Alba Mendiola was on the prime of her profession about seven years in the past. As an investigative journalist for Telemundo in Chicago, she had received seven Emmys in 16 years.
It was at that pinnacle that Mendiola determined to go away 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 12 months 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 powerful concentrate on information literacy and media ethics. All the 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 telephone whereas she was visiting household in Mexico throughout summer time break. She talked about making the leap from journalism to training and why probably the most tech-savvy technology of scholars nonetheless wants a guiding hand to navigate the media panorama.
EdSurge: You had lots of success as a broadcast journalist, and also you had been main Telemundo Chicago’s client investigations unit earlier than you turned a trainer. Why did you desire a change?
Alba Mendiola: My college students, they at all times ask me, “Why did you permit?”
It is like, “Why not?” [Laughs.]
I at all times mentioned that the one factor I remorse just isn’t leaving sooner. I actually get pleasure from being a trainer. I at all times used this analogy: It’s like going up a mountain. I made a decision to stop once I was on the prime of my profession and begin a brand new undertaking and new mountain.
And I am completely happy doing what I am doing, instructing college students, serving to them develop their vital pondering abilities. By doing this job, it is identical 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 means of the Archdiocese [of Chicago] the place I used to be instructing adults in a job readiness program. Most people in my class had been ladies who had been victims of home violence, or low-income.
Simply being in a classroom and realizing that you just’re altering any person’s life, it’s totally shifting. 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. If you had been creating the category, what was your imaginative and prescient?
I wrote an op-ed in La Raza known as “La alfabetización mediática es un derecho civil” — media literacy is a human proper. And that is the place I specific my thought for the category, saying that the scholars on this technology, they’re born within the digital period and it is nearly embedded. They know methods to open these apps, and lots of 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 simply barely bear in mind what a landline is. They do not watch tv the best way that we watch tv. Every part 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 notch 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 might be watching commercials. They’re making an attempt to make you purchase one thing or make you do one thing and never essentially informing you. So it’s essential 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 aim for this class is to attempt to develop their vital pondering abilities. 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, perhaps sooner or later they are often leaders, as nicely. Particularly realizing the variations between info and deceptive information. Lately it has been an enormous downside in the US.
Why do you assume it’s vital for this sort of class to be bilingual?
We could possibly be from completely different nations — 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 be taught English, however they nonetheless wanna know what is going on of their nation.
I can inform you proper now — and media literacy typically, this isn’t only for college students, it’s for adults, too — they generally don’t know methods to acknowledge info from fiction.
Now with AI, it is so tough to acknowledge. To provide you an instance, my mother lives right here in Mexico. She’s 82, however let me inform you, this girl has her iPhone, she outlets 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 the event 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 photos which have been posted on-line. For instance, a child who’s in a cage. The way in which they write that story, it could possibly be deceptive. So we be taught all about how they will manipulate photos, 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 undertaking.”
And when you make them do it, then they understand how onerous it’s. I’d say, “Again within the day, journalists who had 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’ve got a telephone, you possibly can reside stream from wherever on the earth and no person’s gonna be checking if you’re appropriate or in case your info are appropriate or not.”
As soon as they begin doing what it takes to document the video and write a narrative and or write a podcast, that is after they understand, “Oh boy. This takes effort and time to essentially get it performed proper.”
I feel the half that strikes them probably 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 among the very first models that we do. After which on the finish, they need to create one thing and so they understand, “I can not give my opinion on this.” No, you need to attempt to write a narrative in a means that you just simply current all of the info, and your readers or your listeners or your viewers need to decide of if it is proper or unsuitable, if it is good or unhealthy.
What else would you like individuals to learn about your class?
I am so honored that the Information Literacy Mission nominated me for this award. That is huge 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 yet 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 check math. That does not imply that you just’re gonna turn into a mathematician. You research 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 scores work, and that’s a part of what information literacy is about. In science class, how the expertise 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 had been written about. After which my favourite is what I do in language lessons. You’ll be able to analyze information in Spanish, in Portuguese, in German, in Polish, some other language.
All people must understand how information works. So that’s my little contribution, and I invite lecturers to contemplate this, particularly as a result of the Information Literacy Mission already has classes for you, so it is going to be simpler so that you can plan your day.