Erin Coulehan

Creative Director
Shelley Mozelle

Editorial photography by
Jordan Licon; Katherine Kocian; and Annabella Mireles

Additional photography provided by
Iris Lopez, Salina Madrid, and Secret Wherrett

Production Assistant
Melody Stout




According to the Oxford English Dictionary, my favorite word has everything to do with my favorite thing to do: storytelling. The Latin term fabula is derived from fari, meaning “to speak,” which is where we get the word “fable” from. Around the 16th century, a new word was born to describe people, places, and things being buzzed about – stories worthy of reporting.

Thus, the word “fabulous” entered the lexicon.

This month, we’re featuring fabulous women storytellers in journalism from across El Paso’s media landscape: morning news, primetime news in English and Spanish, print, and radio who all share a passion for storytelling in their DNA. Their origin stories are as diverse, dynamic, and interesting as the stories they share with their audience each day, and The City Magazine is thrilled to showcase not only the stories of the storytellers, but also the minds of some of the community’s most beloved members of the media.

You might say that these women are on the same page.


Crafting Stories at Sunrise

The stories start taking shape before dawn.

Amidst the backdrop of desert sunrises and bustling morning traffic, Salina Madrid and Jessica Gonzalez anchor the KFOX14 morning news, as a dynamic duo whose passion for storytelling is rivaled only by their dedication to the community.

“The passion for our work is fueled by the fact that this is our community,” explains Madrid. “These are our people and the stories that we’re telling impact our people. The work is so important to the both of us.”

Madrid’s journey into journalism was rooted in childhood mornings spent with her grandfather, poring over newspapers in their small village outside Las Cruces. Those early days instilled in her a love for uncovering truth and amplifying voices that often go unheard.

“You really have to have a strong work ethic in this line of work, and you really have to care. Jessica and I have our strengths when it comes to our communities: she’s very El Paso-first, and I’m very Las Cruces-first,” she says.

Her six-year career at KFOX14 has been punctuated by impactful series like “Becoming the Badge,” where she delved into the rigorous training of the El Paso’s Police Department’s Academy, fostering a profound respect for the city’s first responders. Her warm demeanor and knack for visual storytelling shines in every broadcast, reminding viewers that behind the headlines are real stories, affecting real lives.

“I like video, and that’s something that really helps tell a story (even though I think print is amazing),” says Madrid. “But I love to be able to showcase what we’re talking about, and be able to show a visually-impressive video. Ever since I was a kid, I just loved being in front of the camera. I think it’s fun and we’re able to show our personality a little bit more on-air.”

Gonzalez, on the other hand, discovered her passion for journalism through a love of writing and an insatiable appetite for news. Her career path has a solid foundation of persistence and dedication, from early days in print and digital media to her current role at KFOX. She returned to El Paso after a three-year stint covering sports at ESPN in Connecticut, where she remains driven by a deep connection to her hometown and a desire to make a difference.

“We take our work very personally, especially when you’re doing it in your hometowns,” says Gonzalez. “For a lot of us, I think the main goal is network news. But there’s something very special about doing news right in your hometown. You’re very familiar with the people, with the places, with who you’re reporting on. I find it to be more fulfilling than network news might be just because we’re so invested in the community. I left for three years to cover sports then I came right back home and I don’t regret it.”

Gonzalez’s coverage extends beyond headlines to personal stories that resonate deeply with local families, such as her franchise “Family First,” which focused on education and community issues close to her heart.

“The biggest compliment that you can receive as a journalist is someone telling you, ‘Thank you for telling my story.’ Or, ‘You’re making a difference,” says Gonzalez.

Madrid and Gonzalez have formed a formidable team on-screen with their primarily female-driven reporters and production crew, blending a knack for on-camera charisma with meticulous research and storytelling finesse. Their complementary strengths create a perfect recipe for impactful journalism. Whether holding elected officials accountable or showcasing uplifting community initiatives, their dedication to serving El Paso is unwavering.

“It’s demanding work, but it’s very fulfilling in the sense where we’re able to uncover the truth and be the voice for the voiceless – that’s something that’s really important to me,” says Madrid. “I also love that it’s different every single day and it’s not the same thing everyday because the industry keeps changing and it’s evolving. We’re learning to evolve with the times.”

Their mornings are a blend of serious journalism and lighthearted banter, a reflection of their shared belief that news can be informative without being overly somber. They know firsthand the importance of relatability and trust in their field, especially in a community as tight-knit as El Paso. Their camaraderie extends beyond the studio, built on years of shared experiences as working mothers and mutual respect for each other’s strengths.

