an unwarranted attack on a defenseless undocumented immigrant, I was more than willing to collaborate with Gustavo. Yet if ever there was a time to explore ways of how to pay a reporter for their work, it was now.

So, we pitched the story to and it was accepted.

Waiting for justice for the murder of an undocumented immigrant has, as of this writing, raised $90.00. Our goal is $750.00.

Spot. us allows two ways to raise money for a story — the traditional cash donation or by filling out a very short survey and donating the cash for taking the survey to the selected story. makes no guarantee that the money will be fundraised. It’s up to each publisher/writer to relay the importance of a story to possible funders.

In our case, the idea that two teens could be acquitted of targeting a man simply because he was Latino and scream racial epithets at him while punching and kicking him in the body and head so severely it caused him to foam at the mouth and sustain two skull fractures is a story that everyone should know how it ends — Will there be justice for Luis Ramírez Zavala’s family or will another message be sent?

Every day this week, Gustavo has diligently been present in the Scranton federal courthouse reporting on the day’s events through tweeting at #luisramirez. He then sits down for another round of reporting via blog posts and he ends the night with a podcast. In the interim, he’s snapping pictures when he can.

This is not only a story that deserves to be covered and reported on but it’s a story that is already worth every penny of $750.

To donate money or fill out a short survey, please go to our pitch page at

Time will tell if this is the future of journalism but one thing is certain — regardless of the state of journalism, important stories are happening every minute of every day and they need to be shared with a wider audience.

(Editor’s Note: Below is the latest trial update from reporter Gustavo Martinez.)

Shenandoah Hate Crime Trial Day 4: Metal, tattoos and a cover-up

By Gustavo Martínez Contreras
Posted on October 8, 2010

SCRANTON, PA — A metal piece supposedly used as a weapon, a tattoo on the butt to celebrate the attack and a cover-up story to tell authorities were part of yesterday’s testimony in the trial of two Shenandoah, Pa., men charged for a federal hate crime related to the beating death of an undocumented Mexican immigrant in 2008.

The metal piece

The small metal piece Derrick Donchak allegedly used to hit Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala finally showed up in court.

It had been mentioned in the first trial. And not only did the prosecution produce it as Evidence #45, but two witnesses testified as to its effect on the intensity of Mr. Donchak’s punching.

Witness Benjamin Lawson told the jury he heard Mr. Donchak say during the meeting at his garage, just after the attack, that he was glad to have had the metal piece in his fist.

Mr. Lawson, 19, also said he remembered seeing the metal piece earlier at Mr. Donchak’s.

“I let him punch me with it and without it,” he said. “His punch was heavier (with it).”

The metal piece is thus in the story shortly after the beating, according to this version.

Later another witness, Barry Boyer, placed the metal piece in Mr. Donchak’s possession at the Polish American Block Party, where Mr. Piekarsky apparently turned belligerent toward a woman and man.

But before that, Mr. Donchak spent some time showing Mr. Boyer, 19, the metal piece he was carrying with him, moments before the fatal encounter with Mr. Ramírez Zavala later that night.

“He wondered what it’d be to hit somebody with the metal piece,” Mr. Boyer told the jury. “A hit with it hurt more than a hit without it.”

Shortly after the group left the Polish American party they came across Crystal Dillman’s 15-year-old sister, Roxanne Spector, and Mr. Ramírez Zavala himself.

A tattoo on the butt

Both Brian Scully and Barry Boyer heard the kids brag about what they had done the night of July 12, and as a badge for la travesura, their prank, they planned on tattooing the name “Lupe” on their butt.

“Because it’s a Hispanic name,” Mr. Boyer answered when Assistant Attorney General Gerald Hogan asked him why he thought of choosing that name for their butt tattoo.

Mr. Scully said they had some laughs at the idea of getting a tattoo with the name Lupe “on someone’s ass”.

“It was because he was Mexican,” he said.

Soon that idea got put on the back burner in the wake of a developing emergency for them: the need to cover up their actions that night.

The Cover-Up Story

At least two witnesses testified that Mr. Piekarsky told them not to tell anybody he had kicked Mr. Ramírez Zavala in the head.

“I asked who kicked him,” Mr. Lawson said. “Brandon Piekarsky said, ‘I did, shh!'”

Shortly after this, the group started to make up the cover-up story they would tell police, he said.

“We were going to say that nobody kicked him; that there was no drinking, and there were no racial slurs. We all agreed,” Mr. Lawson recalled.

Later Mr. Scully would tell the jury that Mr. Piekarsky arrived to the Donchak house with his mom. As the teens talked about the fight, they realized their situation was worsening.

“We got to get a story. This is bad,” said Mr. Scully. “We thought if we had the same story it would be believable.”

He also said that Mr. Piekarsky told him at least twice not to tell anybody he had kicked the deceased in the head.

Defense attorney James A. Swetz countered Mr. Scully’s testimony by first questioning how much the booze he drank that night had impaired his judgment. Later, he challenged Mr. Scully’s motivation for testifying against his friends.

“As you sit here, you hope the federal government don’t bring charges against you,” said Mr. Swetz. “You are doing this for yourself, isn’t that true Mr. Scully?”

Mr. Scully just answered, “yes.”

It was a long day of proceedings with four more witnesses taking the stand. Proceedings began at 9 a.m. this morning.

(Editor’s note: the recording was done on October 7.)

Hate Crime Trial 4 Bueno by Gustavo Martinez

Remember to visit our pitch page on, where we’re fundraising to pay for the coverage of this collaboration between this site and It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to do it and you can even contribute donating that time and not necessarily money.

Kudos also to Dave McAndrews from WFTE in Scranton who couldn’t join us in the English podcast tonight.


Finally, follow us on twitter @newsgus, @latinalista, hash tags #luisramirez, #immigration

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