Childhood dream becomes a reality for Cronkite graduate

May 2, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Andrew Onodera was drawn to journalism as early as middle school. When he reached high school, he was broadcasting for his school’s newscast.  Andrew Onodera His experience at Cronkite helped Andrew Onodera receive an internship at 12News in Phoenix, where he was promoted to part-time assignment desk editor before getting hired as a full-time producer. Onodera has also served as a producer for Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, since last semester. Download Full Image

These experiences, along with watching his local television news, helped him realize that journalism was his future.

Onodera will graduate in May with his master’s degree in mass communication. Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication named Onodera an Outstanding Graduate Student for this semester. He received his undergraduate degree in journalism and mass communication with a minor in political science from the Cronkite School last year.

Onodera worked as the multimedia director at The State Press, overseeing the multimedia department, which includes the usage of photos, illustrations, video, podcasts and anything non-print.

His experience at Cronkite helped him receive an internship at 12News in Phoenix, where he was promoted to part-time assignment desk editor before getting hired as a full-time producer. Onodera has also served as a producer for Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, since last semester.

“I learned so much about how a real newsroom operates and how the pace of it is so much quicker than anything you could ever imagine in college, and you get adjusted to the pace and learn about it all side-by-side with professionals from the Valley,” Onodera said. “I learned how to write really well, as well as how to spot a good story, and they teach you really good news judgment.”

Onodera was among a group of students who won “Best of Festival” and first-place awards in the “Television Newscast” category for its Cronkite News broadcast at the 2023 Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts contest. He also won an Arizona Press Club award for student investigative reporting in 2020.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study journalism and mass communications?

Answer: I don’t know if there was ever a single moment. I think it was just that I started getting into it in school. I mean, probably as early as middle school. And then in high school, I did some broadcasting. We had a broadcast class, and it’s just something that I kind of tried. It was more of a hobby at first, and then it was, "Wow, I really like this field." It was a very big part of my life. And I think that it just kind of built. 

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

A: COVID was kind of the defining moment of this college experience. It was a good portion of what happened during my freshman year, toward the end. And I think that what I learned through that and just working with a lot of professors in all of the different Cronkite classes is how to adapt. The news doesn’t stop; the TV industry doesn’t stop. During COVID, there was more news than ever to report, and we couldn’t leave the house. It was a lot of learning how to do news over Zoom, learning how to make a video on your iPhone. We really had to break it down, and a lot of our professors did a great job of teaching us how to do the very basics in a way that no one had ever seen before, and make it look really good. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I definitely looked at all of the top journalism schools in the country. And I think what really sold me on ASU was that hands-on experience. I love the fact that you could declare your major as a freshman and start taking journalism classes. As a freshman, I really wanted to get four years of journalism education. It was pretty hands-on and this was it. That’s what separated Cronkite from all the other schools for me is that I could get those four years of taking classes that I really liked and learning how to do journalism from great professors.

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

A: I would say Sean Holstege. I had him for JMC 201 and 301. He taught me a lot of lessons. I mean, he basically taught me how to write for news. But I would say that one of the things he taught me that really kind of sticks out was how to make sure that you have everything you possibly need for a story. How to critique your work enough to know that you need more reporting.

One of the lessons that he always talked about was if you don’t know what to write, you probably need more reporting. He taught me how to make sure that you’ve talked to enough people, that you get the full story. One of the things that he also says is if you know something, scream it from the rooftops. If you have the facts to prove it and you have all of that lined up, don’t pull your punches. If you can say it, say it with authority.

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

A: It’s really easy in this field to get burned out. So, take breaks, take time off, go on vacation, even if that just means you’re sitting at home doing nothing for four days, three days. I think that it’s really easy, especially when you’re in school, to feel like you have to go, go, go. And you know, the news is always happening. There’s always stuff to write about and cover, and there’s always that next opportunity that you’re chasing or the next internship. It’s really easy to just get really overwhelmed with everything and bite off way too much. That is detrimental because I think it pushes a lot of people out of this profession. 

