Making Space for a New Wave of Journalists

Young+man+writing+in+a+notebook.

Julieta Soto, Editorial Intern

Growing up bilingual, my mind juggled tens of thousands of words in English and Spanish. I found I could communicate most clearly on the page, and a passionate middle school teacher inspired me to pursue a profession aligned with my love of reading and writing. 

I took a career test in my first year of high school, which suggested I try journalism. It comforted me to know that my passions had a place in the world, but I did not know any journalists or what a career in media would involve. All I knew of journalism were the anchors on the Spanish-language news channels I watched after school with my mom, and I wasn’t sure there was room for me there. 

According to the Pew Research Center, newsroom workers are 48% [non-Hispanic] white and male. To put this into perspective, 34% of all U.S. Workers are white and male.

I knew I needed the experience to see if journalism would be the right career for me and to be competitive going into the field. I signed up for journalism class my sophomore year, but my time there was short-lived. 

We spent class doing busy work rather than learning the foundations of journalism and getting hands-on experience. I was intimidated by the teacher and felt stuck when asking for help. I had always been a good student, so it was disheartening to be floundering in a class I had been so excited about and thought would be the first step in my career.

I left after one semester, and I never heard if they met their goal of printing a newspaper by the end of the year.

This disappointing class did not shake my interest in journalism. Since I could not get what I needed at my own high school, I attended the Summer Journalism Program at Princeton University after my junior year. The lectures on storytelling and exposure to various ways of informing the public inspired me. I learned interviewing techniques, fact-checking, and varying creative approaches to writing. These are only some of the skills that will continue to benefit me regardless of my future career. 

Although I did not have a high school newspaper to come back to after the summer program, I felt more confident about journalism and kept this career in mind while applying to colleges. I enrolled at UC Berkeley as a double major in English and Spanish and added a minor in journalism. I was finally studying what genuinely interests me. All the pieces were coming together.

In January 2022, I got the opportunity to be the communications intern at Ignite Journalism, a new organization providing journalism education and opportunities for high school students in San Diego County.

A well-established high school journalism program goes hand in hand with academic success across the board according to the research conducted by Jack Dvorak, Ph.D., director of the High School Journalism Institute and a professor of the School of Journalism at Indiana University.

The Pew Research Center also reports that although younger newsroom employers move towards diversity, the majority of workers are still most likely to be white.

It is extremely important to have more diversity in journalism, and providing early opportunities like this is one way to support my mission for change. I feel great working alongside other changemakers whose mission for change also aligns with inclusion for all communities with disadvantaged backgrounds.

Those of us from underrepresented communities deserve space to tell our true, well-rounded stories. This inclusion can show the world who we really are and be an example to allow other young children interested in the media and writing community, but especially journalism, to feel confident and comfortable enough to internalize these dreams for their reality one day. 

Through the diversity and inclusion young children witness on news channels and social platforms, they can feel motivated rather than limited. In my work, I hope to exemplify how my intersectional identity has steered me toward a better understanding of why my presence is important in this field.

Like the young Julieta that once sat on the sofa attentive to the breaking news segments, I am certain that young children will crack a smile when they see faces like their own, and they will not struggle with the question of whether or not they belong in those spaces.