While the COVID-19 pandemic may be keeping people indoors, it hasn’t stopped the first cohort of student journalists from the Univision STEP program from getting the inside scoop.
Like so many other newsrooms around the country, Univision has begun working remotely and transitioned the STEP program to remote learning to help slow the spread of the virus and protect both employees and student journalists.
The Univision STEP program, which began in spring 2020, is a paid internship experience and supplements the CAPSTONE requirement for undergraduate and graduate journalism and media students who are chosen to participate. Students have the opportunity to train with journalism and media professionals at Univision while gaining valuable work experience.
In light of the recent pandemic, the STEP program has adapted to still allow students to get a feel for working in a real newsroom while at home.
“Every week, we have several virtual meetings, now that we’re working remotely, through Webex, a video conferencing platform used by Univision employees,” says Lilliam Martínez-Bustos, FIU/Univision STEP program director.
During these meetings, students work on finding the right hook for story ideas; discuss the latest news; are given their assignments for the week; and go over a wide variety of topics, ranging from producing news graphics and newscast promos to the production of digital media content and podcasting with their instructors. Students are also able to hear from Univision media experts who discuss their professional experience and offer career advice.
As part of the program, each student is assigned to one of Univision’s stations and asked to create specific content for that audience. But, Martínez-Bustos says they also create content that can be used in other markets.
“In recent days, our students have been producing a lot of content related to COVID-19,” Martínez-Bustos says. “They’ve written short stories in Spanish, produced videos, infographics and other content to be published on the digital platforms of all Univision stations across the United States and Puerto Rico.”
So just how has working remotely changed the news-gathering process for STEP students?
With not being able to go out in the field and gather video footage, STEP students are instead using past footage from Univision’s video archives, conducting virtual interviews and doing live shots from their own homes to put news packages together.
“Not being able to leave my home has been a bit limiting,” says STEP student Karen Garcia. “However, with so many resources available to us at Univision, I’ve still been able to produce great content.”
For the students working in digital media, like Yazmine Hassan, newsgathering approach hasn’t changed much working remotely, Hassan says.
“I’m really thankful that I’ve been able to continue producing content and meeting my deadlines working from home,” adds Hassan. “I’ve seen firsthand how technology makes up such an important part of each department. Multimedia journalists have the ability to edit and go live from any location and reporters are using social media to continue engaging their viewers.”
Aside from all the COVID-19 content Univision is producing, the STEP students have also been tackling other projects like the election coverage and helping the multimedia team in Los Angeles redesign the digital and TV elements for Univision’s three-day business expo, POSiBLE.
“The STEP program has allowed me to work with some of the best professionals in the journalism and media industry,” says STEP student Juliana Viveros. "It’s really exciting to see that the work I’m producing is having a greater impact. After I leave this internship, I know I will feel much more confident and prepared to enter the workforce.”
While reporting from home has been a new experience for many reporters and student journalists alike, program instructor Dianne Fernandez believes her students have been able to hold their own and prevail despite the unprecedented circumstances.
“The program and our students have had to make big adjustments as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Fernandez. “The students have really risen to the occasion and are getting more hands-on experience as Univision newsrooms across the country cover the biggest story of our time. I’m thrilled with their efforts in time of flux and crisis.”