Roberto Elguera

IMG_2578MY STORIES:

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This semester writing for Voices of Utah helped me realize the work and talent on the west side of Salt Lake City. Through meeting many new faces and seeing new places, I feel connected with the city more than ever. The city doesn’t feel like concrete slabs, shopping malls, and piercing skyscrapers. No. I see vibrant walls and hear the hissing of the spray decorating a once blank wall. I hear spoken word and mantras of encouragement coming from the local Hip-Hop artists pushing themselves to get their voices heard and put Utah on the map. I feel the care and unity in the community gathering centers. Providing spaces for youth to stretch their creative and academic skills.

The least I can do is amplify these voices and make people more aware of each person’s story. It wasn’t easy, and at times nerve-racking. But as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” There was no time, in mulling over how I was going to give a “perfect” interview, I just needed to put myself out there. At times I felt lost. No story in sight, but it was that one detail that helped me to see the bigger picture. Seeing the crowd go wild at Kilby Court helped me realize the impact the Hip-Hop scene can have on a bigger scale.

A book that helped me in my feature writing is William E. Blundell’s The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. Blundell’s story-telling and breakdown of what he’s learned in his years as a journalist, helped me understand the structure, pacing, and word selection, to help me develop my own style. 

ABOUT ME:

I’m, as you can see, Roberto Elguera. I was born in Lima, Peru, and raised in Provo, Utah. I’m now living in Salt Lake City, where I’ll be graduating as part of the 2020 class at the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis on journalism. Having a diverse background, I was always interested in people’s stories. In my career, I hope to give people the opportunity to share those experiences. Part of my time at the U included an internship at K-UTE Radio. I was able to pursue my interests in Hip-Hop culture and entertainment by hosting “The Hip Hop Drip.” I got to interview artists, partake in shows in Salt Lake City, and build my radio chops.

Ellie Cook

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The objective I found sometimes difficult was to assure the content was related to the subject we’ve focused on this semester. We had such a specific beat to focus on, and sometimes it became easy to lose sight of that focus. Neighborhoods on the west side of Salt Lake City have some individuality, but they also have a lot of similarities to other areas within the city. I found it tricky to sometimes differentiate as to why a certain story that took place in the western area of Salt Lake City needed more attention, while I could touch on the same thing in another area of the city.

I think the most moral/ethical issue I faced with this beat was being politically correct when talking about the populations in which I touched on. I didn’t want to come across as prejudiced and share inaccurate content when referring to certain classes, races, etc. and their involvement within certain areas of the city. That was a huge aspect of my articles and I needed to ensure I respected everyone regardless of race, age or class. Researching other articles written about similar subjects helped, as well as listening to the way politicians referred to these populations. I never want to sound politically incorrect, nor disrespect anyone as my goals are to represent people appropriately.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made things difficult for journalists. For me, I wasn’t able to conduct in-person interviews or visit locations I talked about within my stories. I wasn’t able to provide pictures or videos either. My compromise became contacting a giant amount of sources rather than hoping one or two would respond. This was to be sure I would have enough sources to touch on a subject, and I felt since I couldn’t visit these locations myself, interviewing more people who are there regularly would fill in some blanks for my article that I was unable to cover myself.

Overall things were pretty difficult during this time for reporting, but it was good practice for situations in which I won’t be able to get information firsthand. Many situations are out of our control, and it is important for other journalists and me to find other ways to cover stories in these troubling times.

ABOUT ME:

IMG_2367Ellie Cook studied communications with a minor in psychology at the University of Utah and graduated in the class of 2020. Some of her notable work in the communications field has been working as the fashion week coordinator for Trend Prive Magazine and as concerts vice-chair for the Associated Students of The University of Utah. Her writing work has been published in Trend Prive Magazine, U NewsWriting, and the Utah Communication History Encyclopedia. She’s also worked as a Youth Mentor at La Europea Academy, a rehabilitation home for adolescent girls that treats patients with mental health disorders, eating disorders, those suffering from substance abuse, etc. She hopes to one day combine her passion for writing and working with troubled teens and publish research articles regarding the psychology of adolescents. In her leisure time, Ellie enjoys volunteering with animals, participating in community theater, and modeling/acting for NIYA Management. 

Liam Elkington

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I had no real notion of what professional journalism looked like in practice before taking this course. All my ideas about research, sources and writing had come from classes that took a general approach. The most challenging (and the most helpful) aspect of the course was the fact that you are expected to perform the tasks of producing great reporting largely outside of class. I learned through experience that responsibility and initiative are requirements for accomplishing any form of meaningful storytelling.

