WASHINGTON — As Ana Saraí Peña walked into El Diario de El Paso, she could feel her heart pounding. She was angry, but most of all determined. She never takes no for an answer.
Peña, 25, was a UTEP sophomore at the time of her 2003 visit to the Spanish-language newsroom in search of a reporting internship. When the editors discovered that she was majoring in broadcast journalism, they decided they would rather offer the opportunity to someone with a print background.
“They told me they rather give the [internship] to someone who was in print media,” Peña said. “That makes me mad. When someone tells me I cannot do something I have to do it.”
Her determination ultimately helped her obtain the internship at El Diario.
“[The editor] said ‘okay, you want to work here then work here, but I am telling you that I don’t trust you.’” Peña said. “I told him to just give me a chance and that just because he told me that I couldn’t do it then I was going to do it.”
Peña’s persistence has also helped her to get to where she is today: graduating with a Masters of Law Studies in Journalism from the prestigious Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Peña graduated from UTEP in 2005 with an electronic media degree and, after a fellowship at the Scripps Howard News Bureau in Washington, DC, she moved to the nation’s capital to continue her education there.
“Ever since I graduated from UTEP I wanted to get a master’s degree, but I didn’t want to do it in Communication,” Peña said. “I decided to move to DC, and I was looking for another interesting degree. I saw the one at Georgetown and that it was for journalism and decided to do it.”
Though Peña’s parents supported her decision to move to the nation’s capital, she said it was a difficult adjustment.
“It was really hard to leave the border: I left my family and I left the Mexican food. To live on the border and to be able to have two cultures and two languages is an advantage,” Peña said. “On the border we are able to go to school in El Paso and then after school we can go to Juarez to have a nice meal.”
Peña was awarded a fellowship from Georgetown that allowed her to attend the university. In addition, she worked full time at a local television station, where she still works today.
“I started looking for a job [after working at Scripps], and I got a job in about a week at a Latin American TV station,” Peña said. “I started working as a producer at TeleSur TV bureau, which has its headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela.”
According to the Georgetown Law School website, the program provides journalists the opportunity to enhance their reporting skills by acquiring a strong legal background. Peña decided that the program would be most beneficial to her future career.
“I’m a journalist. Since I am based here in D.C. the more knowledge of politics, law and Congress I have the better,” she said. “It makes it easier because I know what I am covering. As a reporter, you have to look up what [politicians] are saying because the terms they use and their language is very different, so [my degree] is very practical.”
Although the master’s degree will help her to become a more successful journalist in the future, Peña already had several achievements. As an undergraduate student she was an intern at El Diario, at Univision Chanel 26 in El Paso, as well as a reporter for The Prospector and Minero Magazine at UTEP.
Scripps Howard News Bureau Director Peter Copeland said it was Peña’s excellence in print and broadcast journalism that helped her receive a highly competitive internship at the Scripps Bureau in D.C. upon graduation from UTEP. She eventually became the editor-in-chief for Vías, a Spanish language finance magazine, and Food Network Magazine, an English language culinary magazine.
“She has a unique skill set in that she can do print, online and TV. She can report, write, edit, shoot and produce,” Copeland said. “Combine that with being bilingual and she is a formidable journalist.”
Peña said she too believes that her skills, especially her bilingual ability, helped her throughout her undergraduate and graduate careers.
“Scripps gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, so I took advantage of it,” Peña said. “I learned a lot there and even though I was young and their intern, they didn’t hesitate to let me into the program.”
Copeland said that he hopes Peña will continue her legal and journalistic career and help other journalists in the future.
“All of us are in the middle of a media revolution that we won’t really understand until more time has passed. Meanwhile, we have to be flexible, adaptable and willing to take risks, try new things and reinvent ourselves,” Copeland said. “I hope that even if Ana goes on to become a lawyer, which is certainly within her reach, she will use her legal skills to protect journalists and our profession.”
Peña said she believes the current economic crisis and the increase in technology are causing the “media revolution” and said she does not see print media and television becoming extinct because of the advent of new technology such as the Internet.
“We know that journalism and technology are a good combination; we can see what is going on around the world just by clicking our mouse. We can also read an entire newspaper without turning pages,” Peña said. “Even though, our world is now saturated with technology, and some of us prefer it, there are still some people who prefer to read newspapers or watch TV. I see the future of journalism with a lot more options than just radio, TV and newspapers. Journalism is growing in every single market media and I am sure there is something for everyone to enjoy and get informed.”
Though Peña said she might return to school to pursue her law degree, her love is journalism. Peña plans to stay in DC to continue her career, but would like to move back to Texas one day.
“I wish I could go back to Texas, somewhere closer to El Paso, so I can visit my family more often, but my immediate plans are here in DC,” Peña said. “This is a good market for journalism and if I am here already I better stay here and take advantage of what I can. If there is a good opportunity somewhere else back in Texas, I will definitely think about it. I already have a job here and if everything goes well I will stay here for a couple of years.”
Peña’s determination to become the best journalist she can has not waned. She said her ideal job would be full time reporting on national television or for a national newspaper.
“I am dreaming, but there is nothing wrong with that,” Peña said. “ Journalism is hard and very demanding, but if that’s what you like to do, then go for it and try hard. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it because if you want to do it you can do it.”