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Bilingual Journalism at the Cronkite School

The Bilingual Specialization at the Cronkite School is designed for students who want to build their cultural knowledge and tell the important stories of diverse communities throughout Arizona and the world.

Students produce award-winning work about people and places in Phoenix, on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Indian country and in other parts of the world – from Peru and Puerto Rico to Hungary and Nicaragua.

Under Cronkite’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative, students can choose from multiple classes taught by a team of award-winning professors whose backgrounds and professional experiences are reflective of the region’s diversity.

Fernanda Santos, a Brazilian-American journalist and author who came to the Cronkite School after 12 years at The New York Times, teaches Advanced Bilingual Reporting. Her class reports on issues ranging from the expansion of light rail services to South Phoenix — where four in five residents is Latino — to immigration and civil rights activists running for public office and the consequences of including a citizenship question in the U.S. census.

Vanessa Ruiz, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, directs the Cronkite News-Borderlands bureau, where students cover stories across the Southwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Ruiz was the main evening news anchor for KPNX, the NBC affiliate station in Phoenix, before coming to the Cronkite School. Earlier in her career, she was Telemundo International’s youngest news anchor.

In the Spanish-language Cronkite Noticias program, students work under the direction of Valeria Fernández, a leading Arizona journalist who has reported on Arizona’s immigrant community and the immigration debate for the past 16 years. A former correspondent for CNN Spanish, Fernández also is a documentary film producer. In 2018, she was the inaugural recipient of the Mosaic award for her reporting on underrepresented communities.


Fernanda Santos

Fernanda Santos

Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor

Vanessa Ruiz

Vanessa Ruiz

Director, Cronkite News Borderlands, Professor of Practice

Valeria Fernández

Valeria Fernández

Lecturer, Director, Cronkite Noticias

Student in Peru

Students in the Cronkite Bilingual Specialization may do their professional program capstone in either Cronkite News-Borderlands or Cronkite Noticias, the school’s multiplatform news operation.

In the Borderlands bureau, students spend full days at least twice a week working out of the school’s state-of-the-art sixth-floor newsroom, producing content for digital and broadcast distribution. Students have opportunities to travel across the region, the U.S.-Mexico border and into Mexico to produce multimedia stories about immigration and border issues as well as stories related to culture, politics and economics. Their stories, in English, are aggregated under the Cronkite News’ Borderlands vertical.

Borderlands students also report on Native American and other communities of color throughout the state. Its Indian Country coverage is among Cronkite News’ best read and most widely distributed content. Stories also are distributed to regional and national news outlets.

In the Spanish-language Cronkite Noticias program, students produce in-depth stories for the online platform, a weekly Facebook Live, and a newscast that airs on Univision Arizona. They also produce radio and short-form documentaries.

Students cover immigration, education, sustainability, elections and other issues important to the region’s Latino and Spanish-speaking communities. Their reporting takes them to communities throughout the region, including the U.S.-Mexico border and Mexico, and their stories cover the gamut from Phoenix elections to the national debate over the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

Cronkite Noticias bilingual graduates have gone on to work for Univision, Telemundo and ABC News, among other news organizations.

The work of students in the Borderlands Bureau and Cronkite Noticias has won a number of awards, including Hearst Journalism Awards, Rocky Mountain Emmy Student Awards and awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Broadcast Education Association and the Arizona Press Club.

The Cronkite School offers a number of courses for students interested in careers in Spanish-language media and those who want to develop expertise covering Latino communities, immigration and border issues for English-language media.

A selection of these courses is recommended for students who aspire to do their professional programs in Cronkite News-Borderlands or Cronkite Noticias. Students can use JMC 333 or JMC 434 and JMC 470 toward their Advanced Skills requirements and JMC 435 toward their JMC/MCO upper division elective requirements.

JMC 333 Advanced Bilingual Broadcast Reporting

Students produce bilingual television packages on a wide range of issues of interest to Latino audiences. Students also report and produce an occasional Spanish-language newscast. Students develop advanced reporting, interviewing, visual storytelling and writing skills in English and Spanish, preparing them for entry-level positions in a small/medium market local television newsrooms.

Pre-requisite(s): Journalism and Mass Communication major; JMC 315 with C or better; JMC 345 with C or better; Credit is allowed for only JMC 330 or JMC 331 or JMC 333

JMC 434 Advanced Bilingual Reporting

In this project-based class, students work together to cover various angles of a topic related to Latinos in the U.S. Their digital and video stories, photographs and graphics often result in publication. Students need some ability to report in Spanish, although they do not have to be proficient. This class prepares students for work in the Borderlands Bureau of Cronkite News or Cronkite Noticias, the school’s Spanish-language news site.

Prerequisite(s): All with C or better: Journ & Mass Comm or Sports Journ major; JMC 201; JMC 301, 302, or 315; JMC 305; min 2.50 GPA; Credit is allowed for only JMC 434 or MCO 534.