Before taking this course, I had no experience working on a beat. While I was familiar with the concept, I learned to appreciate why having publications that cover specific areas and topics are vital. As I started researching the beat for this course, I started to realize just how little I knew about it. Entire communities and cultures exist within a few blocks of Salt Lake City. There are people and ideas that I would have never been exposed to if I hadn’t been looking. Now, I appreciate the purpose of a beat. There is great value in learning about people and things that are not familiar, and this is accomplished by having a group of reporters that are dedicated to telling the stories that might not otherwise get heard.

A side effect of reporting the stories of a specific community is that you learn about many of the issues that are faced by that community. Learning about immigration, homelessness and education is much different when hearing it from the perspectives of those who are actively involved in those issues. The most moving stories are the human ones, the ones that help us empathize and desire for change. In order for change to come about, these stories must exist. Reporting is vital not only for democracy, but also for our ability to care for our communities.

ABOUT ME:

Liam Elkington graduated with a BS in Communication in 2020. He has experience creating stories in multiple media formats such as audio, video and writing. Liam has shot and edited short documentaries, reported local stories and reviewed products and produced radio programs for student publications and projects. He enjoys focusing his stories on people and their perspectives, and is passionate about music journalism.

Cheyenne Peterson

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This past year, I moved to Salt Lake City’s west side and I don’t believe I would appreciate it as much as I do now. This beat has given me the opportunity to learn about my new community and the curiosity to explore it. There is so much more to the west side than what is portrayed by others.   

I originally thought that this beat was going to be easier. It was difficult to find people to cooperate with interviews. I had people hang up on me or flat out tell me they didn’t have the time. I had to change the direction of my topics to people who were more agreeable. It was intimidating at times, but it pushed me. It pushed me to try again and again, until there was someone who was willing to give their time to a learning journalist. It was so rewarding in the end. The people who were open to talking to me were so kind and made the push worth it. The experience made me appreciate the amazing people in the west-side community. 

I have learned that I do enjoy talking and interviewing people who are passionate about something dear to them. I have the chance to feature them in my own writing and the ability to have it published. It gives a voice to the community. I have found that it is important to not only write an entertaining article, but also to write something meaningful and impactful. 

I found that being a professional communicator can be difficult at times, but also rewarding. I want to write the story as best as I can, for the sake of the community I am writing it for. It is challenging to get a piece the exact way that you would like. In the end, the time makes up for how a story might impact or change a community.

ABOUT ME:

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My parents gave me a dune buggy when I was 6-years-old. I lived in this buggy and wanted to be just like my dad. He is a retired driver for Mickey Thompson Off-Road Racing and today watches his old off-road racing friends in NASCAR. We attended hundreds of races growing up. I learned quickly that the sport was expensive and my family didn’t have the time to keep up with my own competitive racing. During this time I became fascinated with the NASCAR pit reporters like Jamie Little and Kim Coon. I wanted to know how they became reporters and was informed that they were journalists. This is what sparked my writing career. 

I am an outdoors woman. Almost everyone in the racing world is involved in the outdoors and I wanted to follow the footsteps of the racing community. I found myself working for an outdoor television show in Nashville. I learned how to produce, film, edit, and be in front of the camera. I had the awesome experience to film legendary outdoor television stars like Jimmy Houston, Hank Parker, and Jimmy Sites. I also had my own episodes.

I am currently a student at the University of Utah studying Journalism. I hope to one day become a broadcaster/reporter in the racing industry or have the opportunity to start my own outdoor television show. I am looking forward to using my degree and entertaining many viewers.

Alison Tanner

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Beat reporting has helped my professional development in a number of ways. In order to successfully write about a beat, you have to be continuously engaged with your interactions. It was important for me to learn and re-learn not only how to communicate during interviews but also to be aware of my communication via email and over the phone. I feel like beat reporting has made me an overall better communicator and it’s become really satisfying to feel connected to those I interview, even if I’m different or may not fully understand the depth of what they are trying to explain to me. I found it somewhat difficult to express some of the strong messages shared from those I came in contact with. This allowed me to explore showing my readers more than just simply telling the audience.

Of course, this semester had its disappointments. COVID-19 put a strain on connecting and communicating with contacts that I had. It’s been hard for me to have more meaningful experiences. Some phone interviews have been great, but I know that had I met with these people in person, I would be able to show and express feelings a little more. It’s also been difficult because while I know that amplifying voices that are often unheard is important, my major concern is that the people around me are safe and healthy from this powerful virus.

