By Daniela Rincón
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Julio Sánchez Cristo has made his voice heard all over the world. From the land of coffee to Panamá, Miami, New York and Madrid, "Julito," as his audience calls him, has become the icon of Colombian journalism.
SánchezCristo has been working in radio for 44 years. Coming from a family of radio personalities, he said he never found his passion in soccer as most of his generation did. He rather found himself in the mountains playing with transmitters without knowing that this would be the beginning of a lifetime passion.
“I was fortunate to grow up with broadcasters who liked to explore the world,” Sánchez Cristo said in a phone interview that was translated into English.
At the age of 17, Sánchez Cristo quit his studies of communication in Bogotá to undertake a new life in Europe and the United States, where he studied TV production and direction.
A journalism degree was not necessary for Sánchez Cristo to venture into the world of communication. He admitted that he would have never learned how to be in this field in a school of Journalism.
“In order to be a voice that is heard, it is (worthwhile) to study or combine your degree with law, philosophy, art, languages or sociology studies,” Sánchez Cristo said.
After exploring several media outlets and training himself empirically, he came back to his roots and started working in radio.
Sánchez Cristo 58, is now the director of the radio station W Radio, a widely recognized international news station in Colombia. It is also ranked as the most listened radio station in the country for the morning section thanks in part to Sánchez Cristo's program “La W.”
W Radio belongs to the PRISA group of Spain, which has global media organizations that report about culture, politics, economy, sports and more.
From 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, Sánchez Cristo transmits local and worldwide events and interviews the main actors of Colombian news. The signal is re-transmitted in more than 70 stations syndicated in the U.S, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panamá, Chile, Argentina and Spain.
“Aquí empieza las noticias de Colombia y el mundo,” meaning the news starts here in Colombia and the world, Sánchez Cristo repeats at 5 a.m. each day after reading between 10-12 newspapers.
He then delivers instructions to his team and gives the signal to start transmission.
Listeners in more than 150 countries have heard interviews of personalities such as Barack Obama, Dania Londoño, Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Paul McCartney, to name a few.
Before 1990, these personalities seemed unattainable for any journalist since the radio industry in Colombia was isolated from international news. Some believe Sánchez Cristo marked a turning point that opened the doors of the world to the radio in Colombia.
"I added globalization. I brought a universe previously (non-existent) here," said Sánchez Cristo.
Sánchez Cristo has won journalism awards in his home country. In 2007, he was granted the Simón Bolívar Award and then in 2012 he and his show won the Ondas Award for the "Best Ibero-American Radio Show. In 1998 and 2013, he received the King of Spain Award.
This latter was given for an interview with Dania Londoño Suárez, a prostitute who became part of a scandal in 2012 when it was revealed among her clients were U.S. Secret Service agents who were in Colombia to accompany Obama. The interview was published in major newspapers in the United States and all kinds of media around the world.
"Colombian journalism doesn't cease to amaze me. Its unique flavor and in my medium, the instantaneous coverage, make every day unexpected," said Sánchez Cristo.
Sánchez Cristo's format pioneered a strong international following. Listeners can call in and give their opinion about the topic of the day.
"People always have something to tell, something to add," he said. "They all have ... news inside. We need to place the voice of others before our own."
Sánchez Cristo's goal is to remain silent as long as possible, listening carefully.
"The less you speak, the less the margin of error will be," he said.
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