When COVID-19 first swept across the country this spring, news organizations began canceling internships for college students. That was devastating news for students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions like the University of Texas at El Paso who are trying to stand out in the media job market. Strong internships are needed for professional experience and important networking opportunities that can lead to better prospects at graduation.
Fortunately, thanks to Borderzine’s dues-paying membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News, we were able to reach out to a wide network of digital media organizations around the country. The UTEP multimedia journalism program was able to place seven of our students in remote summer internships with INN members. It was an informal effort, set up at the last minute. Going forward, we are talking with INN staff now about standing up a more formal arrangement for 2021.
The professional journalists who worked with our students came away impressed, and in some cases asked the students to continue a professional relationship beyond the summer.
“Claudia (Hernandez) has been stellar and we plan on working with her on a freelance basis after her internship ends on Aug. 31,” said Nissa Rhee, executive director of Borderless Magazine based in Chicago. Hernandez worked on a series of interviews with immigrants for Borderless Magazine’s Postcards from the Border feature.
“I think I fell in love with journalism even more,” said Hernandez, who is graduating in December.
Pam Dempsey, executive director of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, said student reporter Frank Hernandez was invaluable on an investigation they published on coronavirus in the meatpacking industry. The project, done in collaboration with USA Today, looked at how meatpacking executives sacrificed worker safety for profits. InvestigateMidwest.org extended the internship for Frank Hernandez into the fall semester.
Our multimedia journalism students showed the resilience that is a UTEP hallmark, adapting quickly to work with editors and sources miles away.
“There’s something about being in a professional space where they trust you to do your work. I was greatly supported and challenged so I know that my writing and research can go further in depth. It’s a great feeling! I feel like I can bring even more to the table!” said Exodis Ward, who did her internship with New Mexico In-Depth.
Under the Borderzine umbrella, UTEP’s journalism program promotes the advantages of our pipeline of talented multicultural students – many of whom are bilingual – who are training in the largest binational community on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The skills I acquired during my semester in the audio and video production course allowed me to have a better understanding of how to navigate through the assignments required from me during my internship. These assignments involved skills like editing for radio, writing scripts, producing stories, among other things,” said Anahy Diaz, who interned for KTEP public radio on campus.
“Without learning (Adobe) Premier or utilizing the writing skills taught within the communication department I would not have been able to successfully publish stories for the Traveler,” said Consuelo Martinez, whose internship was with National Parks Traveler, which does in-depth reporting on U.S. national parks.
Kurt Repanshek, the editor-in-chief of National Parks Traveler, said Martinez did a great job, particularly given the constraints of a remote internship.
“Consuelo has been great to work with. She’s responsive, a quick learner, and comes with a nice skillset (photography, writing, video construction, bilingual). She tackles her assignments constructively and quickly, and takes instruction well,” he said.
UTEP students also worked with INN.org member organizations NOWCastSA in San Antonio and the Tucson Sentinel.
Thanks to the support of our donors in building up Borderzine and the MMJ program, more media organizations are taking an interest in the work we are doing here – reporting on the borderland and preparing a diverse, well-rounded field of candidates with the skills to tell the stories that matter to our communities.
And right now, we have another opportunity to grow, also thanks to our membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News. During the 2020 national NewsMatch campaign, all donations to support Borderzine will be doubled! You can make your gift now and sign up as a recurring donor to continue to sustain our program as we go forward.