“It took me a long time to graduate from college because I had my older daughter at 19. It was imperative that I finish college for my mom,” says Gonzalez. She’d tell me, ‘You are 19 years old and pregnant, but you will finish college,’ which I did. I started my career with handheld cameras, creating graphics, and producing a segment. I did a little bit of reporting, was on the assignment desk, then I went to the web desk. I worked my way up to being on-camera in the last 22 years, 10 of those years with KFOX.”

Each morning, as the sun rises over the Franklin Mountains, Madrid and Gonzalez continue to inspire their viewers, driven by a passion for their craft and a deep-rooted commitment to their community. They not only inform but also uplift, reminding El Pasoans that amidst the challenges of the world, there are stories of resilience, hope, and everyday heroes worth celebrating.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff out there but there are a lot of moments where we are able to be ourselves and show our viewers we’re relatable,” says Madrid. “We’re just like you. I’m from a small town in Dona Ana County outside of Las Cruces, a little village. To be able to show people that you can come from the smallest place but do big things is so rewarding.”

The KFOX14 morning anchors are not only inspiring and informing the public each day, but also welcoming newcomers to the community as though a member of the family has just returned from an extended trip.

Illuminating El Paso with Due(weke) Diligence

Leaving behind the rainy skies of Seattle for the sun-drenched landscapes of Texas, Liz Dueweke found herself not just in a new city as the weekday evening anchor at KFOX14, but in a place she could call home where her passion for storytelling and journalism could thrive.

“I became a journalist because I love to write. Journalism just felt like the obvious choice,” Dueweke shares, reflecting on her deep-rooted affinity for journalism that began with childhood scribbles and makeshift newspapers.

“I would pretend to be the reporters I saw on TV as a little kid. Once we got a computer, I would create my own newspapers and I’d write all the articles,” she says. “My whole life, I would write little books and draw all of the illustrations.. Then I got to college, majored in journalism, and everything kind of clicked. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually pretty good at this.’”

Her upbringing, surrounded by literature and her father’s influence as an English teacher, planted the seeds for a career that would span from Michigan to Seattle and now to El Paso.

“I started at Michigan State and then I transferred over to Oakland University, which is outside of Detroit, which was awesome. All of my professors worked for Detroit newspapers and the local TV stations. Mentors were really doing it. I felt like I had a glimpse of what it was like to be in the business,” says Dueweke.

But – as any journalist will attest to – nothing can prepare you for everything that can be thrown at a reporter or anchor over the course of the work day or pay period.

“My second week on the job, I jumped out of an airplane with the Golden Knights,” she recalls, reflecting on her nearly 20-year career in broadcast journalism that began with the renowned United States Army Parachute Team known for their precision and daring aerial performances.
“I was 22 years old. I was in Yuma, that’s where they trained. Then a week later, I saw the Golden Knights on the ‘Today Show’ doing the same thing with the President.”

In Seattle, she faced the intensity of journalism head-on, covering everything from exhilarating highs like the Super Bowl to heartbreaking lows such as the loss of colleagues in a tragic helicopter crash.

“We were sitting in the newsroom and heard buzzing outside the windows. We looked outside and said, ‘That’s our news chopper.’ Then we realized that our news chopper had just gone down outside of our station,” says Dueweke. “We raced upstairs and realized that our colleagues had died in the crash, and we had to do the breaking news on our own people. Then, a week after, about an hour north of us was a giant landslide that had killed 43 people. In the span of a week, there were these two major disasters.”

Now having lived in El Paso a year while at KFOX14, she continues her mission to amplify local voices and highlight the pulse of the community. Her appreciation for hyperlocal news underscores her belief in the importance of keeping communities informed and connected, especially in times of crisis like the New Mexico wildfires.

“What journalists do still matters,” she affirms, recognizing the power of storytelling to shape perceptions and foster empathy. Her dedication to portraying the depth and diversity of El Paso’s stories reflects her belief that every individual, every community, deserves to be heard and understood.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Dueweke relishes the warmth and hospitality of El Pasoans who welcomed her with open arms. “I almost didn’t trust it at first,” she admits, touched by the genuine kindness and sense of belonging she found in her new home. For her, the connections she’s forged in El Paso aren’t just professional, they’re friendships that resonate deeply.

