Ysabella Escalona, GSAS ’22, a recent graduate, and Viviana Villalva, a current student in the master of public media program, currently work at the station’s state-of-the-art facility, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
A Full-Time Associate Producer Position
A native of Venezuela, Escalona started in the public media program in 2022, interning for HITN for a year as an assistant producer. After she graduated, she was hired by the station as an associate producer for Estudio DC, the station’s political affairs show. The job entails everything from booking guests to writing summaries of episodes to tracking down video footage. Sometimes she gets to work on a podcast—a skill she learned at Fordham.
“At Fordham, I did a podcast for my capstone, and now I sometimes work on the podcast for Estudio DC. When they need someone to cut a video clip or do a small promo, I know how to do that because of the audio and video production classes,” she said.
In addition to the sound and video editing skills she learned at Fordham, Escalona, who is fluent in Spanish, credits the advanced writing class she took with helping make her a better multi-media journalist.
“It really helped me with my storytelling in terms of thinking through the order of everything,” she said.
The opportunity to work at place like HITN, which reaches 40 million homes across the U.S., was the biggest draw though for her to enroll.
“The experience has been just very enriching. I feel like I’ve grown so much.”
Media with a Mission
Villalva, a native of Queens who is also fluent in Spanish, and is interning in the HITN’s government affairs and community relations office, came to the program from John Jay College, where she graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
“What stuck out to me was the public media master’s motto, ‘Media with a Mission,’” she said.
“Other programs sounded great but were more focused on the technical aspects. I liked this idea that we’re going to tell stories that matter.”
Working on the government and community affairs team has shown Villalva how important it is to nurture relationships between elected officials and community leaders. Her department is also responsible for organizing events and programs that educate and advance the Latino community.
“Learning about the disparities and the challenges that communities face when they lack resources has been eye-opening for me,” she said.
Because it’s a small organization, she has also worked with Escalona’s team in the master control room, focusing on things like the structure of a show.
Beth Knobel, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and media studies and director of the master’s program said she knew HITN would be a great opportunity for students after her first visit to the station.
“Their studios were stunning, and we found out we were really on the same page about what media is supposed to do to serve its audience,” she said.
The public media master’s program-—run by Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences—will graduate its sixth cohort this year, and Knobel said partnerships have always been a key component of it, including those with public television station powerhouse The WNET Group and Fordham’s own WFUV.
“It’s easy when you’re in a classroom to forget what it’s like in the real world. Our partners keep us grounded on how public media is evolving so that we’re able to give our students the cutting-edge skills they need,” she said.
Helping Media Outlets Appeal to a Younger Audience
Michael Nieves, president, and CEO of HITN, noted that the internship program has long been an important part of the station’s recruitment process. Four current members of the staff, including Escalona, started out as interns. In Fordham, he said, the station gets access to students who are bilingual, experienced, and driven.
“Right now, our audience is in the 45 to 65, age group, and we want to appeal to the 25 to 35 group as well, so these college-age kids become our own little mini focus groups,” he said.
“It’s a successful partnership. And a lot has to do with the preparation they get before they come here.”