JMC 478 Cronkite News-Phoenix

Students complete the bilingual specialization by doing their required professional program in Cronkite News – either working in English on the Borderlands team or in Spanish in Cronkite Noticias, the school’s multiplatform news operation.

Students in the Borderlands bureau cover issues of interest and concern to Latino communities throughout the Southwest, with content being distributed to professional news outlets. Students in Cronkite Noticias produce content for the Spanish-language news site and create a newscast that regularly airs on Univision Arizona.

Prerequisite(s): JMC 301 or JMC 315 with C or better for digital reporters; JMC 330 or JMC 333 with C or better for broadcast reporters.

A number of Cronkite students pursuing the Bilingual Specialization also complete courses or a second major in the ASU School of Transborder Studies.

Related Courses

JMC 435 Latino and Transnational Issues

This fall-only seminar gives students a nuanced understanding of topics such as immigration, trade, health care, politics and cross-border conflict and cooperation, preparing them to report on some of today’s most important issues. Students who complete the course are considered for a spring depth reporting course, which includes a reporting trip to another country.

Prerequisite(s): Journalism and Mass Communication or Sports Journalism major; JMC 101; JMC 201 with C or better; minimum 2.50 cumulative GPA; Credit allowed for only JMC 435

JMC 470 Depth Reporting

Students report, write and produce an in-depth, multimedia project on a current topic related to borders and immigration. The course includes an expenses-paid trip over spring break to the country that is the focus of each year’s project. Students have reported out of Nicaragua, Hungary, Puerto Rico and Peru, among a number of other countries, producing award-winning projects.

Prerequisite(s): Journalism and Mass Communication or Sports Journalism BA major; minimum 2.50 GPA; JMC 301, 302, or 315 with C or better

Student Testimonials

Charlene Santiago

Charlene Santiago

2018 Cronkite graduate, reporter Telemundo Atlanta

Cronkite Noticias showed me true leadership and news judgement. As the lead producer for most newscasts and Facebook Live shows, in 2017 and 2018, I developed my Spanish writing skills, I expanded my producer vision, and I learned how to lead a bilingual team. In addition, I think the biggest lesson was how to pitch and develop an idea with such persistence that it has a cross-cultural impact on issues that pertain to the Hispanic community in Arizona and across our country. Lastly, it taught me the importance of challenging our reading, writing and talking skills in both languages because it goes beyond translating. I think this was key during my time working as a bilingual reporter at The Capitol in Washington, D.C. I owe the job I have today to Cronkite Noticias and Cronkite News.

Jackie López

Jackie López

2017 Cronkite graduate, MMJ (Multimedia journalist) Telemundo Yuma

Participating in Cronkite Noticias helped me develop my journalistic skills to become a well-rounded bilingual journalist. I was able to produce a multimedia story for television and web in both English and Spanish. During my time in Noticias, I learned about working as a team to create original content and had the opportunity of having my work aired on the local newscast, Univision Arizona. Thanks to Cronkite Noticias, I learned about the challenges of this beautiful craft and gained mentors who I still contact whenever I have a question.

Mia Armstrong

Mia Armstrong

2019 Cronkite graduate, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Mexico

Participating in the Advanced Bilingual Reporting and Depth Reporting courses and Cronkite Noticias with Fernanda Santos, Rick Rodriguez and Valeria Fernández was the best decision I made at Cronkite. These programs taught me how to report and write in different languages and gave me experience reporting abroad as an undergraduate — experience which has opened up huge doors for me as a journalist, while also helping me grow as a person. I'm proud to call myself a bilingual journalist and thankful for the rich and important stories I get to tell thanks to the education that got me here.

Clara Benitez

Clara Benitez

2017 Cronkite graduate, Reporter, KGBT CBS4, Rio Grande Valley, Texas

The Latino Specialization program was the best thing for my future career. Not only was I able to report on many issues the Latino community faced and continues to face, but I was able to connect with a human angle. When I landed my first job out of college, I had an insight into the Latino Community not many reporters have. Now I am a reporter on the U.S.-Mexico border, and I feel better equipped for any story thrown my way – even compared to journalists who have been here for many years – because of my education at Cronkite and the School of Transborder Studies.

Marcella Baietto

Marcella Baietto

Cronkite student

Cronkite Noticias has given me the opportunity to advance my bilingual reporting skills while preparing me for a career in journalism. I chose to be a Borderlands reporter while also being a reporter for Cronkite Noticias. I was able to learn how to accurately translate footage, conduct interviews in both languages and create content that acknowledged the Latino community in Arizona. This program puts you out into the community reporting alongside professionals and turning content that either airs on Univision or is published online. Because of these programs I have been able to tell the stories of those who may not have always had a voice in both English and Spanish and inform the public on issues that matter most to them. Overall, my bilingual reporting skills have improved immensely because of these programs.