In contrast, a major success for me was my first story. I felt so connected to the students and supervisors of the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective. I was able to write a succinct piece about how the collective originated and one of the founders just happened to be visiting from New York City. It felt like the stars aligned and I was supposed to focus on these wonderful people for the piece.

In other courses, I’ve dabbled into a little bit of investigative journalism and hard news, but it never felt like that was where I needed to focus my skills. I definitely feel like this semester solidified my love for soft news and amplifying voices to create incredible stories. I don’t know what my future holds, especially with the uncertainty of the job market with COVID-19, but I do know that no matter what field of communications I am a part of, I’ll always love to write.

ABOUT ME:

Alison Tanner headshotAlison Tanner graduated from the University of Utah in Spring 2020, with a degree in communication and an emphasis in journalism. Throughout her undergraduate career, she completed several communications-focused internships with the Natural History Museum of Utah, JDRF International, SelectHealth, Virtualities/Facebook and Universal Media. She also volunteered as a Refugee Programs photographer for Utah Department of Workforce Services in Fall 2019. During her time at the U, she served on the Student Media Council, participated in Her Campus Utah chapter and the Crimson Transfer Honor Society. In her free time, she loves listening/dancing to music, trying new foods, and traveling to new places — preferably, all at once.

Martin Kuprianowicz

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A few things that I can really take away from my community involvement this semester is the level of passion that I’ve discovered that members of the west-side community hold in regards for others, as well as my own developing passion for reporting. One of the people I interviewed and probably my favorite person I’ve ever interviewed was Juan Gilberto Rejon, also known as “Coach Juan.”

Coach Juan has a level of passion for children of the community like none I’ve ever seen. The man spends every waking minute of his life working to better the lives of the underserved on the west side of Salt Lake City. His programs aimed at getting children involved in the outdoors and ultimately graduating from high school and moving on to college are his life’s work. He’s even bankrupted himself several times giving resources to people who needed it most, always putting others before himself. I had a really fun time interviewing him and learned a lot about what he does. I also learned much about myself as a reporter.

I realized that I’m often better at talking to people than I give myself credit for, and I really enjoy doing so. I was also pleasantly surprised by how willing most people were to talk when I asked them for an interview. They loved to tell their story, like when I interviewed families who owned ethnic food restaurants. People often want to share with you their thoughts, experiences, and projects, and are very helpful especially when it comes to finding more people to interview. “Oh, you have to talk to so-and-so,” or “Oh, please go here and talk to this person,” are phrases I heard often when interviewing my sources because a lot of them really care about their community and want people’s voices to be heard. It was inspiring.

Sometimes, it is in fact hard to remain objective, like when you are reporting about something you are genuinely excited about. This often results in you starting to write or report in an overly enthusiastic way that can sometimes over-hype the truth in certain ways.

This occurred, for instance, when I was writing about delicious, family-owned ethnic food places on the west side. Of course, when I went to the restaurants I tried the food. Some of it I thought tasted so good (because it did) that I started writing my original draft of the piece with a biased tone of admiration. I had to take a step back and put my taste buds aside and revise with a little more heightened sense of objectivity!

ABOUT ME:

I’m Martin Kuprianowicz. I’m an editor for SnowBrains as well as its Alta Ski Area reporter for the 2019-20 ski season. I’m an undergraduate at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism. I’m from Midland, Texas, and grew up skiing at a humble hill called Ski Apache in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Meg Clasper

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I definitely felt like an outsider during this whole process. Normally I feel like an outsider to Salt Lake City as a whole because I live farther north and don’t have much time to explore. Not knowing the culture of the city as well as the places viewed as important. I can see the slight rift between east and west Salt Lake City, and not even being part of the city, I feel even more of an outsider. Despite this I kept going and working to understand life and motivations of those I was talking to.

This feeling didn’t affect my reporting at all because I was already accustomed to the feeling and was able to find ways to overcome it.

During one of my interviews I had a source ask me to keep things “off the record” though the information I was being told was a history of the business. I didn’t agree to keep anything off the record but did comply with his wish for me to not write anything down. The whole situation after he asked about things off the record made me nervous. I expected something a lot more serious than just the history. In the end, I didn’t end up using any of the major information given to me then in my story. I did use a few general facts that would appear to be common knowledge.

I did find it a little hard to remain objective when writing the Mestizo piece. The coffeehouse had so much character to it all I wanted to do was describe every inch of the place and how it made me feel. Especially the chai lattes, which I was not lied to when Prof. Mangun told me they were the best. Being there was an experience all on its own. It’s hard to effectively get across to readers and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit Mestizo Coffeehouse for themselves.

