The summer of 2011. One to not be forgotten. This summer I was fortunate to be a Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow at Syracuse University. A team of ten student journalists--writers, designers, videographers, and photographers--under the guidance of four faculty members--Tom Kennedy, Seth Gitner, Aileen Gallagher, and Jeff Passetti--reported on the burgeoning Hispanic community in Eastern Pennsylvania. Based out of Bethlehem Pa., we covered stories here, and in the cities of Allentown and Reading. For six weeks we reported in the field, and returned back to Syracuse for four weeks to produce our content. It was nothing short of the most intense experience of my life.
I began the six weeks in Pennsylvania focused on two stories, which I was pegged with since I was the only Spanish-speaking visuals producer. The first came about from a couple days of good luck, and good reporting with Christine Mehta. We would focus on the education situation facing Reading, Pa. given the influx of young Spanish-speaking students. My work would explore the story of Noe Cabello, 17, Reading High School's first Latino Valedictorian. The second would focus on a Dominican commuter service in Allentown, Pa. Both were later published in USA Today as part of a large package that our team delivered to the publication.
The last two weeks in the field were devoted to assignments more in line with a community newspaper, where we searched for interesting scenarios within which we looked to draw out characters or situations relevant to our project. The situation in Eastern Pennsylvania is not much different from that of many places across the country experiencing a large increase in the Hispanic population--according to the 2010 census, now mostly driven by births and not immigration. However, what is unique about the situation here is that for example, Reading is now a majority minority city.
Overall, the summer's experience was a mixture of learning experiences. At the end of the ten weeks I came away as a much better reporter and visual journalist. I feel much more comfortable "parachuting in" to situations, quickly assessing, and producing on the fly. Typically working as a one-man-band, over the summer I did get to experience both the benefits and challenges of working alongside a reporter. Stressful as the summer was, the most rewarding experience was publication of my work in some major national newspapers and magazines including USA Today and The Atlantic. I can't thank the professors enough for pursuing these venues. Thank you to the SU News21 team, and please check out our project online or on your iPad.