‘A lot of hope for our industry’: 3 Media School alumni speak at NAHJ panel
“As an industry, I think the biggest constant has been change,” journalist Samantha Schmidt, BAJ’16, said to a group of media students earlier this week. “I think, honestly, our generation of younger people who have been used to that … I think we’re very adaptable.”
Three IU graduates reflected on their experiences, challenges and growth in professional newsrooms and media advocacy at “Life After IU,” a National Association of Hispanic Journalists alumni panel.
Schmidt, BAJ’16, Jesse Naranjo, BAJ’19 and Andrea Vega Yudico, BAJ’19, joined a Zoom call from around the world for the panel. Associate professor Gerry Lanosga, founding advisor of IU’s chapter of NAHJ, moderated the event on Sept. 20.
Schmidt, who is Bogotá bureau chief at The Washington Post, and Naranjo, who serves as senior digital producer at POLITICO, actively work in newsrooms, while Vega Yudico works in media advocacy at the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance.
“This is super, super awesome to be here, because Gerry and I actually worked together on trying to start up the NAHJ chapter at IU, which was like one of the most, for me, kind of gratifying experiences,” Schmidt said. “It got me connected to this organization that still is so important to me. I owe so much to NAHJ at IU.”
The panelists’ college experiences helped build them into the professionals they are today, they said.
“Pretty much everything I have done since graduation have been things I learned while working on the IDS or in journalism classes at IU,” Naranjo said.
Student media established a solid news foundation for him, he said. Schmidt and Naranjo were both heavily involved at the Indiana Daily Student, practicing the theoretical reporting and editing skills they learned in the classroom.
“I basically spent a solid 40 to 50 hours a week in the newsroom at the IDS,” he said.
“Without the IDS, [getting internships at publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier, and POLITICO] wouldn’t have been possible,” Naranjo said.
Vega Yudico, who studied journalism and international affairs, worked with professor Tony Fargo to establish IU’s chapter of Reporters Without Borders as a student. She credits a Media School study abroad trip to Kampala, Uganda, with kickstarting her passion for work at the intersection of journalism and international studies.
“After that [monthlong trip], I came back and said, ‘I don’t just want to do journalism, practice the skills — there’s so much more that I want to learn as well and partner my journalism skills with knowledge of foreign policy and international affairs,’” she said. “So that’s when I started to blend those two, and as I started taking a lot of journalism classes, all those great reporting and editing classes, visual communications, I sort of started to realize that what I liked was looking at the backend. Journalism needs to be able to flourish, but for it to flourish, there needs to be press freedom and laws that advocate for freedom of expression.”
Vega Yudico’s work at CIMA supports independent media around the globe, “making sure colleagues like Jesse and Sam can do their work,” she said.
Schmidt’s work also has an international focus. She dreamed of being a foreign correspondent since she began working in journalism at her high school newspaper, she said, and now leads coverage of almost all of South America for The Washington Post.
“I literally started from the bottom of The Post with the overnight shift, and then, you know, worked my way up to this job, which opened up last year,” she said. “I was still kind of shocked that it worked out. But it’s the dream, and I’m here. It’s been a great challenge.”
Having community at the place she works has helped her through change, Schmidt said. She draws support from peers and mentors, she said, mentioning a Slack channel for Latino Post employees she is in called “Cafecito,” for example.
Schmidt is passionate about advocating for diversity and inclusion measures in newsrooms, she said.
The national chapter of NAHJ works in part to address widespread issues such as representation, pay inequity and retention in media.
“That gives me a lot of hope,” Schmidt said. “I have a lot of hope for our industry, and a lot of that is because of the young people and the people of color and demanding that things don’t just function the way they did in the past.”
The panelists also spoke to experiencing imposter syndrome, which can be especially prevalent in often-marginalized communities.
“I think the first thing is accepting that everyone feels this,” Schmidt said. “Remind yourself that you’re here for a reason. All the things that you think are potential weaknesses actually end up being useful.”
Parts of her identity, like being a Spanish-speaker, young and a woman, allow her to connect to audiences in a way that other reporters might not, she said.
“You have to trust that you’re in the position that you are because the people that hired you believe in you,” Vega Yudico said. “I think it’s so important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing,”
Doing work you are passionate about can help prevent burnout and can be conducive to your personal and professional growth, the panelists said.
“I think you have to make yourself a little uncomfortable by doing something you’re not familiar with in order to get a sense of what you like,” Naranjo said.