NAHJ’s Student Project will relaunch as nine-month fellowship

The NAHJ board of directors announced Wednesday that it will restructure its one-week student project into a nine month-long fellowship.

“The student project affords us the opportunity to make some changes that the board feels are forward thinking,” said Hugo Balta, NAHJ’s national president.

Tomás Mier, NAHJ’s student representative, thinks this change will allow student journalists to receive a thorough mentorship that will help them advance their careers.

“This is a pretty groundbreaking move for the Latino Reporter, for the student project and for NAHJ in general … it really shows how much this organization cares about its students,” Mier said. “We are the next reporters and next professionals and … this will really help Latino students who want to pursue journalism.”

Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez, 23, streams Hugo Balta’s interview with other Latino Reporter student journalists on Facebook at the Excellence in Journalism convention, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Latino Reporter/Valeria Olivares)

The selected student journalists will become NAHJ ambassadors, receive professional development training and earn a scholarship, Mier said.

As ambassadors, Mier said they will help recruit other students across different universities, encourage other students to apply for scholarships and fellowships, promote the organization, and tour newsrooms. He added that the Latino Reporter will continue to exist and students will report during the conference, as usual.

The student project’s mission is to promote “the fair and accurate treatment of Latinos in newsrooms and news coverage,” Balta explained.

David Plazas, former director of the student project, believes that the changes are a big opportunity to increase its investment in students.

Balta explained the Latino Reporter is meant to get students journalists into newsrooms and prepare them as they go out into a country in which “the Hispanic, Latino community is leading the population growth … and with it, the economic, political and cultural growth.”

NAHJ chose 12 students for its student project, the Latino Reporter, in which emerging journalists receive mentorship, report on the 2019 Excellence in Journalism convention and network with professionals for four days. (Latino Reporter/Valeria Olivares)

Although the demographic is changing throughout the U.S., Balta said newsrooms are not reflecting this.

“We’re celebrating 35 years of NAHJ,” Balta said. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you we’re doing better in 2019 than in 1984, when the organization was founded.”

The project takes the country’s population shift into consideration when developing its curriculum so emerging journalists are able to represent and amplify the voices of a growing community.

Journalists of color are therefore essential to tell these stories and record history, Balta said, because they have similar backgrounds, interests and perspectives.

NOTE: This story was edited by Steve Padilla, an editor at The Los Angeles Times, and Meagan McGinnes, a reporter at WBUR in Boston. Neither are editors on the NAHJ Student Project.

Valeria Olivares is a 2019 NAHJ Student Project participant. She is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso and is majoring in multimedia journalism. She is the editor-in-chief of the Prospector, UTEP’s independently-run student newspaper. Reach her at and on Twitter at @valeriaoliesc.

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