Weeks ago, José Bayona could be seen ushering Mayor-elect Eric Adams to and from crowded press events, making sure all questions had been answered to the gaggle of media. Many may not have realized that Bayona used to be a part of the Fourth Estate himself.
In January, he will join the Adams administration as the executive director of the Office of Ethnic and Community Media, a brand-new city office.
“It’s going to be our mission to empower all these journalists to let them know that they are at the same level as any other journalist at Room 9,” he said, referring to the press room in City Hall, where members of the media that are recognized by the city are allowed to report daily, and be close to the action.
“So one of the goals is to empower, even more, all of these journalists; for them to confront and to ask those questions to the people in power,” Bayona continued.
Bayona immigrated to New York City from Colombia 25 years ago, and worked as a reporter for the NY Daily News and their Spanish-language outlet, Hora Hispana. Later, he worked for NY1 Noticias and became an editor at El Diario. He knows what it’s like to serve his community with journalism that prioritizes their needs and questions.
Seeking more stable work, Bayona eventually joined the city’s Department of Transportation and started as a deputy press secretary. He made his way around city agencies, serving in their communications departments and making a name for himself among government officials.
It wasn’t until Jessica Ramos, the former director of Latino media for the mayor, decided to run for state Senate in 2018 that Bayona’s career really took off. He replaced Ramos and joined Bill de Blasio’s administration as a spokesperson for the mayor and the director for Community and Ethnic Media.
“I think that’s when the story about the new Mayor’s Office of Ethnic and Community Media started because it was a position before,” Bayona said. “I started pushing inside city government for the value of the community and ethnic media to give more relevance to all these outlets.”
At that time, there were 252 official outlets the city recognized; now, there are 357, including ethnic TV and radio.
Once he joined Adams’ campaign, Bayona was integral to the creation of the bill that established this new office.
“This is a historic moment for New York City, because there is no other Mayor’s Office of Ethnic and Community Media in the country, nor in the world. So we are giving an example to the world of how we support our communities,” Bayona said.
Bayona, like the mayor-elect, is a CUNY graduate who knows New York from the perspective of so many who have immigrated to the U.S. to attend public colleges and universities.
He earned an M.A. in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with Urban and Interactive reporting concentrations and graduated cum laude from the CUNY Baccalaureate Program in Journalism and Political Science at Baruch College.
And what NYC now has to offer Bayona, who began by being focused on how local government serves communities, is the chance to uplift community media to the highest level.
“I’m really excited about this because it’s an opportunity, not for me, it’s for the city—for all these outlets that have been here for decades,” Bayona said. “They survived, and now they’re ready for the next level of this conversation [which] is, there is a mayor’s office that is specifically for them.