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ASU grad pursues dreams of being a bilingual reporter

ASU grad Karina Espinoza in a newsroom

ASU grad Karina Espinoza

April 27, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

This semester, Arizona State University student and Phoenix native Karina Espinoza will be one step further to accomplishing her dream of being a bilingual reporter when she graduates with her degree in broadcast journalism.

Espinoza, a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication student, who is also minoring in Spanish, has spent three semesters of her college career working on Cronkite Noticias — the Spanish bureau of Cronkite News — airing on Univision Arizona. 

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Espinoza has spent much of her career focusing on issues that directly impact Arizona’s Hispanic communities. She said that she owes her success in large part to her parents.

“I humbly say that I feel like I am in a good place in my life, and it’s all because of my mom and dad. They always pushed me and made sure my dreams were possible. They always tell me not to limit myself,” she said.

Her parents’ stories of coming from a different country made Espinoza feel like she needed to demonstrate her gratitude by working hard. 

“Everything I do is for them and for people like them. I just really want to make them proud and repay everything they have given me,” she said.

Espinoza is continuing her work after she graduates in part through a job as an editor at Telemundo Arizona, where she one day hopes to be a reporter. 

In her time at ASU, Espinoza was involved in a number of clubs and organizations that aligned with her goals. These included being a part of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and writing stories for ASU’s HerCampus chapter. As she prepared to graduate, she reflected on her time at ASU and shared her advice for other Sun Devils. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My "aha" moment happened when I was a kid. I recently got a job at Telemundo Arizona, and I am an assignment desk editor. For me, working there is pretty crazy. Of course it was Cronkite that got me there, gave me my experience and opened opportunities for me. 

When I was a kid, my mom took me to this event one day where this journalist was going to show children what the job was about. She took us out to the field; we were covering a story about how drugs affect young adults. I was out reporting with her and she showed me her camera and her mic. That really inspired me. I was only about 10 years old. 

I remember standing there and thinking, "this is really cool, I want to do something like this for the rest of my life." That event that my mom took me to pushed me even more. The lady I went with worked in the job that I have now. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: When I got to Cronkite, I really realized the importance of journalism, that it’s not just presenting on television or trying to look nice. It's about your community. 

One time when I went to cover an air quality story, this lady told me, "thank you so much for being here and covering this." That’s when I realized it’s more important than anything else. People are seeing that we care about their community, and these stories can make a difference in their lives. 

Journalism can be time consuming and hard, especially in times of crisis. A lot of people are overwhelmed, but they are also very thankful when you put information out there and keep them updated for their wellbeing. Cronkite taught me about the amazing people who are out there protesting for things they see as unfair or want to change.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I once went on a field trip to check out the school and I saw the Cronkite School, and I was really impressed with the building and the innovative stuff they had. I didn't really want to leave home either; I just felt like I knew my community so well. I wanted to stay in Arizona because it's where I grew up and I know everyone. It was also to stay close to family and friends, but overall, it was for the journalism program. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Valeria Fernández is the director of Cronkite Noticias. One of the things she taught me the most is patience and to go into this profession humble and to expect to learn along the way. When I was new to the program, I was very insecure, and I didn’t know how to build a package or interview people. She taught me all of those things, and it was hard at first.

She taught me that journalism is patience, and sometimes things don’t go your way. Even if you’re experienced in your career, things are still gonna happen where things might not work out. Take things as they go and don’t get frustrated. She was the one who taught me about the importance of my community, especially the Hispanic community.

Another person who impacted my life was Fernanda Santos. She teaches a bilingual journalism class, which I took my junior year. She gave me part of my voice. We were working on a piece about local activists. It was around election season, and she encouraged me to vote for the first time. I really felt like I had a voice. She’s a great person, and it's amazing how she carries herself. She is a person I can trust with anything.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The advice I would give people is to focus on their past and believe in it. Don’t worry about the future. Do what you love even if you don’t see the results at that moment; you have to keep pushing. We’re kind of like a puzzle and have to put our pieces together and trust them and use those talents to our full capacity and not compare them to anyone else. We’re all born with talents and gifts; we just have to find and develop them. 

I have a quote that I made up with my mom: "There’s no such thing as a bigger small dream," so don’t let anyone discourage whatever dream you have because everyone has a different definition of success. The only difference in dreams is that they may take a longer time or a shorter time to reach, and that doesn’t mean that it’s greater or lesser than another. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I have two favorite spots. The first is the sixth floor (of Cronkite) — the newsroom — because there’s so much adrenaline there and there’s always a lot of excitement. You can always look forward to something there. The second is the First Amendment Forum; there’s just so much knowledge there. It’s a great place to study and hang out with friends.  

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I am in a 4+1 program, so I’m probably not going to graduate until 2021 with my master’s. This is my last semester as an undergrad and then I’m going to go back for my master’s because I want to do more work in English as well. I love both of my languages. Even though my dream has been to work for a place like Telemundo, I also feel like I have a lot of opportunities and I shouldn’t limit myself. I’m not quite sure where I’ll go with my languages, but I want to be in a place where I can use both. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: I would say hunger and malnutrition. My dad always tells me stories about how it was so hard living in a house with so many kids and not having (anything) to eat. I actually have volunteered in places where we put boxes of food together to send off to other countries. The stories that we hear about kids and how they’re not nourished is really sad because it puts them behind in their education and the dreams they want to accomplish in life. 

If we don’t have these needs met, how are we going to become great people in life? I feel like that’s part of the reason why many of us want to escape our countries. Maybe people don’t have enough to feed their families. If we can feed more children, they would be happier and more concentrated going to school.

Written by Marisol Ortega, Sun Devil Storyteller

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