Editor’s note: This essay is part of an occasional series presenting the reflections of Chipsters as they complete their CQS internships.
My newsroom expectations began at an early age. One memory traces back to elementary school, when a group of about 30 other children and I stepped from a big yellow school bus onto the busy streets of downtown Los Angeles. As the school staff verified the attendance roster, I stood patiently on the sidewalk, allowing my eyes to wander over the façade of the Los Angeles Times building.
It was a historic landmark. The building stood tall, and from ground view, tiny windows signified the many floors within it. Large letters spelled out the media outlet’s name. I was star struck, and as we entered through the heavy glass doors, my curiosity yielded to first impressions.
The environment was professional. The smells of newspaper and coffee complemented the sounds of keyboards typing and phones ringing. I was intrigued, and as the mentors spoke to us about their jobs, I became even more excited. My mind drifted into the future. I started daydreaming, envisioning myself at one of the desks with an office phone in one hand and a pen and paper in the other. I felt happy because there was more to L.A., more to careers, more to life than I had been aware of.
As I began to consider the ways that I’d share this experience with my parents, obvious barriers came to mind. My parents, both of whom are Mexican immigrants, failed to learn the English language despite living in the U.S. for many years. My mom worked a pink-collar job as a housekeeper. My dad worked a blue-collar job as a woodworker. They came to America for a better future and so that their children might achieve more than they were able to.
Fortunately, I have supportive parents who never discouraged me from pursuing a career in journalism. But at that young age, I knew that I’d have to learn and pursue the career without much guidance from them – not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t know how.
A lot has changed since then.
When I was accepted into the 2018 Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism, I knew that it was exactly what I needed to launch my professional career. Thanks to the program, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. I met peers with similar interests and backgrounds, took part in valuable training and workshops, and landed a summer internship with the Los Angeles Daily News. I also graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
The transition from full-time student to “real world” journalist has been challenging. Aside from campus newspapers and journalism courses, I had never published so much work at such a fast pace. Also, because I have an introverted personality, interviews felt a little intimidating, and writing, at times, felt stressful. Without the guidance of the CQS program, I could have misinterpreted my struggles for reasons to quit. I’m glad I didn’t.
The internship granted me a space to practice my reporting and writing skills while learning from my mistakes. The editors and reporters were helpful and kind. By the time it ended, I felt more confident and prepared to apply to other internships and jobs. Not only did I produce over 20 bylined pieces, but I also built meaningful relationships with professionals who could help me.
At the age of 23, as I continue to navigate the world of journalism, I take pride in the dream that I am living.