The best college job I could have asked for

April 30, 2018

The Prospector Spring 2018 Staff.

College is what I did in between being an editor at The Prospector.

Shaking caffeinated hands with bags so heavy under my eyes I could almost feel their weight.

It was a Monday.

But not just a typical Monday of classes, or a 9 to 5 job. No, another Monday at The Prospector, where your deepest-held frustrations and delusions somehow always end up coming out late into the night, long after the sororities and fraternities leave the Union after their Monday meetings.

But then, at some point, either driving home on an empty I-10 or the next morning when there’s donuts at the office, it hits you. Every late night it was worth it.

During my time here, I interviewed many El Paso figures, from Beto O’Rourke to President Diana Natalicio, shot every sport in the city, photographed Elton John, Green Day, Logic and Future (to name a few), met tons of El Pasoans and people who were visiting for the first time, hired staffers, fired staffers, played matchmaker, fell in love, was heartbroken, got over it, would get so stressed I would cry, would laugh so hard I would cry, made friendships that will last the rest of my life, traveled to Austin, New York and D.C. to accept awards, was rejected by countless internships, was accepted to some internships and even lived in the Pacific Northwest for a summer, where I had my work picked up by the Associated Press and got into a Kendrick Lamar concert as a reviewer.

But most importantly because of this job, I learned who I am. 

I learned that it is possible to throw a bunch of personality types, who would have never found each other, into a room together and work hard to brainstorm, communicate, mess up, try again, submit stories, send them to the printer, and then do it all over again.

I loved being photo editor for three years. Being able to mentor photographers and teach them while also learning myself was the best. The thing is, I was too comfortable. I was too happy in a sense. When asked to be editor-in-chief, how could I say no? My EICs while I was photo editor—Jasmine Aguilar, Lorain Watters, Amanda Guillen and Luis Gonzalez—each knew how to write. I didn’t think I did.

 

But I learned that if you set your mind to something and learn from observation and practice, you can accomplish it.

Going to college in El Paso, I was able to benefit way more as a photographer and journalist than I would have in any small college town. As a freelance photographer, I was able to shoot everything, from weddings, to working for real estate businesses and everything in between.

As a journalist, I won awards for coverage of events on the U.S./Mexico border and preserving Mexican-American culture, which I would have never experienced had I not stayed home.

There are two things I have constantly been told these last five years. The first was being asked if I get paid for the pictures I take and working at the Prospector. Yes, the answer is always yes. I understand my value as a photographer and it’s very rare I would ever do anything for free.

The second was more of a statement than a question, “you’re so lucky.” Although to some extent that may have been true and I know intentions are pure when those words are said, the fact is it was much more hard work than it was luck.

I willingly sacrificed sleep, time, sometimes not showing up for class and frankly my health for this job because I knew it would pay off in the long run and being able to cover what I did, meet the people I did and have access to the places I did were just some of the perks.

I’m so grateful I was able to start working here only a few weeks after starting my college career. Although, I am not the same person I was in the fall of 2013. I was lost, as most freshmen are. I was majoring in advertising, which I find hilarious now since I’ve developed a crazy passion for journalism ethics and staying away from manipulation and biases as much as possible. Sorry Vero.

I ended up changing my major to digital media production, where I worked with some very talented film students to produce videos. My favorite memories about being a DMP student were when Ramon Villa took a group of us to work on a documentary in Peru as part of study abroad and when Sabiha Khan had us work on documentaries of our choice and chose me as a director. Those were such great experiences that really reminded me if I ever have the opportunity to work on documentaries, I will.

At the start of 2017, after I had been EIC for a year and was on track to graduate after four years, I realized I wasn’t ready. Even though I already had experience and knew I wanted to work in a newsroom, I still wanted more time. I ended up double majoring in multimedia journalism and it was such a great decision.

The Prospector Fall 2014 staff passes out our 100-page Centennial Issue at Minerpalooza.

Just in this last year, I saw so much happen that was great for the journalism department, especially the resurrection of the NAHJ (National Association of Hispanic Journalists) UTEP chapter. Dino Chiecchi, thank you for helping get a group of us together to do so.

As one of the highest Hispanic-populated campuses in the country, having a group that fights for the inclusion of Hispanics in newsrooms is so important and I’m glad we were able to bring in Pulitzer Prize-winning speakers to inspire students.

I am excited to see where the organization goes next.

Here at The Prospector, I took a semester break to focus in on six journalism classes and freelance work then came back for one last semester as EIC. I thought I had seen it all and experienced it all and was frankly maxed out on Prospector best friends, but clearly that was not the case.

Kathleen Flores, thank you for encouraging me to come back for one more round. I know your love was tough, but it was the love and mentorship I needed. You pushed me to do more and be better and I can’t tell you how grateful I’ve been for that and how much it will help me in life. I also think the toughness rubbed off on me a bit, in the best way possible.

