By: Yadira Y. Caro
In the shifting news landscape, Univision’s news coverage continues gaining relevance. With a growing Hispanic population in the US and many watching from their own countries abroad, Univision’s journalistic team informs first, and second generation immigrants, and even those from later generations on stories relevant to issues in their region and the US. They also serve as advocates for the people.
Selymar Colon has been a driving force behind this continued growth in Univision telling the stories of the people while finding new ways to reach them. As VicePresident and Editor in Chief of News Digital, she has been a champion of digital integration since she started in Univision in 2006 after graduating college. She joined the news company as a field producer and continued rising through the ranks becoming a producer for Al Punto with Jorge Ramos. Her work has been awarded national and regional Emmys, named one of the Top 40 under 40 in latino Politics by Huffington Post and most recently, won along her team a World Press Photo Award.
In this interview, Selymar shared what drove her to journalism, the value of mentorship to advance professionally and how she stays informed.
Can you describe what you do?
I am a digital journalist in a newsroom where our main focus is the Hispanic Latino community in the United States. At Univision we have such a close relationship with our audience; that is extremely privileged. We cover the issues that matter to them, things that are happening in the United States that impact their lives, and headlines from the countries that would be of interest to them here as well. A big part of what we do is service journalism which is key to our audience to help them understand how the immigration system works in this country, how it impacts their lives. Obviously a big part of the audience is immigrant so this is information that it’s useful to them.
You studied journalism in your Bachelors (at Lynn University) and your Masters degree (at Florida International University). How did you know you wanted to be a journalist?
This is a little bit cliché, but the reality is I always wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and I remember when hurricanes or major natural disasters would happen, the journalist felt kind of part of your family. They were the ones guiding you through the emergencies, through the news. I found that instant connection when I saw how much help they were bringing to the community and that’s what attracted me the most to the news: how can I be that guiding force, that guiding light in the community, how can we uplift voices that might not have anywhere to share their story, to get help. So that’s what interested me the most about the field of journalism.
Are there any misconceptions about what you do or about journalism?
Right now it is a difficult time for journalists all over the world. 2018 was one of the toughest and bloodiest years of journalism in the Americas. Mexico has become the bloodiest and most dangerous country to be a journalist. The rhetoric the President of the United States uses against journalists does not help either.
I think in any democracy, keeping a healthy press is extremely important. Also, its important for its citizens to make their own conclusions to what is happening in the country and the laws that are being enacted and may affect them. So I think in general, right now the time it’s difficult, but at the same time, it’s interesting because you’re seeing more journalistic work that is excelling, just going beyond to what we were doing before. Its gaining even more purpose. There are more people that are backing the good journalism that helps them conduct their daily lives and keep democracies alive.
Since you started over a decade ago in journalism, what are significant changes that you’ve see on either the way you perform your job or overall in the trends in journalism?
We usually say a good journalist is a good journalist regardless of the times. I think technology has helped journalism and it’s the key that, like in any other industry, has made the biggest changes. In journalism in particular, technology had helped journalists gather and analyze better data and information to provide better reports. On the other hand, it has also allowed journalists tell their stories in various formats that reach bigger audiences that are further from them. Probably five years ago, ten years ago, people were used to their local newspaper, and now they read them on an app, they read them on their desktop, on their smart TV.
Technology has made a big change for consumers on how they consume news and for journalists in helping us gather better information and analyze it. Probably in some cases, you don’t have to go physically to a location to gather the data, you can create that data even from various sources, analyze it and include it in a story.
How is a regular day for you? Do you have to be constantly connected?
Yes, it does come with the job to be almost all the time connected! I have push notifications from any and all major news organizations. There are some apps like Nozzle that do help you better see what’s trending, give you a sense of what people are sharing in your own network. So it’s through a combination of apps and social networks; and push notifications are key to stay connected at least on breaking news and announcements.
Do reach out, do find that mentor, and when you get that mentor, use their time smart and wisely. Know what you want to get of that relationship, and that’s going to help you tremendously in your career.Selymar Colon
You’re leading a team of journalists. Is there any particular approach you have for management?
To communicate, to talk to people, to listen is really important. It’s something that even though if I keep a busy schedule, I try to do as much as I can to have one-on-ones, to listen to everybody in the meetings. Also I leave the journalism team some space if there are projects that they want to push forward. I think that’s really important because the day to day and the breaking news can consume you.
I think as a woman in this role, it’s also important to also leverage other female voices in the newsroom and not just the journalists. Also in the stories that we tell, and the voices we use as sources as well.
What advice do you have for women who either want to venture in technology or communications?
Get mentors, don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship. If you see someone that you might think ‘Oh my God, this person has such a big title and so much responsibility,’ the worst you can get from that person is a ‘No.’ Then you move on and you find someone else you want to talk to. Do reach out, do find that mentor, and when you get that mentor, use their time smart and wisely as well. Know what you want to get of that relationship, and that’s going to help you tremendously in your career.
Sometimes it’s good to also keep a balance of who those mentors are. There might be people that are directly in your industry of preference, but there could also be someone who is not in your industry, but its in a field or in a position that you might want to get to, or from an interest that you gain in some point in your career. It’s also good to hear from everyone, from other people what their experiences are. More often than not, I would say that people would be open to meet you, to talk to you on the phone and share with you their stories, share with you some of their experiences. After you have that information, use it for your benefit, take from that conversation what you think suits you the best and apply it.
Are there any two or three resources, either podcast books or anything that have helped you throughout your career?
I would say one thing besides the mentorship, is continued education. There are fields where continued education is mandatory, there are some where it’s not. Even if it’s not, we should always pursue continued education. I’ve taken some executive education courses, and I’m always looking for more of those because those are good places to continue to grow, to continue to learn. Attending conferences it’s also really important, and if you can’t go physically at least follow them and read about them on blogs.
All of the podcast I listen to have nothing to do with my field. I do like a lot How I Built This, because of the inspiration it provides. This goes hand in hand with the mentorship and learning from people that are probably in another industry. It helps learning from their career paths and how they made it. I listen to another one called Latina to Latina from Alicia Menendez. Its really good and empowering because I discover a lot of new voices of powerful and interesting Latinas in the United States; their stories are just magical. I do like another one called the Washington Post Retro Pod, which gives you 5 minute history snippets. I’m a little bit of a history buff.
In the morning, morning podcasts are really important of course. Up First from NPR and The Daily are my two go-to podcast every morning. For reading, The Nieman Lab is really good, it’s a website that gives you new things that are happening from most organizations.
Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview?