The national debate about responsible journalism is raging on. In the era of alternative facts, fake media and search of journalistic integrity, the profession of journalism is in the national spotlight. Simply put, it is not easy to be a journalist nowadays. But in spite of all the intensive discussions journalism still is here to tell stories of others and that is what Yessenia Chavez wants to do.
Journalism was not her career of choice at first.
Yessenia Chavez did not dream of becoming journalist all her life, in fact, she just kind of fell into it. She was born in Selma, California and her family moved to Marshalltown, Iowa when Ms. Chavez was 3 years old.
“We moved to Iowa because one of my uncles said there were more job opportunities here,” she explained.
After Ms. Chavez graduated Marshalltown High School, she went on to Marshalltown Community College. She said that she was not sure what she wanted to become, so she went to community college before transferring to the University of Iowa. She might not have been sure about the major she wanted to pursue, but she was sure that whatever was it she would end up doing, she would try to do her best.
“My parents always pushed me to do well in school and they really encouraged me to go to college since they didn’t have the opportunity to do so,” Yessenia Chavez shared.
“They really raised me to be independent and to get a career,” she added.
While attending college, Ms. Chavez took many different classes looking for a career she would enjoy doing for the rest of her life. And one semester she decided to try journalism. The online class for credit set the course for her new career.
“I thought a lot about how could I change the way people and the media see Latinos/minorities…to get the other side and cross the barriers, and that’s what really made me want to stick with it,” Ms. Chavez explained some of the reasons the convinced her to choose journalism as a career.
“I think as a minority it’s important to have representation but in order to get that representation we have to start at the root. Work from inside of the news station to make them see that they should care about what minorities are going through and our side of the story,” Ms. Chavez stated.
Becoming a real journalist can be tiring, but rewarding
After graduating from the University of Iowa with a journalism degree, she started looking for job in the field. There were many months of rejections before she finally landed a job at WQAD. Ms. Chavez accepted a job of production Assistant. Part of her duties was “to help edit videos for the morning show Good Morning Quad Cities and to run the cameras in the studio behind the scenes.”
She explained that it was very hard to wake up at 1 in morning to drive to the Quad Cities from Iowa City. After she was done with her job by 9 in the morning she would drive back to Iowa City and get ready for her job at a restaurant, where she worked until 5 at night and after a little of sleep, she would do her exhausting schedule again the next day.
“After 8 months an opportunity opened up for a Multimedia Journalist position at the station. As MMJ I would have to shoot, write and edit my own stories. And a few months later I moved to the Quad Cities,” Yessenia Chavez said.
Now that she is telling stories of others, she assures that every day can bring something new so she always needs to be ready to go.
“News is unpredictable, so always expect the unexpected. Some days I will be doing stories by myself, other days I will be a reporter with a photographer, and other days I will be the photographer for a reporter. Every day is a challenge,” Ms. Chavez shares her experience as a young journalist.
She is still new at this, but one thing she loves the most is being able to tell other person’s story, “giving someone a voice and them get the message out.”
And as in any profession, being a journalist has its challenges as well. For Ms. Chavez deadlines are a part of journalism that she finds the most difficult to deal with. She explained that to write, shoot and edit a story before the 5 PM deadline can be very overwhelming, but with or without her the show will air and as many seasoned reporters out there she loves the feeling of excitement after finishing the story on time.
News shape people’s beliefs
Yessenia Chavez also explained that the fact of being bilingual is an advantage in the journalism field.
“Knowing another language helps you reach out to more people. I do think there are also more job opportunities out there for bilingual (persons) because there is a need for them. There’s an opportunity for more connections on a personal and professional level,” Ms. Chavez said.
Being a Latina journalist, Ms. Chavez explained that it is very important to get our views across and to show others that Latinos are part of this country and they help to mold and build it.
“Of course every race has their bad people but we also have good people and it’s important to keep that balance when reporting on minorities. Because if people see bad news or untrue news of a certain group, (as we’ve seen in certain news outlets) that will shape those viewers point of view on certain groups of people. It’s our job to make our voices louder and drown out the negativity,” Ms. Chavez said.
For her personally in order to begin the change the stereotypical portrayal of Latinos in the media, one has to go to the very center of it all and that, in her belief, is the news.
“The news kind of shapes our beliefs, on politics, religion and of course people,” she added.
Yessenia Chavez says Latinos need to speak up more about the issues that are important for the community. Nothing can be changed if others do not realize or understand the issues that community faces.
“It’s never too late to start a career in journalism”
Mrs. Chavez is still a young and new journalist, but as someone in the field she has some advice to young people contemplating a career in journalism.
There were many days when she felt that maybe this was wrong career path for her, but she pressed on. Once she got that one story that made her feel as if she making a difference, she realized this is exactly where she wants to be at this point in her life.
“It’s never too late to start a career in journalism,” she said.
Her advice to young journalists is to find a support system. For Chavez her family was the biggest support she could have ever wished for.
“I keep pushing because they believe in me even when I doubt myself. My mom really is my number one fan. My dad has been pushing me to do my best in school since birth, his lectures of coming of poverty have always made an impact in my life,” Ms. Chavez shares her deepest gratitude for her family and their unwavering support of her.
She also invites young people to go out there and try new things. She says that like her maybe the class taken just for credit might map out the whole career path for a student. Simply put, she recommends to students to try classes they never thought of taking before.
Ms. Chavez, also, urges new reporters to listen to advice from the stations editors, photographers, reporters, and directors. There are a lot to be learned from their experience.
Personally, she is eager to start telling stories of Latinos in the Quad Cities. For now she is working hard on overcoming that feeling of intimidation she gets when she has to stand in front of the cameras. She is learning on the job to better record, edit videos and write. No one knows what the future holds for Ms. Chavez.
“Although I would really like to travel across the world and tell stories that are yet to be told. I wish I could be Maria Elena Salinas already,” Yessenia Chavez laughs.
The profession of journalist might be under scrutiny by some people right now, but one thing that never changes and that is the fact that journalists are there to help tell the stories of others and this will always be true.
Photos by Tar Macias/Hola America