Columbia Journalism School

5/24/12 | INTERVIEW

Fellows on the Move: Ingrid Rojas, Multimedia Producer, Univision News

On May 7, ABC News and Univision News officially announced their plans to launch a new 24-hour English-language news channel catering to U.S. Latinos. Just days before, we caught up with their main multimedia producer, and former duPont Research Fellow, Ingrid Rojas. 

Ingrid Rojas graduated from the Columbia Journalism School in May 2011 and within months began working at Univision News. Univision News is a sister news outlet to the Spanish-language Univision Noticias, and launched on in April 2011 uniquely targeting English-speaking “acculturated Hispanics.”

After nine months as the lone multimedia producer for Univision News, which occupies a niche between startup and microsite, Rojas is among those paving the way for future digital journalists. With the more traditional experience of a broadcast news producer --she has edited, shot and produced for public and cable television including Bill Moyers Journal and CNN Heroes-- Rojas is now creating video packages and snippets of multimedia to capture the unpredictable attention span of web-viewing news consumers.

Ingrid_rojas_photoIngrid Rojas | Photo: Jacqueline Kook

Rojas was a duPont Research Fellow from September 2010 to May 2011. Jacqueline Kook caught up with Rojas at the Univision Studios in Miami in early May.

This interview has been edited for publication.
Jacqueline Kook: Can you explain what you do at Univision News?

Ingrid Rojas: My job is to create videos for the website. Given that Univision has offices and bureaus and correspondents in many different parts of the U.S. and in Latin America, there’s a lot of different content that comes in. Some of that content may not be as relevant for our audience, so my job is a little editorial in that sense because I decide this story is too focused on this aspect and might not be as interesting to the U.S. Latino audience so we’ll do this story rather than that one. So, I repackage a lot of what comes in. That means retracking, basically taking a story and re-doing it, using the interviews and material that somebody shot.

My job is a lot of trying to figure out what works in online video, what’s new, what people want to see. What’s the future, what’s the next thing. Creating things that are fun and maybe not as polished. Or then creating stuff that is really polished and well shot, well lighted, well crafted to have a variety of video, and not just the news package or just the documentary but also have more raw things. But that’s just the Tumblr. I don’t know how things will change with the website. So yeah, my job is to plan for our video site on the Tumblr page.

JK: Is there someone like you for the Univision website? Someone who repackages television content and makes different kinds of video?

IR: Univision has a Spanish website, but the way that website was started and the way it works right now, it’s not integrated into the newsroom. There’s kind of a separation between them. So the people who started our [Univision News] website, what they want is to have a truly integrated newsroom. To have the digital and the broadcast to be enmeshed so that the website becomes a more vibrant destination and not just a repository of what airs on broadcast. So we don’t function too closely with that website. We’re from the ground up. [Univision Noticias] is doing it’s own thing and we are doing our own thing.

JK: When you’re thinking of what’s working for online video and what’s happening, how do you decide that?

IR: I follow a lot of what other websites are doing and the response that they’re getting. I look at blogs, read online about what other people say. There are great websites that have a lot of information about that. And because we’re on Tumblr there’s a lot of room for experimentation, which I think is a good thing. We’ve done things that we’ve spent a lot of time on and they’ve tanked. Or we’ve done something, like someone just went and captured a little fight on the street and that did really well. We just kind of experiment and we see what happens.

JK: What are your favorite blogs?

IR: is very good. They always have great interviews. I think Abi [Wright] was in one of those interviews. I always look at the New York Times, what they do. The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian. MediaStorm.

JK: And those are all different.

IR: Yeah. And The Daily Beast also has a lot of video.

JK: What’s a question that you often wrestle with or a question that you’ve been wrestling with lately about how you can do your job better?

IR: Well, I’m constantly trying to think of ways to get more viewers, to get people engaged, to get people to react. So, I guess just trying to figure out what works and improve on things that we’re already doing. And, be creative, address the different niches. Like the people who are interested in economics, the people who are interested in entertainment, social media; to do a variety of things.

JK: How did being at Columbia help set you up for or lead you into this work?

IR: I had already been working in TV and did a little bit of journalism before I went to J-school, but I didn’t have a journalism background that was very strong. I wanted to be introduced from the ground up. I think I went to J-school at a moment when all this interesting stuff was happening. It wasn’t just at the cutting of edge of when Twitter just started. Twitter had already been going on for a while so there was enough time to have somebody like Sree [Srinivasan] really develop an interesting curriculum. That was a great introduction because I didn’t know much about social media. I mean I had a Twitter and a Facebook, but I didn’t really know how to use it.

So that was a great introduction and I had some great classes on the future of journalism. I mean, now working here, I’m like, ‘Aw man I wish could go back to school!’ [laughs] and try to get some of those answers. When I was leaving, Emily Bell had just come in to the new Tow center. I think now I would love to go back again.

JK: What do you miss about the J-school or Columbia? Well, is there anything that you miss?

IR: Well, I miss being in an environment where you’re learning and all your time is devoted to learning and practicing. When you work, it’s like you’re working and you’re kind of learning on the go. Being a student is a great position to be in. I miss my professors and the environment is really stimulating.

JK: What’s your fondest memory of working at the duPont Awards?

IR: Well, the ceremony. I met Robert Siegel. I had a small conversation with him. We had a little conversation that was kind of meaningful. I met Ira Glass, I met Maria Hinojosa –briefly. You know you meet all these personalities that you’re like, ‘Wow.’ They’re always kind of like your heroes in journalism. That was very cool. And you get to see all the winners, and also to get a glimpse into the decision-making process. The questions that the jurors ask and how they award and on what basis. It’s all very interesting.

JK: The ceremony is definitely a highlight. Each winner puts so much heart into each speech.

So in working, have you come across many J-schoolers?

IR: I work with a lot of them, one... two...three…well, four. I work with like four or five. One of them is in Mexico. Another one is in DC. And the rest of us are here.

JK: So the J-school connection is very much alive. If you were to give advice to new J-schoolers, what would you say to the ones who want to pursue multimedia journalism or digital journalism?

IR: I think the people that want to do that right now are in the best positions because everybody is getting trained on those skills. When I got here, I noticed that people were like, ‘Wow! You can shoot and edit and report.’ People were really impressed by that. But, in New York, or in the environment that I was in [before], that was kind of common. In a way. I have a lot of friends that can shoot and edit and report. If you can position yourself in a place where they will value your skills, that would be good. Because, if you’re one of many, you know, in New York, there’s a lot of people that can maybe do that. But if you’re in a smaller market perhaps they might be more impressed...

But what kind of advice would I give? Just practice a lot and if you can’t get a job, do a lot of internships. You will eventually land something if you are dedicated and you show interest and initiative and passion. Everyone always appreciates that. Um, smartness. You might be really smart, but if you’re not helpful, you know [a pause] I think people have to show a lot of enthusiasm. It goes a long way.

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