AU students and faculty launch D.C.’s first NAHJ student chapter

Chapter hopes to help Hispanic students pursue journalism careers

AU students and faculty launch D.C.’s first NAHJ student chapter

AU NAHJ members meet at faculty advisor Bill Gentile’s house in August.

AU students and faculty launched the first student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) in Washington this fall, according to the chapter’s faculty advisor and AU professor Bill Gentile.

Gentile, who is a documentary filmmaker, said he has done the “vast majority of (his) most important work as a professional” outside of the country, including in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It’s nice to be at the front of the pack,” Gentile said. “We’re setting a standard here. We’re making a statement. But it’s sad that of all these many universities and colleges [in Washington], we’re the only one that has such a chapter.”

Gentile is also a member of the Diversity Committee for the School of Communication (SOC). He said that the creation of the chapter helps achieve one of SOC’s goals of diversifying the media profession.

“We want more Hispanics, we want more African-Americans to be out there working in the media,” he said. “It’s important to diversify the people who work in the media so that people of color can have their stories told by people who understand their stories at a really fundamental level.”

Joining the NAHJ means becoming a part of “one of the most powerful networks that any student can build,” Gentile said.

Patricia Guadalupe, a journalist and president of NAHJ’s D.C. chapter, is happy to see the founding of the AU chapter.

“I thinks it’s awesome, I think it’s great that ... we have a student chapter” in D.C., Guadalupe said. “I’m hoping to see some more and I’m glad that American University students are interested in this and I look forward to working with the students and with the chapter.”

Guadalupe has plans to attend a panel to discuss the upcoming midterm elections with members of AU NAHJ, she said. She also hopes to do more “student outreach” in the D.C. area to encourage the formation of other chapters.

Other D.C. universities have attempted to form NAHJ chapters, but those attempts have not been “concrete,” Guadalupe said.

Laura Romero, AU sophomore and president of AU NAHJ, said it’s important that students are aware of the opportunities the organization provides.

“If you know someone from the field you are interested in, you will have an upper hand -- and NAHJ provides that,” she said in an email.

Romero attended the NAHJ International Training Conference and Career Fair in Miami in July with Gentile. The mission of the conference was to allow NAHJ members to “network with a diverse community” and to “advance careers and develop leaders in the newsroom,” according to its website.

At the conference, Romero met Janette Luviano, the news director of NBC Telemundo. That helped her become an intern for NBC this semester, she said.

Romero’s plans for the chapter include having professional guest speakers, hosting workshops for students and preparing for the 2019 NAHJ conference, she said.

AU NAHJ member Amaya Gomez told The Eagle that if AU had not founded a chapter of NAHJ, she would have joined AU’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

“As a senior, I’m really looking towards the future and I just thought that this would just be a good opportunity to network with people who understand me culturally,” she said.

Amy Eisman, who serves as the director of AU’s journalism program, helped launch the opening of AU NAHJ, according to the University’s website.

“I’m so, so proud that the group pulled this together,” Eisman told The Eagle. “It’s kind of a confluence of events: a growing community, a more diverse student body, a journalism (field) that desperately needs help in getting students of color into the industry and Bill Gentile.”

In addition to being an example for other D.C. universities to start their own NAHJ chapters, Gentile said his goals for the group go beyond the DMV.

“I want AU’s chapter to be the most vibrant, the most connected, the most influential chapter of this organization in the country,” Gentile said.

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