ABOUT ME:

I will admit, I am a nerd. While I love anything to do with video games, I also enjoy Marvel superheroes and transformers. I believe my love for these things comes from the deep universes their originators have created. Creating these deep vast universes is why I started to write. When I found journalism in high school, I realized there was a universe around me ready to be explored and documented. After becoming a journalism major at the University of Utah, I needed to find a beat. I wanted to cover something positive and fascinating, and gaming was the perfect fit.

Ivana Martinez

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During my reporting for Voices of Utah, I spent most of my time covering the Glendale Community Learning Center. From one room to the next there was always something happening, whether English classes, cooking, learning lab or sewing. I was incredibly fortunate to cover this community, as it serves so many members within Glendale. It is a place for people to come to gather and learn. As I got further into my beat, I realized that the Glendale community functions like an ecosystem, every element steadily relies on one another to function.

Ivana MartinezWhen I attended International Women’s Day at Glendale Middle School, standing in the middle of the cafeteria I was reminded of why I chose journalism as my career path. At that moment, with women from all different walks of life circling, dancing and cheering around me — I remembered what a privilege it is to help tell someone’s story. To showcase the victories and the setbacks each individual faces in their lives and communities. To be granted access to write about individuals who aren’t typically seen in our local news media. As journalists, we have a responsibility to accurately represent our communities and that often includes showcasing the underrepresented, the people who don’t have voices.

I like to think that journalism and I chose each other. It wasn’t one-sided, it was a calling that I was always meant to be doing this work. As someone who once lived within the Glendale community as a child, returning to report on it as an adult it felt full circle. I always knew I was a storyteller. I’ve always been drawn to stories, people and voice. One of the most satisfying things about being a journalist is breaking barriers, talking to individuals I normally wouldn’t and understanding them on a deeper level. I had the honor of interviewing members within the Glendale community who work to help facilitate activities and events for the community. These women are the fabric of these institutions.

One of the disappointments that I had during the semester was having to change my final story because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Due to public school shutting down, I wasn’t able to complete my final story on the implications busing has on students and families. However, it did allow me to talk to high school senior students about their experience during this time, which was refreshing.

I hope to continue to highlight and write about institutions, events, and issues that are as important as the Glendale community in the future. Service journalism has opened my eyes to all the different stories the news media are often missing out on. It is critical to listen for the stories with the quiet beginnings, the stories that are overlooked or are woven into issues surrounding underrepresented communities. It is important to keep writing.

ABOUT ME:

My first introduction to journalism came at a young age when my father worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Each day he’d come home with a paper fresh off the press. My eager fingers would reach out and skim the black and white pages until the ink stained my fingers. Looking back, I think I always knew that I would end up in a career involving storytelling. It’s in my blood, my roots, my ancestors. Story is who I am, it’s who I’ve always been. When I realized how powerful the work I did as a high school journalist was, I knew this was the career for me. It invited all elements I loved — writing, photography, and voice.

At the University of Utah, I am a communication major with an emphasis in journalism. I am heading into my senior year. After I graduate in Spring 2021, I plan on continuing my journey in the journalism field and looking to tell hidden, relevant and important stories around my community.

Spencer Buchanan

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Salt Lake City has always been home to me. I was born there, grew up there, and in the least have lived near it my entire life. Even though I don’t technically live in Salt Lake City, my life has been connected with it for as long as I can remember.

This is why when I first learned that the west side of Salt Lake City would be the beat for the semester, I felt a little nervous. Growing up in this area, the west side was always characterized as a sort of background space. Filler for the larger picture of the Salt Lake Valley. This made me nervous about writing about it because I didn’t think there was a lot to be “reported” on. I, like many Utahns, overlooked the west side.

However, soon after I started research for my stories, I found the area and the people who lived there not so far off from my own situation. I live in Magna, a smaller town, on the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley and like the west side of Salt Lake City, the residents there are often overlooked. Like the west side we’re known for being a thoroughfare, a part of town you don’t linger in and just make your way to somewhere else. I found that in many ways — culturally, demographically, and economically — my town of Magna and the west side share a lot of characteristics and many of the same issues.

This realization changed how I approached finding stories about the west side. Others in Voices of Utah have done so well to show and tell the unique culture of the west side. So I decided to focus on the economic and civic issues that the west side faces. And like my town, I found the west side often experiences the harsher consequences of broader economic and civic issues. Focusing on mutual issues gave me the benefit of seeing that we can often see our issues and space as the most important and unique, with issues that no one can really understand. Reporting on this beat, though, helped me see that many issues and problems are not unique to one place and that we can find mutual understanding and solutions when we can look outside our spheres.

Reporting on these mutual issues, I felt like I became more of an insider to the west side. I found the residents of the west side shared many of the same experiences I found in my town of being overlooked, and holding the brunt of larger societal issues like poverty, civic oversight, and representation. I felt like I shared much of the sentiment that I felt with those I spoke with on the west side.

In my few experiences in the past with reporting, I always felt more like an outsider because though the topics and issues I wrote on were interesting to me, they weren’t necessarily directly affecting me. I think most reporters can feel this way. They often report on things they don’t know about in places they’ve never been. But the issues and topics I focused on in this beat were things that had always affected relatives and me living in a similar situation to those on the west side. So this motivated me and invoked my curiosity to speak with people whom I wouldn’t have for a similar journalism class.

But despite my curiosity and the newfound connection I felt to issues of the west side, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to incorporate more of residents’ perspectives and not just those of community leaders, government officials, and experts. Those in leadership and academic roles often have good intentions but seem to be spread mentally thin on a lot of issues. They focus on broad issues, they have constituencies to please, agendas to fulfill, and papers to write. So, I feel many of my pieces are more “overlooking” that personal connection.

I’m glad, though, that I was able to discover a new part of my home while working on this beat. I learned a lot about how communities view themselves and how it’s important to slow down a little bit and focus on the things around us. I, like many others, ignore many of the people and issues that are just down the road from us. I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of this beat. To slow down and see a part of Salt Lake City in a new but familiar light.

ABOUT ME:

I was born and raised in Salt Lake City. I grew up in stories, from films, television, books and tales from my parents and grandparents. Stories about real people always fascinated me the most. My love of history is what drove me to journalism.

A teacher of mine in high school once said, “News today is tomorrow’s history.”

I started reading old newspapers and unlike my history textbooks, they felt more connected with the people of the time, they showed people’s personalities and gave me a better understanding of the sentiments of the era. Seeing this I felt like I should be a part of recording the history that was being made instead of just reading the old.

This drove me to major in Strategic Communication and study journalism. I still love history and it’s my hope to incorporate this into my writing career.

Nina Yu

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Prior to taking Voices of Utah, I had little idea what I would be getting myself into. To my pleasant surprise, the class pushed me to explore communities and write stories that were outside of my comfort zone.

IMG_2177Everyone thought I was crazy when I chose journalism as a career to pursue. I’m an introvert who would rather be alone than being at a party talking to people. Before journalism, I had dropped my pre-med status against the wishes of my parents. I had already written for a few school-related publications and taken creative writing classes, so writing wasn’t new to me. When I wedged myself into my new major, it became an eye-opening experience. The stories I had to cover meant stepping outside of my safe bubble and interviewing all kinds of people to learn more about their lives and culture.

When I first found out we were going to be covering the west-side neighborhoods this semester, I was quite indifferent to the beat. But as we started to come up with ideas for the first story, I found an interest in the cultures and local organizations in the neighborhoods. My interests only grew from there. It was enjoyable looking through the different things I could cover and hearing pitches from my classmates.

When I begin a story, I try to remove all bias that is initially planted. Sometimes it’s hard trying to gain a new perspective when there’s already one so deeply rooted. The story I wrote about the Youth Resource Center made me see the teens experiencing homelessness in a new light. I learned so much from the interview and being able to see the activity inside the center. It was amazing.

That story also made me realize how much of an outsider I was. Compared to the youths who have to use the resources at the center, I grew up in a completely different environment. This made me understand that with some stories, I will never be able to experience what the other party has been through. I can only get the “outsider” view and try to grasp the situation.

I have enjoyed my time with Voices of Utah, even if it was cut short because of COVID-19. This course made me realize the progress I have made and the long way I still have to go. I am so excited to keep discovering and sharing stories that need to be seen. The path to becoming a professional journalist is scary but I’ll only pause for a cup of tea before sharing my truth.

ABOUT ME:

I am a journalism major graduating in the fall of 2020. Writing has always been a passion and I will continue to tell stories throughout my career. I have written for The Globe, The Daily Utah Chronicle, and Her Campus Utah.

Writing for Voices of Utah has been an enriching experience and one I will remember for a long time. Asian American issues have always been a topic of interest and I will strive to be a professional voice for the Asian American community after graduation. When I’m not writing, I enjoy cooking, dancing, petting my dog, and traveling.