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

A: I really like the area outside the Memorial Union. Right outside the Starbucks where there are those solar panels to provide shade. It’s right between the MU and Hayden Library. You can sit out there and there’s some shade so it’s not super hot. And it’s a super active part of campus so you can people-watch, but it’s also kind of relaxing. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m going to be staying here in the Valley, right down the street from Cronkite, as a full-time producer at 12News. 

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

A: I would probably invest it in trying to find a way to solve the water crisis down here. I think there’s a lot of panic, that’s probably like the scariest thing going on, right? We’re staring it in the face. I would probably try to invest in ways to solve that water crisis, whether it’s converting people’s lawns to xeriscape, or something of the sort. I’m just trying to find a way to make sure that Phoenix and the rest of the Southwest doesn’t run out of water before I’m 100.

Written by Sierra Alvarez.
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Students tell unique border stories in bilingual reporting class

May 2, 2023

Course brings together students from ASU, Mexico to find the untold stories of the U.S.-Mexico border

With its rich blend of cultures and economies, the U.S.-Mexico border is a shared region with shared stories. 

A class at Arizona State University is teaching students to find and tell those stories, along with the broader story of the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

“The gap between reality and how information is presented regarding Arizona and Mexico’s border has been distorted,” said Andrés Martinez, special advisor to ASU President Michael Crow and a professor of practice in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “There’s an incredibly rich, diverse relationship between our two countries and those stories need to be told.”

Martinez is touting that relationship in a class titled Advanced Bilingual Reporting, a binational collaborative online international learning course that includes students from Mexico City’s Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). The class, which is supported with a U.S. State Department grantThe core funding support is through 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund and its partners, the Mary Jenkins Foundation along with the Coca-Cola Mexico Foundation and Sempra Energy, as part of a public-private sector collaboration between the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and Partners of the Americas that provide access to new models of exchange and training programs in the Americas. , is one of several offerings in Cronkite School that is part of the ASU in Mexico initiative.

The idea is to broaden the range of storytelling and develop cross-border journalism, said Mia Armstrong-López, managing editor of Symbiosis, a series of journalism-focused initiatives in Mexico. 

“This class was born out of a broader desire at ASU and Cronkite to become more connected to Mexico and deepen the school’s engagement with our neighboring country,” Armstrong-López said. “A lot of students in this class will be reporting about things related to this relationship, and this experience will help contextualize the relationship for them.”

For the past semester, students worked in groups to report, write, produce and publish multimedia stories on economic development, culture, environmental sustainability, cross-border health and technology.

They also explored and compared landscapes of the U.S. and Mexican media and audiences, and how they interact with each other. Students were also able to talk to guests from such outlets as The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, NPR's "Radio Ambulante" and Mexico’s Reforma newspaper about their own reporting on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. 

Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul, an investigative journalist and ITAM professor, co-taught the class with Martinez.

“I wanted to teach this class to show students they could cover both countries as an extended region with shared problems, shared interests, shared culture and shared communities,” said Ibarra Chaoul, who runs Defensores de la Democracia, a nonprofit organization that documents violence against Mexicans journalists. “It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate how to think about the two countries from a different perspective and to cover it from a different perspective.”

Ibarra Chaoul said the class is helping her students, international relations and political science majors, understand and gain knowledge regarding journalism.

“I think brings out in them their preconceived notions of journalism while at the same time expands their options when they graduate,” she said.

A new perspective

On April 3, Ibarra Chaoul and eightThe eight ITAM students who flew to Arizona are Emiliano Carvajal González, Brenda Chávez Bracamontes, Miguel Vicente Santamaría Alcaraz, Paulina Gómez Baranda Díaz, Ana Paula Juárez Alonzo, Alexa López Sánchez Mendoza, Mariana Cabello Torres and María José Ponce Gudiño. ITAM students boarded a flight bound for Phoenix to complete a cultural confluence with their Cronkite School counterparts.

