FARMINGTON — There was a change in leadership at The Daily Times earlier this week, as New Mexico native Jessica Onsurez succeeded John Moses as the newspaper’s news director.
The move was effective Monday, Jan. 16. Moses has accepted a position as the editor at the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times, which also is owned by the Gannett Co. Inc.
Onsurez, who lives in Carlsbad but plans to relocate soon to Las Cruces, also serves as news director for the Carlsbad Current-Argus, the Alamogordo Daily News, the Ruidoso News and the Las Cruces Sun-News. She joined the Current-Argus in 2013 as a reporter and now oversees the news operations at five Gannett papers in New Mexico.
Onsurez, who was born in Loving, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern New Mexico University. After serving an internship in the office of then-U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, she joined his staff full time, eventually rising to the rank of assistant to the chief of staff.
“Some people called it the end of an era, but I like to call it the wrapping up of an era,” she said, referring to that period when the partisan divide in Washington was much less stark.
When Domenici retired from the Senate and joined a nonpartisan nonprofit organization in Washington, Onsurez followed him as a staff member while earning her master’s degree from American University, where she studied a program focused on multimedia journalism.
Upon graduation, she felt the need to do something different, so she signed up for a hitch in the Peace Corps, serving more than two years in Peru as a community economic development volunteer. Onsurez acknowledged that, on the surface, that position might not seem to have much in common with what she does now. But she said the two jobs require similar skills.
“It teaches you a lot about how to interact with people, how to actually listen when you’re having conversations with people,” she said.
Onsurez, a native Spanish speaker, said her ability to interact with Peruvians in their own tongue was invaluable and taught her a lot about the value of being able to communicate with and understand people on their terms.
She recalled with a laugh how a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, a young man she was mentoring in Spanish, was rebuffed by a bakery owner after trying to order a piece of cake one day. Onsurez asked him to tell her what he had said to the woman, and when he repeated his order in Spanish, Onsurez burst out laughing.
“I said, ‘No, no, no — no wonder she got mad. You told her you wanted a piece of poop,’” she said.
Upon returning to New Mexico, Onsurez quickly found work as a reporter at the Current-Argus, which she described as her hometown paper. A decade later, she now finds herself leading the coverage at nearly a half dozen Gannett properties in the state.
Onsurez said she plans to respond to the challenge of leading those papers by remembering that each of those communities has its own identity.
“Farmington is a distinct community from Carlsbad or Las Cruces,” she said. “I want to make sure we are true to our goal of covering our communities truthfully and accurately.”
Onsurez noted that that journalism has changed dramatically over the last decade with more changes likely coming.
“It’s an industry that is beginning to rethink its tradition in print,” she said, referring to the increased emphasis on digital journalism.
Despite the change in leadership at The Daily Times, Onsurez said the paper would practice an inclusive and comprehensive brand of journalism.
“Our readers should continue to expect great journalism that is fair, accurate and timely,” she said.
Her predecessor as The Daily Times’ editor, Moses, joined the paper in April 2017. Moses began his career in the San Francisco Bay area, where he worked for 20 years before joining papers in Alaska and Wyoming.
Moses said he enjoyed his time in Farmington.
“The Four Corners is a unique and special area,” he said. “I’m glad I had time to explore it.”
He said he is especially proud of the paper’s coverage of the 2017 shooting at Aztec High School, its annual coverage of the Connie Mack World Series and its everyday coverage of San Juan County, a 5,500-square-mile county that is home to more than 120,000 people.
“My time in Farmington was really well spent,” he said. “I think we covered a lot of great news, and I hope we served the county well. I’m looking forward to my time in Corpus Christi, and I wish the very best to Jessica, who is a fine journalist and who will take fantastic care of the newsroom, which is being left in very good hands.”
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or[email protected]. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.