How an Eight-year-old Discovered a Problem in Newsrooms Before Even Getting to One

By: Izabella Grimaldo

One of the first times I walked into a newsroom was at CBS Chicago at eight-years-old. I stepped out of my westside bubble and stumbled into Chicago’s downtown- a place where suits and heels were the norm compared to the working boots back home.

I started feeling the pressure of being a first-generation student younger than eight years old, but with the pressure came the good grades and with the good grades came the free field trips. Honor roll students from Schubert Elementary school got the chance to go to CBS Chicago with one parent, have lunch with journalists and walk-through CBS Chicago’s offices.

The nerves were getting to me-with a million butterflies in my stomach- at the mention of my father’s name and mine to walk in. “Adrian and Izabella Grimaldo? You can go in now!” My heart skipped a beat. We walked over to talk to the anchors and reporters, but I remember turning away and seeing the newsroom in full action and falling in love for the first time at eight-years-old.

My relationship with news was strictly in Spanish, with Univision always on at home.  After seeing the demand, the pressure, the high-paced environment, I knew I wanted to be here, but most importantly needed to be here because no one else like me was. The room was filled with well-educated journalists, who spoke so eloquently. The only ones close to the resemblance of my dad and I were the maintenance staff who happily greeted us with “Hola, muy Buenos Dias!”- that felt like home.

I was just a child when I learned “Educated” and “Educado” are a direct translation of each other but have a very different meaning in the English and Spanish languages.  I was raised to always be Educada, well-mannered and polite. Though as I grew up, “educated” was having the highest degree you could meet and flaunt how you worked to get there.

The maintenance staff were Educados; they were kind and worked so hard surrounded by a group of people who often ignored them. I found myself torn between being next to the people who gave me a home away from home and being with those who looked at me funny for smiling at them and speaking Spanish that day, torn between being Educated and Educada.

When I decided on starting a career in journalism, I had one thing pushing me to stay-regardless of the many experiences telling me to leave: Be the person you wanted to see when you were eight years old in that newsroom. Be the one to demand representation and understanding of the diverse communities in the city.

Over 20 percent of the population in the U.S is Hispanic, with only 7.8 percent of Hispanics in newsrooms. The fact is local reporting from a diverse team is vital to journalism. It is not, however, a battle between Latino and U.S. journalism; it’s just journalism, serving the public no matter who that is.

The transitions in these communities from first-generation to second and third are happening fast and it is up to newsrooms to adapt to these changes. This starts by creating opportunities for Latinos to enter newsrooms and be there for their communities. To advocate for their stories and build a bridge of trust and communications with the community and the media.

I knew that I was an idealist- eager to tackle an issue that was far bigger than me- but now at 22 I can happily say I still hold the heart and hope an eight-year-old Latina from the West Side held then. Still demanding, still building, and still hoping for a space my colleagues and I can grow. Space where I could be both educated and educada, just as my community taught me.




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