“Reportando con nuestros compañeros en Illinois State University….”
“Reporting with our partners at Illinois State University.” The words roll out of the announcer’s mouth on an early morning, and thousands tune in to hear it.
Two Illinois State students working with the University’s TV-10 station are creating pieces for the morning news show “Primera Hora” (“First Hour”) on Univision Chicago. The two-minute segments can range from keeping Latinx culture alive on a college campus to mental health stigmas in the Hispanic community. Graduate student Ana Belmonte of Venezuela, and senior Diego Hernandez of Orland Hills, Illinois, generate ideas, conduct research and interviews, and produce the pieces.
“These are serious journalistic stories, and they are treated as such by Univision,” said TV-10 Director Laura Trendle-Polus, who helped coordinate the collaboration between TV-10 and Univision Chicago. “We were lucky to find Ana and Diego.”
Belmonte is a journalist who worked at the newspaper El Norte in Venezuela and held marketing jobs in Ecuador and Chile before deciding to return to graduate school in communication. A writer with certification in digital media, she said she always had a secret desire to step in front of the camera. “This is a dream come true,” said Belmonte. “We can explore interesting stories and meet incredible Hispanic professionals on campus.”
Univision is the nation’s largest provider of Spanish-language content, followed by Telemundo. It averages 3 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. Based in New York City, the company has affiliates across the United States, including the popular Chicago station, which Univision purchased in 1994.
Hernandez was already acquainted with the station when he was selected for the camera/production job with TV-10. “I had an internship at Univision through the Illinois Broadcasters Association, so I knew the anchors who would work with us,” said Hernandez. Though many of his relatives speak Spanish, Hernandez was originally hesitant to take the internship because English is his first language. “The people at Univision were really supportive, and it was a great experience, so I was excited to work with them again.”
Belmonte and Hernandez connected with Director of the Honors Program Rocío Rivadeneyra, who serves as the chair of the Organization of Latino Employees (OLÉ) at the University, to identify experts who could conduct interviews in Spanish. “It is so impressive, all the professionals from Hispanic backgrounds that we have here,” said Belmonte. “We use the resources that we have to create stories we know will engage the audience.”
A recent favorite story of both Belmonte and Hernandez was one on addiction. “The new addiction to vaping, addiction to cell phones—these are things people are talking about,” said Hernandez. “People learn about issues and see students and faculty from ISU working on them.”
Associate Dean Joe Blaney originally generated the idea to connect TV-10 with Univision. “TV-10 has established itself as the best campus content producer in Illinois. This initiative was the logical extension of relationships we have built with the Chicago broadcast community,” said Blaney. “It’s an exceptional experience for our students and reinforces ISU’s commitment to serving Illinois’ changing population.”
The partnership with Univision is currently a graduate assistantship. Belmonte hopes the collaboration will continue after she and Hernandez graduate. “The program is an amazing compliment to the University, of the work that is being done here,” said Belmonte. “I love it when the announcers introduce a piece with the phrase, ‘Our partners at Illinois State University.’”