Role: Intern, NPR's Weekend All Things Considered

1.   How did you get started at NPR?

I was an intern for KERA, the North Texas NPR member-station, in 2016. I applied for a Fall 2016 internship at All Things Considered - Weekend, just weeks after I started working for KERA. I didn’t get the internship, but the show’s executive producer told me to stay in touch.

I re-applied for the Spring semester and was interviewed over the phone. I didn’t get the internship, and I was pretty upset. A former KERA intern and current WATC intern messaged me through Facebook that same day. She said: “NPR isn’t going anywhere, and you have a lot more chances to make it out here.”

I was months away from graduating when I applied for the WATC internship for a third time. I was  accepted on the same day of my interview,  and I accepted the offer without hesitation.

2.   How is your internship going?

My biggest challenge has been pitching story ideas. During the first couple weeks, some of my ideas got traction during the editorial meeting, but died a couple days later. I felt somewhat frustrated: like I was hitting a wall, every time. And that’s when I asked for help.

WATC Host Michel Martin and I had lunch, and I told her that I was having trouble pitching. She listened and gave me really helpful tips, and more importantly, she told me to set some goals for the next two weeks. I took her advice, and one of my pitches “Behind Mexico’s Most Violent Month” aired one week later.

3.   How did last year's NABJ/NAHJ convention help you get to NPR?

My priority at the NABJ/NAHJ 2016 Joint Convention was to make connections at NPR in DC. I met Dustin DeSoto and Aggi Ashagre at the Public Media Village, who coincidentally worked for WATC. I befriended both of them and followed up with them the day after. Aggi and Dustin invited me to watch a live broadcast of WATC and gave me a tour of the studios. That allowed me to have face to face interaction with staff, which ultimately boosted my chances of getting this internship.

4. What was your favorite part about the convention?

My favorite part was meeting Maria Hinojosa and Sam Sanders, who were panelists in workshops. I knew both of them from NPR and social media. For me, going to these workshops was like like getting a college lecture from professionals who I admired.

5.   What tips do you have for attendees at this year's AAJA, NABJ, and EIJ conventions?

Go there with a purpose. So many of my fellow students went to that convention without a clear goal. They didn’t know what they were looking for, and interviewers noticed that. I went to the convention with the goal of meeting public media folks, and that’s what I solely focused on during my time there. Therefore, I was able to make very good connections.

6.   What does your unique voice add to public media?

I have a unique perspective on news. I grew up in Distrito Federal, Mexico. I moved to Flower Mound, Texas as a teenager in 2008 without knowing English, and I fought for years until I was able to speak fluently. Last year, I passed the U.S. naturalization test and became a citizen.

During college, I fought just as hard to earn a career in media, working over forty hours a week, while going to school full-time. My university had a Spanish TV news program, and I met a lot of Hispanic students who weren’t as lucky as I was: many of them were on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or undocumented.

Because of these interactions, I learned about their struggles as immigrants. Some of them worked hard to graduate, but no station would hire them because they’re undocumented. A friend who worked with me during college was terminated because her DACA paperwork didn’t go through on time.

I think my unique voice is that of a Hispanic immigrant and a millennial who went to college in the fifth most diverse university in the country, University of Texas Arlington. I’ve had a first-hand look at what other immigrants like me are going through and I have developed a passion for learning about U.S. immigration policy, immigration detention facilities and Latin American affairs.

7.   What's been the most memorable moment of your time in public media?

My most memorable moment in public media was when I covered the Dallas vigil for the Orlando shooting, because this was my first real assignment as a KERA intern.

My news director called me at 7 p.m. and asked me to go to Downtown Dallas ASAP. This was my first chance to prove myself. My only press credential that night was a shirt that said KERA, and my only recording equipment was an iPhone.  Regardless, I was the only reporter who got a one-to-one interview with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

I remember hearing the mayor’s soundbite the next morning during KERA’s local Morning Edition segment. I was driving and I teared up because I was so happy to hear my work on the air.


Follow Javier: @JVargasNews