Maria Aguirre, who is completing a Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism at Northeastern, recently landed a co-op writing and producing New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR)’s first Spanish newscast for the state’s Hispanic population, which will be distributed via WhatsApp. Given the current challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, having the opportunity to embark on a new professional role is even more meaningful. Currently in her home country of Ecuador, Maria interviewed for the co-op position virtually, and while she hopes to someday report from New Hampshire, for now, she is embracing opportunity to get started completely online.
NHPR’s new Spanish newscast is a joint effort with the organization Granite State News Collaborative, which will cultivate the WhatsApp audience. They are currently in the pilot season and are planning on launching the newscast and campaign soon. Maria’s role is to write the breaking news in Spanish based on the information that the NHPR news producers send her.
“For the first time in my life, I’m producing a newscast,” said Maria. “I write the news in a script format, which is later sent to an NHPR reporter who’s working side-by-side with me (virtually, of course). She records the script and sends it to me so I can edit it. In addition to cutting and fixing small mistakes, I add music and any tape if necessary. I’m in constant communication with her on WhatsApp asking any questions I may have along the way. When I’m done with editing, I then send her the master file and she gives me feedback.”
Maria came across the position with the help of Meg Heckman, Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism, who alongside Michelle Hagopian from the CAMD Co-op Team, helped introduce Maria to NHPR. From there, the hiring process went quickly and was totally digital.
The new role will challenge Maria to think, write, and collaborate in new and creative ways.
“It will certainly be a challenge, as it’s my first time producing stories in audio. I am a bit nervous because I don’t consider myself the best with editing software (yet), and sooner than expected, I’m already diving into it,” she said. “But, the position also excites me because I’m helping the Hispanic community of New Hampshire. We are living a situation where we need to be informed, yet there are people in the U.S. who do not speak English as their first language – and very few media organizations try to accommodate that. I feel I’m also helping during this pandemic. I have not been to New Hampshire or known anyone from their local community yet, but I’ve felt that we’re in a constant and daily conversation. Hopefully, someday I get to report a story from there.”
While Maria looks forward to learning more about editing software, among other things, she also feels prepared for this co-op position because of her coursework at Northeastern.
“Journalism school has been the best decision for me so far,” she said. “I’ve gained new skills like news and opinion writing, interviewing, and reporting. The best thing has been discovering the great range of stories that can be told. English writing has been a challenge as a native Spanish speaker, but by practicing, I have gotten very comfortable with it. I like to think that being a bilingual journalist is actually a strength.”
Her reporting classes have taught her how to craft an engaging story. Her class on the fundamentals of digital journalism has proven helpful as well, teaching her the power of audio stories, and that like any other great story, their success depends on the writing.
Maria has also maintained a Spanish blog about food since 2016, and she has been working as the Social Media Editor for Storybench, a digital storytelling site staffed by Northeastern students. She has also contributed to The Scope, an experimental digital magazine focused on telling stories of justice, hope and resilience in Greater Boston.
In undergrad, she majored in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing – and as a storytelling enthusiast, she ultimately decided to go into journalism. Before getting into Northeastern, she worked in a radio station and did some freelance magazine writing for a small publication.
“I’m currently focused on gaining experience from the real world,” concluded Maria. “I did want to make an internship in the U.S. but thought the opportunity was lost after the virus outbreak. Now, currently working and learning from the safety of my home, I feel this is truly a blessing.”