Their itinerary included tours of ASU's Tempe campus and athletics facilities, the Desert Botanical Garden and the Maricopa County Superior Court. They met with U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton and held meetings with The Arizona Republic, the Consulate of Mexico in Phoenix and AlientoAn education organization serving undocumented and immigrant families. representatives to discuss the binational relationship of their individual reporting activities.

Three people sitting at conference table talking

U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (center) talks with students in the Advanced Bilingual Reporting class on April 5 in the Fulton Center on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The highlight of the visit was a daylong field trip to Nogales, Arizona, to gain a firsthand understanding of the challenges and opportunities that shape the border region — and the prosperity of both countries.

The first stop was the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona, where students were treated to a tour of the facility and conversation with Michael Dionne, a biological science technician with the International Boundary and Water Commission. He explained how water comes into the plant, how it’s treated and filtered, and where it ends up — and why that’s important for both countries.

“Because we have drought conditions in the Southwest, both the U.S. and Mexico face challenges of having enough water, so we have to come up with ways to treat water and benefit both sides,” Dionne said. “The key is to conserve as much water as possible so that our agriculture industry can have it to use for crops … and some of that has to go to replenish the aquifer.”

Dionne added the facility was built in 1972 and 10 plant employees treat approximately 15 million gallons a day. That information was especially helpful to Ryan Tisminezky, a Cronkite student who is reporting on water in the binational relationship.

“This tour is valuable because I am getting a little taste of what is being done right now and potentially what could be done in the future,” said Tisminezky, who expects to graduate in May with a master’s degree in mass communication. “In terms of the class, it’s like a mini-study abroad course because we’re able to immerse ourselves with people from a different country. I’m getting a new perspective.”

Students and staff at roundtable

Mia Armstrong-López (front right), ASU in Mexico coordinator, asks questions about water issues at the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona, on Thursday, April 5, 2023. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

A noon luncheon doubled as an information session at Zula’s, a Mexican food restaurant in the heart of downtown Nogales. Guest speakers included Nogales Mayor Jorge Maldonado; Jaime Chamberlain, president and owner of Chamberlain Distributing Inc.; and Arizona Republic reporter José-Ignacio Castañeda.

“I’m very grateful you guys are here because you’re going to take back what you know and report on the reality of the border situation, and then go spread the word,” said Maldonado, a former city councilmember who successful ran for mayor in 2022. “For a long time, nobody was really telling our story — that we have $3 billion worth of fruits and vegetables and $26 billion in manufactured goods coming through our ports. That’s a good story to tell.”

Chamberlain said 57% of our nation’s fruits and vegetables comes through Nogales, which is vital to feeding Americans. He added that Nogales has a specific focus.

“I have visited many border towns and I have to tell you that we’re not all the same,” said Chamberlain, whose business represents 13 different farmers in Mexico and distributes their products throughout the country. “We are very different here in Nogales. We have specific economic benefits living here, which our state and federal partners have been a tremendous supporter of. When people ask me what we do, I say plainly, ‘We feed North America.’”

Castañeda, a Cronkite School graduate who reports on the border for The Arizona Republic, said his beat is interesting, diverse and rarely boring. He covers everything from commerce, crime and immigration to government agencies and the occasional ribbon cutting. He said his beat is “very personal.”

“My family’s history is tied to the border. Both of my grandparents crossed the border to work near Yuma,” Castañeda said. “I gravitate to stories about immigrants and the immigrant experience.”

The day ended with a stop at the Arizona Department of Transportation, which straddles the border. The function of this facility is to help freight move more efficiently while ensuring that commercial vehicles can operate safely on state highways, said Joseph Dopadre.

“We get about 380,000 to 390,000 trucks coming through here per year,” said Dopadre, a lieutenant with the Nogales Port of Entry. “Our job is to enforce the safety of these trucks through inspection, permitting, weight and making sure all of the paperwork is correct.”

Dopadre said his department is equipped with the latest technology – weight motion scales, facial recognition software, license plate readers, cameras, scanners and devices to keep things orderly and safe.

