Follow your heart and take chances. I literally left to NYC with $1,000.00 in my pocket. I shoved everything I could in my car and drove here. Stayed in an Air B&B for two weeks. I had no plan, but a dream to start my career.Joanna or as most of my friends call me Jo or Jojo is the prime example of good things come to those who wait. The 26 year old Mexicana was born and raised in Chicago. She started her college education at Northeastern University in Chicago. Eventually, she figured out what she wanted to do career wise and made her way and obtained her degree in Journalism from Columbia College. A few months ago she packed her bags and moved to The Big Apple where she is now a TV Reporter for News 12 in Brooklyn.
While most aspiring TV reporters graduate and pack their bags for small town news stations, you were hired at News 12 in Brooklyn- which is in one of the top markets in the US. Tell us, what was your approach to job seeking?
Let me tell you it was a really hard road! I graduated May 2014 and I still remember our teachers giving us a list of all the markets in different cities and states. I remember seeing NYC at the top three and telling my self that would be nuts to start in a number one market. Right when I graduated I made my reel and started sending out my resume. I started to see my classmates get hired and wonder when will it be my turn. A year passed by and nothing. No call back, no email back. I stopped for a couple months I started to question myself. My dad was on my back to get my life together.After one of my professor’s encouraged me to keep applying. I came across a freelance reporter position in NYC so I went for it. Honestly, did I think I would get an email back? No. The moment I got an email back I honestly almost had a heart attack. Days later my dad and I were flying to NYC for this interview at this local news station in the Bronx. Never did I think NYC would be the place of my new adventure.
While at Columbia College you worked in the journalism department as well as local stations– did that hands-on experience give you confidence entering the workforce?
Yes, when I was at Columbia I interned at Telemundo. It definitely gave me a closer look into how much work it [being a reporter] takes. However, Columbia college really gave me the confidence. Columbia has two student run shows. We would be one man band of reporters. I learned to do everything. Not going to lie, I was pretty rusty starting at News 12. Once my mind was refreshed I was ready to go.
I’m sure there was great competition, what do you think helped you stand out and separate yourself from everyone else?
My personality. I went in that interview knowing this will be mine. I answered every question as if it was the last question anyone would ask me. I went in that interview with so much passion to start. Plus, all my family and friends were so supportive and happy for me!
What is a normal day like for you as a TV reporter at News 12?
No such thing as normal in a news room haha. I usually work the 7am to 4pm shift. By the way, I never was a morning person! So I walk in check the grid, it tells us the stories we are assigned to. After that we call a manager to talk about what we will be doing and confirm details. Also, we are all one man ban reporters. Which means we all drive our own car, shoot our stories, write and edit all our stories. Unless, your going live for a story or breaking news happens then you have a camera man. Anyways before we leave we also get deadlines.
Today I was driving to my first story and I got a call from my Assignment Editor that they were sending me to a different story. I’m downtown where Brooklyn Borough President is having a conference. I get a call from the Assignment Editor telling me to leave and go this other story. I’m headed to interview a man that lost his brother 25 years ago. I’m standing next to CBS and The New York Post waiting to interview this man. Let me tell you a little scary. I call my editor to check in before I leave. She also tells me my deadlines. My first story deadline is 5:30 when the show starts. My second deadline is at 8:30 mind you, my shift ended at 4pm. Come back and write my stories and have them approved to edit and send to the show. But, some days can be slow news days.
TV reporter jobs require a lot of versatility – it’s not just about speaking on camera – what are the primary skills you learned at school that you use most often on the job?
Editing my own work! I’m so happy I took a final cut editing class. All of my college professors work for news stations, so they really prepared us for the real thing .
What has been the biggest challenge working as a TV reporter and in a new city at that ?
Just doing everything on your own in a big city. I’m going to stories where NBC and FOX are at ….how insane. My first couple weeks were so rough I almost wanted to give up. The rush to get to the station in time and the anxiety to write and edit a package was the hardest part. I would literally sometimes have 15 mins to edit a package before the show. It’s all about time management. Something I admit I’m horrible at, but this job has really changed that.
In your opinion how does local news remain relevant in today’s society when news is available in so many immediate formats?
What I’ve learned talking to people is that people watch because they like you. When I go out to interview people they get to meet me and we build a connection. That’s why I love doing what I do. I get kids and families excited to meet me. Which, by the way it’s a surreal feeling when people want to take pictures with me. I sometimes forget I’m a public figure now. It’s such a cool feeling being able to have this presence of authority because I’m a reporter. Anyways, People want to feel part of the news. They want to feel important and part of their community.
What advice would you give to young women who want to be TV reporters?
Never give up. It make sound cliche but it’s so true. I would cry so much wanting a chance to prove myself. Follow your heart and take chances. I literally left to NYC with 1,000.00 dollars in my pocket. I shoved everything I could in my car and drove here. Stayed in an Air B&B for two weeks. I had no plan but a dream to start my career. I never had been to NYC before nor did I know anyone. Even, writing this makes me a little teary. Like I DID IT.
Most importantly don’t let anyone tell you, that you can’t do something. Don’t get me wrong I was terrified. However if your don’t jump, you’ll always end up wondering instead of knowing.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Honestly, to believe in myself. At 20 people would tell me I would never make it. I never argued with them. Looking back I wish I would’ve stood up for myself.
What do you love most about Chicago?
Everything. Chicago is my home. I miss my family and my friends. I miss deep dish pizza!
Keep up with Joanna and her NYC adventures on Instagram @joanna_forever