Vero Gonzalez, I have no idea what I would have done without you these last five years. Our connection grew stronger every single year and all of your advice helped me make some pretty crucial decisions. Thank you for showing all of us how to stay level-headed and put on a smile on the tough days and under deadline. We needed it. Wherever life takes you next, I’m jealous of whoever gets to work with you.

Marcy Luna, I’m going to continue to bring you postcards for your collection after I leave. Thank you for your immense love and support for all of the students. You hugging me and telling me you were proud of me each time I received a promotion or internship meant so much to me.

Isabel Castillo, I’m going to miss laughing with you at all the little things that are constantly happening in this office. Thank you for all the laughs and everything you do for this place.

Jasmine, Amanda, Luis Gonzalez, Andrea Acosta, Javier Cortez and Jose Soto: thank you guys for letting me into your lives. You are some of the most interesting and talented people I know and the memories we made together while at the Prospector were some of the craziest times I’ve ever experienced. From searching for the “homeless student” in the Union, to somehow going out to drink after some production nights, to creating a 100-page Centennial newspaper, to exploring the streets of New York and D.C., we experienced so much together and learned so much from one another and you all are truly my best friends and will continue to be long after this place.

Maria Esquinca, we are so similar in the sense, we know how to work hard and play hard. I love you and your realness so much and know you have never judged me and your empathy and willingness to listen and understand others is truly admirable.

Aaron Montes and Veronica Cook, thank you both for helping me get started as a staff photographer when I was just a clueless freshman and continuing to be there to help me with new opportunities currently. Both of you are amazing at what you do and I’m so grateful you were able to pass on some knowledge to me.

Rene Delgadillo, it’s almost hard to believe I have a friend as good as you are. My secret keeper and the first person I call when I’m having a breakdown. Thank you for everything. You have such a big heart and your willingness to always work harder in whatever you do is always a reminder to me to do the same. I can’t wait until you get to tell your kids about their crazy Aunt Michaela and all of the ridiculous things we did together.

Christian Vasquez, my favorite person to share all my sarcastic and cynical thoughts with. From China Man to teen anarchist to reporting on Capitol Hill, your transformation is truly inspiring—how have you not been on Oprah? Thanks for being a great copy editor as I started my EIC journey and helping me stay grounded during all my freakouts. I have no doubt one day you will be on all the bylines for some crazy investigation you cracked. And I’ll get to say, “oh hey, I think I knew that guy.”

Adrian Broaddus, I can’t wait to see you become Nardwuar 2.0, who also interviews the hottest athletes out there. I’m so glad I hired you. Fine, I’m so glad Javi and I hired you. You are the epitome of a hardworking student journalist and my favorite frat boy ever.

Gaby Velasquez, what would this place even be right now if I hadn’t slid in the DMs and asked if you were interested in joining? Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. Believe me, I know it’s not easy, but you really have done everything you can and your hard work is already starting to pay off. I’m glad The Prospector is in good hands.

Jeremy Carranco, if I could dunk on you, I would. I’m going to miss seeing your extreme facial reactions on a daily basis and writing down the hilarious things you say. You were always nice to me even when I probably didn’t deserve it and there for me and I’m always going to appreciate that.

Elenie Gonzalez, from interviewing “Bae-to,” to blurry nights together and some important talks, I’ve appreciated your friendships and willingness to report on anything and everything, and I can’t think of anyone more suited to become an editor next. We’ll go to NOLA soon.

Daniel (Curly) Mendez, it still makes me laugh the first time we met and talked was at ACL in a crowd of people after watching Jay-Z instead of here in this office. A lot happened in the short time we got to know each other and I’ll never forget any of it.

Brianna Chavez, Gigi Flores, Jake Deven, Isaiah Ramirez, Jason Green, Claudia Hernandez and Sergio Muñoz, I hope you guys have fun here and make the most of your time before graduating. Thanks for the laughs and all your hard work.

There are so many others that played a huge role in my time in this newsroom. Christopher Zacherl and Jaime Quezada, we had so much fun making Jaime Picks Up and laughing around the office. Edwin Delgado and Luis Barrio, I’ll never forget spending a whole spring break with you two covering the C-USA basketball tournament and other games. Diego Burciaga, Ana Ramos and Alejandra Gonzalez, you were the best layout editors to work with and you taught me so much in the sweetest ways. Eric Vasquez and Angel Ulloa, you two are hilarious and have the best hearts. Thanks for all the fun and adventures.

I also truly could not have made it through all the stress and good times without the support of my friends and family. Thank you for always being there for me when I needed someone to vent to. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to have such an amazing support system.

After graduation, I will be moving to New York to work as a Knight CUNY-j (City University of New York journalism school) fellow where I will train with other students in the diversity initiative and work with Starfish Media Group.

 

There is no doubt in my mind the Prospector is what got me there.

Michaela Román may NOT be reached at [email protected]

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