What is your current role and what are your main responsibilities?
I’m currently a politics breaking news reporter at The Washington Post. My main responsibility is covering all the breaking news in politics, whether it’s in the White House, Congress, or campaign events. I work with a team of four reporters, and we are constantly monitoring lawmakers and events. We also send alerts when significant events like Biden signing a bill occur.
Did you always want to go into breaking news and political reporting, or did your interests change during your time at Medill?
No, I didn’t initially plan to pursue breaking news reporting. It was something I discovered when I landed this job. I always knew I enjoyed fast-paced work, and my attention span is well-suited for breaking news. However, I didn’t anticipate becoming a political reporter. Growing up in El Salvador, I wasn’t exposed to U.S. politics beyond knowing that Obama was the president. But during my time at Medill, I participated in the Medill On the Hill program and fell in love with American politics, especially during the 2016 election. I ended up doing internships in politics in Texas and covering the city hall in New York, however, I realized that I wanted to come back to DC because of the strong Salvadoran community and the opportunities it offered.
How did you envision your career path when you started at Medill, and how did it change once you graduated?
When I first started at Medill, I thought I was going to spend four years in the U.S. and then go back to Latin America and work as a foreign correspondent for an American outlet. I already had the idea that I wouldn’t be able to stay here. But the more I learned about American politics, the more I realized that this was what I wanted to do. I realized my passions aligned with covering this topic, and every day at work felt exciting because I was so invested in what I was doing. At that point, I knew I had to do my best to stay. I took a class with Professor Whitaker, who is now the Dean of Medill, about the specific visa I’m on. I researched it, spoke to experts, and realized that it was possible for me to stay. I’m glad I had the opportunity to delve into that visa topic because it allowed me to remain in the country. My experiences at Medill changed the path I wanted to take for the rest of my life. It only took one quarter when I got the opportunity to take classes in DC for the Medill On the Hill program, where I tried something new and broadened my horizons. I don’t know if I would be here if I hadn’t gone to Medill and tried to succeed.
How did your experience at Medill shape your approach to reporting?
One professor who greatly influenced my reporting approach is Professor Peter Slevin. He taught me to look beyond the surface and consider the bigger picture when covering politics. Instead of focusing solely on the immediate news, he encouraged us to understand the underlying factors that led to a particular event. This perspective has stuck with me, even in breaking news situations, I aim to provide readers with context and let them form their own opinions. Many other professors at Medill emphasized this approach, and I’m grateful for the valuable lessons I learned. Additionally, my time at The Daily Northwestern, where I started my journalism career, taught me important skills in managing a newsroom and covering breaking news.
How has the Medill network supported you throughout your career?
My Medill network has been invaluable to me. When I applied for my first job at The Washington Post, I reached out to a friend who had been my RA during the Cherubs summer program in 2013. She is a Medill alumni and was on the team I was applying to at The Post. She provided me with insights into the job, interview tips, and helped me prepare in ways that made me become a good candidate for the position. We still talk regularly, and I’m grateful for her guidance. There are also many Northwestern alumni at The Post, and having that common bond has created a sense of community. I rely on my Medill connections for advice, support, and professional opportunities. They are like family to me.
Can you share an experience that stands out from your time at Medill?
With Medill courses, I got the opportunity to travel to France and South Africa, where we reported on immigration. At some moment, it dawned on me that we always talk about immigration as if it’s this big crisis going on in the world. As an immigrant myself, these two trips made me realize that there’s so much more context to immigration than what the media portrays. There’s so much more that we don’t take into consideration when we’re writing these articles. Being in South Africa gave me insights into the stories of these Zimbabwean immigrants trying to rebuild their lives. It made me think a lot about Central American immigrants in the United States and made me realize that at some point, I want to work in some sort of field that lets me cover immigration patterns worldwide. To get there, I have to cover a wide variety of things to understand where people are coming from and their positions, and it’s something I’m still pursuing.
From your experiences, do you have any advice you would give to someone who’s currently attending or choosing to attend Medill?
Growing up in El Salvador, when I said I wanted to go to journalism school, everyone was like, “Oh, good luck with that. There’s no job,” especially as a non-American. We’re often told that there’s no path to success. But I’ve clearly seen it happen to me and many other international students. So my advice is not to let the doubters get in your way of succeeding. There are many ways to have a successful and happy career. As an international student, you just have to put your best work forward, put in the effort, try your best, keep the connections going, talk to editors, send your resume to everyone, and sell your story and your experience. Don’t think that there’s no spot for you in American journalism because there really is. So my main message is don’t give up, but also understand that it takes a lot of work. If you already have the idea of being a journalist in America, it’s definitely doable. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
My best advice to journalism students right now is to seize as many opportunities as you can to experiment with digital and online journalism. The traditional ways we’ve been taught are evolving, and we’re moving away from print as the main product. So it’s important to gain skills in audio journalism, TV and radio hits, and even platforms like TikTok. You might not use all of these skills, but it’s better to have them when you enter the real world and realize that newsrooms are diversifying how they deliver news.