“The friend groups that I’ve made and the people who have had my back mean so much to me. I feel like whatever happens, wherever I go, I’ve made friends for life,” says Dueweke.

As she continues to immerse herself in El Paso, Dueweke is learning not only about the culture, but also about living and working in a binational and multicultural home along a desert border like the city’s other seasoned local storytellers.


Veni, ‘Viri,’ Vici

She came. She saw. She conquered.

Few voices in the Borderland resonate with the depth and compassion of Viri Solano. An eight-time Emmy award-winning news anchor, writer, and editor for Univision26, Solano has distinguished herself not only for her journalistic prowess but for her unwavering dedication to social justice and immigration issues that profoundly impact her community.

“I’ve always been someone who enjoys being in front of the camera, being in the spotlight, who likes to analyze, and talk – a lot – about controversial topics,” she reflects, tracing the roots of her career to a childhood fascination with storytelling and analysis. Her journey into journalism was driven by a desire to delve deep into issues, to unravel complexities, and to give voice to those whose stories often remain untold.

Her path at Univision26 began humbly, initially as a weekend editor before swiftly transitioning to morning news anchor due to unforeseen circumstances, a role she embraced with characteristic determination.

“Later on, I requested to be an afternoon reporter because I felt that I needed to know how to investigate stories, conduct interviews,” Solano explains, highlighting her commitment to mastering every facet of her craft. This dedication culminated in her current position as a weekday anchor, a role she has held since 2016, anchoring the news with poise and integrity.

Central to her journalistic ethos is impartiality and empathy. “The most important thing is to be impartial,” she asserts, emphasizing the critical balance of presenting multiple perspectives while responsibly informing her audience. Her approach is grounded in a profound sense of duty to sift through the noise of sensationalism and ensure that the stories she reports serve the greater good, navigating delicate narratives with grace and clarity.

“I’m from Chihuahua and came to El Paso to attend UTEP in 2002. I’ve been here for 22 years,” Solano shares, highlighting her deep roots in the community she serves. Her dual identity as both journalist and immigrant lends a unique perspective to her work, infusing her reporting with a deep empathy born of shared experience.

At the heart of Solano’s tenure at Univision26 lies a commitment to community. “Univision26 is a very human-oriented channel that is always trying to listen and to help the community,” she explains proudly, reflecting on her 16 years with the station.

Her impactful reporting has garnered accolades, including multiple Emmy awards, notably for her poignant coverage of immigration and human interest stories. One such story, where she accompanied U.S. Customs and Border Protection to Lordsburg, New Mexico, left an indelible mark. “It was very hard for me because they were Mexicans like I am,” she recalls, recounting the emotional connection she forged with people enduring the hardships of migration.

Through it all, Solano remains guided by journalistic integrity and compassion, bridging cultures and communities through the power of storytelling the way different forms of news organizations connect the media landscape of El Paso on-air and in ink.


Open Secret

It’s no secret that the journalism industry has been shaking, rattling, and rolling with the punches of an ever-evolving technological landscape that transcends traditional models, sometimes operating under the misconception that “print is dead.”

In El Paso, however, one family-owned local magazine’s enduring legacy is buttressed by the integrity and ingenuity of its leadership, thanks to an open Secret.

El Paso Inc., a venerable business publication in the region, holds a special place in Secret Wherrett’s heart, given its familial roots. “El Paso Inc. was founded by my parents while I was in college,” she reminisces. Despite initial doubts about following in her father’s journalistic footsteps, she pursued a business degree in Marketing in Arizona, eventually finding her niche in public relations in the late ’90s.

After a successful career in tech, she and her husband decided to establish roots in El Paso with the family business.

“I moved to El Paso with my husband in the early 2000s and my first job was editor of ‘What’s Up,’” says Wherrett. “I really didn’t know much about the business. I jumped into it. There wasn’t much training, they had been without an editor for a while.”

Over two decades later, Wherrett has evolved from editor to Associate Publisher, overseeing significant transformations within El Paso Inc. and its additional publications. “Now it’s been more than 20 years,” she says. “I just started taking on more responsibilities at the company,” she notes, underscoring her proactive role in adapting to industry shifts and consumer behaviors.

One key aspect of her leadership philosophy is unwavering commitment to the printed product, a rarity in an increasingly digital age. “People want that printed product, we prioritize it,” Wherrett asserts, emphasizing the enduring economic vitality of print media for El Paso Inc.

