Sophia Herrera: Representation in reporting

By Julia Capitelli
North Shore High School

Representation is paramount to Sophia Herrera. 

The issue is so significant for the rising junior at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset that she wants to pursue a career in broadcast sports journalism.          

The South Huntington resident already has some journalism experience, beginning when she was 12. Now 16, she has been published in her high school’s Windows Literary Magazine and helped other students write articles for their middle school newspaper, 360 News.

Her particular focus is the lack of women in sports broadcasting. Women “make up the biggest part of the population,” Sophia said, “but we have the smallest voice.” 

Sophia also is concerned about the wage gap between men and women in the field. And being Latina, she advocates for a stronger voice for minorities. 

Professional soccer star Megan Rapinoe is Sophia’s idol. “She’s kind of a motivation for everything for me,” said Sophia, who has played soccer since age three. 

According to Sophia’s mom, Loreley Villanide-Herrera, “eventually [soccer] became a passion.” 

Sophia said Rapinoe, in addition to being a two-time World Cup champion and soccer superstar, has brought women’s and LGBTQ issues to light in the sports world. “She’s not afraid to voice her own opinion,” Sophia said. “If anyone’s against her, she really isn’t going to care. She’s going to say it anyway; she’s going to stick to it.”

Rather than pursuing her passion with a network like ESPN, Sophia’s goal is to start her own production company. She understands that would require hard work and lucky breaks. “When I have an aspiration, I work to get there,” she said. “If it’s not immediately, it’s going to happen, whether people like it or not.” 

She has support from her mother, who she said works in HIV research in much of the developing world and also does work with “women’s issues, women’s empowerment, working with marginalized communities [and] LGBTQ.” 

In addition to her mother, Sophia lives with her father, Robert Herrera, and her 12-year-old brother, Gabriel. Like Villanide-Herrera, Robert Herrera, who is in book publishing, has strong political opinions but keeps an open mind. 

Sophia is primarily interested in broadcast media because “I want to be the person that people see and they know they can trust.” 

She said she hopes the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists will be an opportunity to “grasp a deeper understanding of journalism itself.” 

If Sophia becomes a sports broadcaster, she hopes to do more than give scores and analysis. She wants to have a platform to voice her opinions. “I’m a feminist,” she said. “As someone who has really strong beliefs, I really feel the need to voice them.”

She wants to ensure that underrepresented people have a place in broadcast too. “I feel like people need to have that voice.” 

Day 5 at Greene: Yaw Bonsu, college admissions, and the editing process

The last day at Greene was intense. We started off with a pep talk with Yaw Bonsu. As a college student, he is still going through the process of trying to make it into the journalism field. It was a really interesting perspective to hear and incredibly encouraging, being that I’m also a student. He gave a lot of good advice on things we can do in high school to get a head start. I now have a few ideas of projects to tackle in my senior year before college.

We were also able to speak with a college admissions dean at Stony Brook, Robert Pertusati. Overall he had a great personality that was entertaining and engaging. He was very helpful in giving us some information on the college application process. It seems slightly less stressful to me now.

Obviously it was our last day to finish up our story and video. The editing process was pretty intense and took up most of the day. Both the article and video were reviewed many times by my team as well as editors. We had to trim the video a little bit more as well as make some minor edits. For the article, we were struggling slightly to get it to flow well from idea to idea, but eventually found a way.

My experience this week has been incredible. I’m really glad I decided to apply for this program. I feel like I have a much better understanding of journalism and what really goes into it. I’ve been provided with a network here that will be helpful in my pursuit of a journalism career. I can’t stress enough how awesome my team was in putting our project together. We worked well together and just got along in general. I hope to keep in touch with them after the closing ceremony tomorrow.

Day 4 at Greene: FOIL, Sarah Kazadi, social media, writing, and video editing

This morning we got a pep talk from Chrissy Sampson, who gave us a presentation on the Freedom of Information Law. I found the law pretty fascinating, and I see how it’s useful to journalists. Investigative journalism is appealing to me, so I’m glad I now understand what’s public information and how I can get it.

