© 2024 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Affected by May 26 tornadoes? Find relief resources here.

University of Arkansas launches first chapter of National Association of Hispanic Journalist in state

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists added their first chapter in Arkansas earlier this year through the University of Arkansas. Ninette Sosa serves as the faculty advisor for the group, a professor at the university and a journalist whose previous work includes outlets like the BBC and CNN. She said there’s been a lot of progress in the broadcast news landscape since she first began in the late 80s where you were asked to change your last name.

“There would be a better chance to be hired,” Sosa said. “So, don’t use a Latina last name. Ninette and pick a last name. I went through that.” 

Now, she’s using her Hispanic last name proudly and leading a group of 11 students at the University of Arkansas. Landing on journalism after pursuing other options is not that uncommon, according to Sosa. She said in her experience, she’s seen friends and family pursue other avenues.

“Doctors, dentists, lawyers, they are all career driven,” Sosa said, “where you’re guaranteed you’re going to make a certain amount of dollars. Whereas journalism is kind of up in the air, you just don’t know where you’re going to land, where does your style fit in. Journalism is kind of unknown.”

That was the experience for the president of this chapter of NAHJ, Lauren Burgess.

“At first I was an exercise science major,” Burgess said. “A piece of advice that my mom gave me was to do something that you’re passionate about and it will never feel like work. So I ended up changing to broadcast journalism and adding multimedia storytelling production to it. Since then, I knew I wanted to be involved in as much as possible because I’ll graduate next year despite being a sophomore. Sosa pulled me in after class and told me about her idea and vision for NAHJ and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to be able to be a part of something but also show my passion for being Hispanic and a journalist.

Burgess said when Sosa first approached her to be a leader of the chapter, she pushed back, saying she didn’t feel like a good fit.

“My first and last name is very American,” Burgess said, “I don’t speak any Spanish and I’m half Hispanic. I really didn’t feel qualified, I didn’t feel like I belong. But Sosa really did a great job at make me feel worth of the position. Even if you’re 1% Hispanic, you’re still a part of the Hispanic community. Where I grew up, I was one of the only Hispanics as well. So, I felt at first like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think I’m fit to be co-founder and president, you need someone else.’ But she really gave me the strength. It brought up my confidence that it doesn’t matter where you can from, what your name is, or what your background is. You’re still Hispanic and you belong here.”

Another student involved in NAHJ is Nolvin Carranza. He describes himself as fully Hispanic, and said that he’s found a lot of support in this community.

“This is a group that we embrace each other a lot,” Carranza said. “I feel that through NAHJ, it’s going to help me introduce other people to the group because we’re so new.”

If you had asked a 7-year-old Carranza what he wanted to be when he grew up, he had a very specific answer.

“So in first grade, I was watching TV and watching the news,” Carranza said. “For a first grader who watches the news, right? They're usually watching cartoons. So, I was watching the news because my dad had it on, and there was some severe weather coming. I heard that there was like, some tornado potential involved with it. As a first grader, I was very scared. I watched the weather and I told my mom, ‘Hey, there's some severe weather coming, I think we should take some precautions.’ My mom is very stubborn. So, she actually took me outside to see the storm. And I was not happy with it because I knew there’s a storm approaching but I saw the sky and it was green. My favorite color is green. so I was very excited and very happy. I've been watching the news ever since. And my dream career is actually to be a broadcast meteorologist. And ever since seeing the weather for myself and watching the green skies, that just launched my career into being a broadcast meteorologist. I've stuck with it ever since.”

Sosa said the need for an NAHJ chapter at the University of Arkansas is vital because representation is important in a region with a growing Hispanic demographic.

“You have industries like chicken,” Sosa said. “You have Walmart here, the biggest in the world in retail. Just naming those two, it’s important to have voices heard all around. Even though Arkansas is landlocked, it’s a state with a lot of potential that is yet to be heard.”

This means that the news media should reflect that as well. Burgess said she thinks the representation within the media is improving, but there’s work to be done.

“With Northwest Arkansas being one of the populations with a growing Hispanic population,” Burgess said, “I think starting the NAHJ chapter here at the University of Arkansas is very important. It’s the first in the whole state, and hopefully we can be a role model for other universities and colleges in Arkansas, so that they can see this space of inclusivity and representation that they’ll want to start their own student chapter and hopefully MAHJ can grow within the state of Arkansas.

Carranza said he has found not only a sense of community through this group, but an obligation to empower his own community.

“To hopefully spread the joy and sense of community that Hispanic journalists have to offer,” Carranza said, “especially with NAHJ, which really helps to portray that sense of community.”

“Your community will go to you once they become familiar with you or your presence,” Sosa continued. “Whether it’s on camera, radio, or in print. Whatever the story may be, they will lend themselves if they can identify with someone.”

Burgess said through her experience with NAHJ, she’s found a lot of current and future opportunities.

“I’ve applied for internships in NAHJ specifically,” Burgess said, “and there are a lot of scholarship opportunities for Hispanic journalists and job opportunities outside of college. I think having this leadership position has allowed me to grow as a person and understand who I am, and I’ve figured out that I definitely want to do sports. I don’t necessarily know what route yet, but NAHJ has allowed me to apply for sports internships and sports opportunities after college that I don’t think I would have ever known about. It has allowed me to find a lot of things I’m passionate about, and that I think a lot of journalism students at the University of Arkansas don’t even know about.”

The School of Journalism and Strategic Media hosts an annual event called “J-Days” which will take place on April 4th, and the group has confirmed that they will be hosting a churros and soda truck for the event.

“Just to get our name out, get our word out,” Burgess said. “Hopefully there are other journalists that are Hispanic that are interested in joining, But, just to also say we are nor a student organization and show that things are changing and that we are here to stay.”

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

Stay Connected
Matthew Moore is senior producer for Ozarks at Large.
Related Content