Beyond preserving traditions, she is also keenly focused on innovation and adaptation. “I think the part I enjoy the most is being a problem-solver,” she says, a sentiment reflected in her strategic initiatives to explore new revenue streams and enhance reader engagement.

Under her stewardship, El Paso Inc. has maintained a balance between tradition and innovation, exemplified by their syndication of “The Wall Street Journal” and strategic diversification efforts. “There’s so much experimentation happening right now,” Wherrett observes, highlighting her proactive approach to staying ahead in a dynamic industry.

Her influence extends beyond the boardroom company, as she actively contributes to the community and is a board member of Executive Forum, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, the El Paso Chamber Foundation and YWCA Paso Del Norte Foundation. Her commitment to recognizing local excellence through initiatives like the El Pasoans of the Year awards and Women of Impact underscores her dedication to celebrating community spirit and impactful leadership.

As El Paso Inc. continues to thrive under her guidance, Wherrett remains an inspiring figure who leads with journalistic integrity, entrepreneurial spirit, and community advocacy. Her journey from a career in public relations to a pivotal leadership role is not just a testament to her own growth but also to the enduring legacy of quality journalism in the heart of El Paso that celebrates local businesses and community members.

Iris On the Airwaves

The sounds of the city reverberate throughout the community as stories are transmitted through airwaves, the internet, and old fashioned word-of-mouth.

One stand-out is Iris Lopez, who embodies resilience, empathy, and a commitment to uplifting her community. From her beginnings as a multimedia journalist to her current role as a prominent radio personality, non-profit founder and CEO, and mother, Lopez has navigated through various facets of media, each step guided by a profound dedication to storytelling and advocating for mental health awareness.

“Since I was young, I’ve always been an entertainer and a storyteller. Music was my first passion, I like to sing,” says Lopez. “Then, when I wanted to switch careers, I was like, ‘How can I still tell stories, write stories?’”

Born and raised in El Paso, Iris’s journey began at The University of Texas at El Paso, where she honed her skills in multimedia journalism. Her career blossomed in local radio, where she became known as ‘Lily Lopez’ on 104.3 Hitfm before transitioning to television news at KVIA-TV. As a reporter and weekend evening weather anchor, she crafted compelling narratives, but it was her creation of the beloved ‘KVIA Sunday Funday Moments’ that highlighted her desire to share stories of joy and positivity within her community.

Her journey as a journalist has taught her the power of empathy in storytelling. She recounted a poignant moment where her human approach to reporting helped a grieving family find solace.

“I wear my emotions. As a journalist, you’re told to hold back your emotions. There was a fire that happened in an apartment where a young lady and her daughter passed away. My job was to knock on the door of the sister the next day after for an interview. She opened the door and – thankfully – she gave me a powerful interview. She cried. I cried. We cried together,” Lopez shares.

The experience solidified her commitment to focusing on feel-good stories and promoting positivity, a theme that resonates deeply in her current role as a morning show co-host on 93.1 KISS-FM radio.

“I was overworked, underpaid, and under so much stress. My son saw that. I left TV, but I didn’t want him to think I left because I gave up. I knew when to stop: if it’s impacting my mental health, I have to walk away and know there are still more opportunities,” she says.

Transitioning from television to radio was a pivotal decision driven by Iris’s determination to prioritize her mental health and be a positive role model for her son. Her authenticity and willingness to discuss personal challenges, including her decision to leave TV due to stress and overwork, have inspired colleagues and listeners alike. Through radio, Iris continues to champion her causes with unwavering passion, encouraged by her supportive community and dedicated team.

Lopez’s journey into mental health advocacy was marked by bravery and determination. Despite initial reservations and societal norms that discouraged open discussion of mental health, she boldly broke the silence.

“I remember the first time I actually wrote a blog about my own mental health struggles,” she recalls. “I was asked to not talk about it so openly, because it wasn’t a pretty thing to talk about at the time. People told me not to and I said, ‘I’m gonna do it even louder.’”

Her decision to share her personal experiences resonated deeply with many, sparking conversations and offering solace to those who felt alone in their struggles. By leveraging her platform by founding a non-profit organization, Mija, Yes You Can, Lopez not only shattered stigma but also paved the way for meaningful dialogue and support within her community and beyond.

Lopez’s journey serves as a reminder that through storytelling and community support, we can break barriers, uplift spirits, and create lasting change.

“If a little girl looks at me and says, ‘She did it, I can do it,’” says Lopez, “that’s all that matters.”