[PODCAST] Madelaine Braggs, chief digital officer at Rose Law Group, celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with Chicanos Por La Causa

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Chicanos Por La Causa.)

By Rose Law Group Reporter

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Chicanos Por La Causa podcast Empodérate invited Rose Law Group Chief Digital Officer to reflect on her professional journey. Below is an English translation of the conversation.

You have a unique story I think it’s cool tell us more about you and your origins.

Well I was born in Panama and my father, who is Puerto Rican was in the Army, that’s how he met my mother and soon after I was born we left Panama to embark on the journey of the typical military family, moving a lot, about every four years. I lived in many places, including Korea. I think that military family culture is very diverse, you have kids who are coming from everywhere and have lived from everywhere, so I feel as though military kids are very strong, we adapt easily to radical changes and it was very interesting for me to immerse myself into new cultures and things I wasn’t familiar with. 

Did you learn anything in Korean?  

Yes, I learned a little bit. I still remember how to say “I love you.” I think that living there is where I grew this deep curiosity for learning about different people… their personal stories, their cultures, and then sharing what I learned with my friends and family. I believe that if you can take someone’s story in one part of the world, and connect them with another person who can relate in another part of the world, that’s my way of bringing unity and community and connection out into the world. I’m very passionate about that. 

So that’s where your passion for journalism came from? 

Oh yes, I’ve been reporting since before I could drive. My first job was at a newspaper that was a partnership between my high school and the city’s newspaper, The Sierra Vista Herald. That’s how I learned how to write in that style and it was an opportunity to write about important topics. 

And it wasn’t always easy, there were definitely some stories that I wrote that led to some opposition. The administrators of the school didn’t always like our articles, because although they were true they didn’t always highlight the best things, for example I did a report on teen addictions, especially with Adderall and medications like that. I was able to interview some of my peers anonymously on how they fell into those addictions and so the school administrators did try to censor our paper and it became a first amendment battle in a way. Our position was that news isn’t always about promoting a business, there’s another industry for that, that’s PR. 

Was that your first battle with censorship and your first amendment rights? 

Yes. There was another article that I wrote about health standards that weren’t being maintained in the school, they didn’t like that one either, but the next year all of those issues were addressed and fixed. I consider it a win.  

And those are the benefits of journalism, and if people realize that through that unity you can find your voice and give voice to the community. Your career and personal journey seem to be very intertwined, can you tell us about how your childhood impacted you professionally today? 

Well it made me very brave, because it is intimidating leaving what you know and moving to a country that you don’t know, especially if you don’t know anyone or the language. I think that’s something that many Latin Americans here in Arizona can relate to. My mother as well, she moved here not knowing any English and she learned with me in school. I always requested two versions of my worksheets, two books to take home to read so that my mother and I could do the work together and that’s how she learned English. 

And when you find yourself immersed in these cultures you can either shut down or you can grow and expand and that’s what I chose to do. I chose to be willing to expand and go into the unknown. 

As a Latina, how easy or difficult has it been finding opportunities in journalism? 

It’s a little complicated answering, because I often think about how our heritage does not have to be something that holds us back. I believe that if you allow yourself to think that you’re not going to get somewhere then you’ve already defeated yourself in your mind. It’s very important to me to show anyone who is interviewing me for a job that yes I’m a Latina but that’s something valuable it’s an advantage and not a disadvantage, it’s a different perspective. To be a Latina is to be strong, focused and hardworking.  

That takes us back to what were were saying in the beginning, the impact that the power of the mind has on our lives.  

Yep exactly. And there’s always going to be people who are going to have their own perceptions about people. It’s not always going to be easy… I’m young, brown and a woman. To some, that’s three strikes. And I’ve had to work with people who didn’t take me very seriously or thought that I’d be too young or dumb to do a good job. But that’s not true, I’m very laser focused on my passions and I don’t quit. I have those characteristics because I’m a Latin person.  