“We try to do the best we can do to get you in and out, but if we find out you skipped a step or have a flat tire, brake issues, or if we see a visual problem, we’ll send you back for an inspection,” Dopadre said. “Technology is helping us do our jobs safer and more efficiently.”

Lessons from the field

Being in the field can provide a different and richer experience than the classroom, and when the field is the border, layers of complexity are peeled away, according to several of the students.

“We all have our different viewpoints and I want to be a well-rounded journalist,” said Roxanne De La Rosa, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication in May. “My mom is Mexican and my dad was undocumented when he came to the U.S. I know what immigrants go through when they get to this country, so I want to be able to speak on those issues as a journalist."

De La Rosa spent the semester working on a story about a Yuma resident who crossed the border to Mexico to receive in vitro fertilization (IVF). She had three children as a result.

“She was a registered nurse, had a good job, but could not afford IVF in the States. She’s one of Mexico’s success stories,” De La Rosa said. “My story explores the inequities in the health-care system in the States and why medical tourism is becoming attractive to Americans.”

Alexa López Sánchez Mendoza is exploring a similar topic — the mental health of female immigrants who cross the border.

“There’s a lot of chaos at the border and a lot of vulnerable people coming from Central America are being taken advantage of by organized crime,” said Sánchez Mendoza, an international relations major at ITAM and editor of her school newspaper, El Supuesto. “They are dealing with the heat and the cold, coyotes, crossing the river, law enforcement and the fear of being sexually assaulted. It’s very dangerous and almost like a war experience.”

Sánchez Mendoza said her goal is to become a newspaper columnist to highlight immigrant issues in a more even-handed and humanitarian way.

“A lot of today’s (border) coverage doesn’t really tell you much,” Sánchez Mendoza said. “It’s more political coverage than anything else.”

ITAM student Paulina Gómez Baranda Diaz is also reporter for El Supuesto. She noticed an emerging trend in women’s professional soccer: Americans crossing the border to play in Mexico. She spoke to several athletes for her upcoming piece, including ASU’s Cori Sullivan, who now plays for Cruz Azul.

"(Cori) told me that she liked playing in Mexico better because the fans are amazing and the stadiums are bigger,” said Baranda Díaz, an international relations major. “It had nothing to do with money … it’s all about the fans and the energy that Mexico gives her."

Baranda Díaz said the class has pushed her in directions she didn’t always want to go but came out better for it.

“I’m not an extroverted person and I get anxious approaching total strangers,” Baranda Diaz said. “But I like how I’ve learned how to reach people and make connections. There aren’t a lot of female sports writers in Mexico, and we definitely have a different perspective about soccer than the men.”

Mexican native and Cronkite School student Paula Soria is also on a sports trek. However, her sport of choice is baseball. She’s writing about several Mexican nationals who came to the U.S. to play Major League Baseball.

“It’s a journey that usually starts at age 4 or 5, and it’s not always easy,” said Soria, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication in December. “The main challenges are usually language, culture and home sickness.”

Soria said the class has deeply impacted her writing and perspective and looks forward to writing more diverse stories.

“I came into this class thinking it was going to be about the U.S. versus Mexico,” Soria said. “But what I’ve discovered is that they are connected in a very profound way.

“They work together. They are partners.”

Group of people

Students and faculty from the Advanced Bilingual Reporting class pose for a group photo at the Nogales Port of Entry on Thursday, April 5, in Nogales, Arizona. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News.

Other stories from the Advanced Bilingual Reporting class will cover topics including language, migration, tourism, climate change, water policy, music and tech governance. Look for them to be published on Twitter at @ASU_MX.

Top photo: Fourth-year ASU visual journalist Paula Soria helps fourth-year political relations student Emilio Carvajal, from ITAM, take a photo on Thursday, April 5, at the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona. A dozen students — eight international relations students from ITAM and four journalism and mass communications students from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication — spent the day on the border learning about water issues, agricultural produce and its transportation from Mexico as part of a course collaboration between the Cronkite School and ITAM. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News.