Alba Mendiola was on the high of her profession about seven years in the past. As an investigative journalist for Telemundo in Chicago, she had gained seven Emmys in 16 years.
It was at that pinnacle that Mendiola determined to depart journalism for one more dream — she needed to be a trainer.
Now the previous broadcaster has reached a brand new milestone because the recipient of the Information Literacy Mission’s Alan C. Miller Educator of the Yr award.
The nonprofit acknowledged Mendiola for her work at Cristo Rey Jesuit Excessive Faculty in Chicago, the place she created a bilingual broadcast journalism class with a robust give attention to information literacy and media ethics. The entire faculty’s college students are bilingual in English and Spanish, and so they come from households with restricted monetary assets.
EdSurge caught up with Mendiola by way of cellphone whereas she was visiting household in Mexico throughout summer time break. She talked about making the leap from journalism to training and why essentially the most tech-savvy era of scholars nonetheless wants a guiding hand to navigate the media panorama.
EdSurge: You had numerous success as a broadcast journalist, and also you have been main Telemundo Chicago’s client investigations unit earlier than you grew to become a trainer. Why did you need a change?
Alba Mendiola: My college students, they all the time ask me, “Why did you permit?”
It is like, “Why not?” [Laughs.]
I all the time mentioned that the one factor I remorse will not be leaving sooner. I actually get pleasure from being a trainer. I all the time used this analogy: It’s like going up a mountain. I made a decision to stop once I was on the high of my profession and begin a brand new mission and new mountain.
And I am blissful doing what I am doing, instructing college students, serving to them develop their vital pondering expertise. By doing this job, it is similar to, I am in heaven.
On this job, you possibly can mix your love of journalism with instructing. The place did you get your love of instructing? Is that one thing that got here from your loved ones?
I used to be a tv reporter in Mexico, then I stop to comply with my [American] boyfriend — now my husband — to the U.S.
After I got here to the U.S., I did a volunteer program by the Archdiocese [of Chicago] the place I used to be instructing adults in a job readiness program. Most people in my class have been ladies who have been victims of home violence, or low-income.
Simply being in a classroom and figuring out that you just’re altering someone’s life, it’s totally transferring. However then I had this journalism bug in me. I went again [to journalism] and labored at Telemundo for 16 years. So instructing, it isn’t new to me.
You pitched this broadcast journalism class to your faculty. Whenever you have been creating the category, what was your imaginative and prescient?
I wrote an op-ed in La Raza referred to as “La alfabetización mediática es un derecho civil” — media literacy is a human proper. And that is the place I specific my concept for the category, saying that the scholars on this era, they’re born within the digital period and it is virtually embedded. They know open these apps, and numerous their info comes from their information feeds. However the actuality is that they actually do not know the way it works and what it takes to do it.
These children, they only barely bear in mind what a landline is. They do not watch tv the way in which that we watch tv. Every little thing is altering, and it isn’t their fault. It is how the world is evolving, and they should perceive the ethics of making info.
As a result of one of many questions I ask them in my top quality is, “Do you wanna learn or do you wanna be influenced?” As a result of they’re on a regular basis on their TikTok or their Instagram taking a look at these feeds. You’re watching commercials. They’re attempting to make you purchase one thing or make you do one thing and never essentially informing you. So you have to be just a little bit skeptical. Generally [students] do not know what the distinction is from a industrial to a information story.
So we go over these classes, and my objective for this class is to attempt to develop their vital pondering expertise. They’ve to know how the media works. As soon as they perceive how that works and get engaged and take part within the democratic course of and are making their very own selections, possibly sooner or later they are often leaders, as properly. Particularly figuring out the variations between info and deceptive information. Not too long ago it has been an enormous downside in the US.
Why do you suppose it’s vital for this kind of class to be bilingual?
We might be from completely different international locations — Venezuelans and Mexicans and Colombians and Cubans — however on the finish of the day, what retains us collectively is the language. Many [immigrants] come right here and so they study English, however they nonetheless wanna know what is occurring of their nation.
I can let you know proper now — and media literacy generally, this isn’t only for college students, it’s for adults, too — they often don’t know acknowledge info from fiction.
Now with AI, it is so troublesome to acknowledge. To provide you an instance, my mother lives right here in Mexico. She’s 82, however let me let you know, this lady has her iPhone, she retailers on-line, she’s very tech savvy.
However she will get this the place you see Biden, you possibly can hear his voice in a press convention, and he says one thing like, “Yeah, the UFOs have landed. Yeah, we all know that is taking place.”
And my mother was like, “What is that this?” After which I’m like, “No, mother, that’s faux. That is not actual.”
In case you go onto the Information Literacy Mission, within the classes, there is a bunch of knowledge there about immigration, additionally — how immigration has been written about in numerous newspapers and thru footage which were posted on-line. For instance, a child who’s in a cage. The best way they write that story, it might be deceptive. So we study all about how they will manipulate footage, how they will manipulate info to get your consideration.
Do the scholars get hands-on expertise reporting a narrative?
We create podcasts, we create visuals, we create movies. They get excited once I say, “OK, let’s work on a video mission.”
And when you make them do it, then they notice how onerous it’s. I’d say, “Again within the day, journalists who have been skilled in ethics labored on a narrative and gave it to you. It is already curated for you. And now anyone with a cellphone can name themselves a journalist. When you have a cellphone, you possibly can stay stream from wherever on the earth and no one’s gonna be checking if you’re right or in case your info are right or not.”
As soon as they begin doing what it takes to report the video and write a narrative and or write a podcast, that is after they notice, “Oh boy. This takes effort and time to actually get it accomplished proper.”
I feel the half that strikes them essentially the most, and it will get the “aha” second after we go over bias. All of us have it, and it is OK. Now we simply must be acutely aware about it. I like to see that as a result of this is likely one of the very first items that we do. After which on the finish, they should create one thing and so they notice, “I can not give my opinion on this.” No, it’s a must to attempt to write a narrative in a method that you just simply current all of the info, and your readers or your listeners or your viewers should decide of if it is proper or fallacious, if it is good or unhealthy.
What else would you like folks to find out about your class?
I am so honored that the Information Literacy Mission nominated me for this award. That is massive for our Latino communities as a result of this group is not only recognizing me. They’re recognizing the necessity for bilingual training in media literacy.
And another factor: I bear in mind one other reporter requested me, so why is media literacy vital? Usually, faculty districts connect the information literacy unit or this subject to the English class. However I’ve a special opinion about that, and I wrote that in my op-ed, that you do not have to be a mathematician to review math. That does not imply that you just’re gonna turn into a mathematician. You examine science, that does not imply you are gonna be a scientist.
What I attempt to say is that for instance, in math class, you possibly can have the scholars studying how rankings work, and that’s a part of what information literacy is about. In science class, how the know-how measures tornadoes for the climate section. Or in historical past class, you possibly can analyze outdated newspapers and see how sure occasions in historical past have been written about. After which my favourite is what I do in language lessons. You may analyze information in Spanish, in Portuguese, in German, in Polish, another language.
Everyone must know the way information works. So that’s my little contribution, and I invite academics to think about this, particularly as a result of the Information Literacy Mission already has classes for you, so it will likely be simpler so that you can plan your day.