You seem to be a very positive person, you have that force of being authentically you and you’re unafraid to use your voice. I’ve also been in environments where people counted me out and I’ve had to totally disconnect from physical attributes to be able to highlight my other merits. 

More often than not I’m underestimated, but that’s okay I almost prefer it because I truly enjoy seeing their faces when they realize how talented I truly am.  

From my point of view it’s all about wanting to be the very best version of yourself or best at what you do, not to prove anything to anyone else but to feel that personal internal fulfillment. 

That’s when your confidence starts to really change, when someone uses their voice that brings value into their lives and into their work lives. 

What type of journalism are you most interested in? 

I’m really interested in video journalism, because it’s a lot easier for the audience to just sit and listen to the story instead of having the homework of having to read through it. The attention span is getting a lot shorter over the years. Video is a strong way that you can connect people.  

How did you end up serving as the Chief Digital Officer at Rose Law Group?  

It was such a blessing how it came about. I was working at iHeartRadio and the pandemic was arriving and I thought to myself geeze what am I going to do now? I wanted to do something new and different than radio but something that still felt as impactful as journalism. And then one day my current boss, Rose Law Group founder and president Jordan Rose, called and said she needed help with her newsletters and digital medias and it was a no brainer.  

What do you think about AI’s impact on journalism, do you think it can help you or is it bad for journalists? 

I think it can help, and maybe that’s just a reflection of how adaptable I am because of my upbringing. But if you’re not willing to adapt then you should be afraid because you’re fighting the future. If you’re willing to learn new technologies that’s how you advance yourself. I use AI and Rose Law Group has a department that’s very futuristic, covers metaverse, web3, AI, crypto and anything related to that industry. My boss, Jordan Rose, is also a big believer in innovating. She always encourages us to be at the forefront of any new revolutions.

Because I use AI I can tell that human creativity can’t be easily replaced. It can give you research and facts, but it needs that human prompt, it needs that person who knows how to work with it. It can help me save time with its examples, but then again I can always tell who is writing from the heart and who is relying on AI because it all starts to sound the same.  

Speaking of digital medias, why is it so important for you and the Latin community to have representation in the media industry? 

Here’s why… back when I was still considering a career change I thought about pursuing TV news in Spanish, maybe with Telemundo or Univision, and I was talking to my mom about how I thought that if I used her maiden name, which was Sandoval, instead of Braggs, that I may have a better chance. What she said really stuck with me. She got worried and she said that it’d be better if I didn’t because if I sounded more Hispanic on paper compared to my current name, that I’d have less job opportunities elsewhere… and that made me really sad. I realized that there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to try because they think their name, or how they look, will work against them.  

But the more space we take, the more chances we take, the more we’re seen in executive positions, on boards, in non-profits like CPLC, the more we show others who can relate to us that if I can do it so can they and the more we show the rest of the world how valuable and hard-working Latinos can be. I don’t want anyone else to think their name will close doors or them. 

And sadly that’s true, our generations have a long history of being treated unfairly and we love to see women breaking those barriers. To be multi-cultural is such a gorgeous experience and it feels wonderful to connect with that culture. 

And you asked me how we can connect with our community… the first thing I recommend is reach out to me. I work with the best lawyers in Arizona if not the world, we can solve just about any problem across our departments, and our immigration department is globally famous. We recently were able to rescue a client from Afghanistan who was being persecuted by the Taliban and if we can get them here safely and legally, who can’t we help?  

It’s also important to find people who are interested in things you’re interested in, so I have a club for just about anything. I love clubs and I think they’re a great way to enjoy our favorite hobbies but also meet people who could possibly help you along your journey, whether professionally or personally.

Panama’s national slogan, influenced by its geographic characteristics, is “Bridge of the world, heart of the universe.” And I take that to heart, I feel as though I too am a bridge between communities and resources. It’s a special honor. 

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September 2023