This afternoon, we listened to an incredible story from Sarah Kazadi who was so inspirational and honestly just cool. Her hard work, dedication, and refusal to quit got her to her successful career in journalism. Listening to her story, along with other pep talks we’ve heard this week, gave me more confidence that I’ll be able to make it in this field.

Wasim Ahmad spoke to us about the important of our online presence as journalists. He stressed how we have to maintain professionalism on all platforms. I don’t currently have any social media, but after today’s lesson, that might have to change.

Finally, we were able to break into our groups to work on our project. After encountering some technical issues, my role changed from video editing to writing. I enjoy writing, so this wasn’t a problem for me. The writing went pretty smoothly for my teammate, T’Neil, and me. We have a little bit more editing to do, but we’re mostly done. The video needed a little more work. It’s supposed to be 1:30 long, but we had 14:00 of footage to begin with. My teammates, Liliana, Moriah, and Jada, did a great job trimming that and getting most of the editing done. We stayed on Zoom until 7:30, but it was worth it.

Day 3 at Greene: Anchors, weather, and a lot of emails

Today was my favorite day of Greene week so far. We started by heading to a virtual Skype studio to do a newscast. I had the role of reporting the weather which gave me a good opportunity to practice speaking on a broadcast. The students who had the roles of the anchors were awesome, and I was really happy to work with them.

I feel like I need to just relax in front of the camera and be my natural self. Some other students in this program were really fun to watch in their newscasts. They were so natural and enthusiastic. If they had actually been on TV, I would have watched. This is a skill I’m definitely going to need to work on since I really want to go into broadcast media, particularly for sports.

This was my crude but sufficient broadcast setup from this morning (Photo by Julia Capitelli)

After the recording and watching our broadcast, we were able to break into our teams and discuss where we’re at with our stories. My team was in a pretty bad spot this morning, as none of the five emails we sent yesterday had been answered. But this afternoon, we got a lot of responses, more sources, and several interviews were scheduled.

Top far left: Julia Capitelli. Top left: Moriah Pettway. Top right: T’Neil Goodman. Top far right/bottom: Liliana Stella. Unfortunately our fifth teammate, Jada Jackson, couldn’t be on for the picture. (Photo by Julia Capitelli)

We’re really excited about our story, though we know we’re going to have to pivot with our topic slightly. Our story is probably going to wind up being more about the effect COVID had on the medical industry and community. My team was extremely busy today, sending out additional emails, making phone calls, and sending direct messages. I think I personally received about 20 emails today.

My team held an additional Zoom call to discuss where we’re at for tomorrow and Friday. We have a lot of work ahead of us for the next couple of days, but we are all driven and excited to tackle it. My four teammates and I have a really great attitude towards journalism and our project. They are all incredible people that I’m so glad I’ve been able to meet. There’s no one I’d rather work on this project with. I’m ready for the grind that is the end of this week.

Day 1 at Greene: Stephanie Brumsey pep talk and Padcasters

Day 1 at the Greene Institute was a great introduction. We heard an awesome pep talk from MSNBC producer Stephanie Brumsey to start the day. Her personality was incredible and I really appreciated that she was able to take over an hour to talk to us. She gave us a lot of helpful information and advice to help us in our journalism careers. Brumsey was truly authentic and her story about being adopted and experiencing some adversity in the journalism field was inspiring. Her pep talk also put me in the right head space to be hungry for the information that we’ll be learning this week.

We were also fortunate enough to meet with Josh Apter, the creator of the Padcaster. We assembled the Padcasters and were able to test them out. I’m already pretty obsessed with it in all honesty. It’s a great contraption that makes recording both video and audio much easier and the finished product just turns out better.

This device is actually genius (Photo by Julia Capitelli)

When we were experimenting with ClipChamp prior to this week, we were asked to make videos about something we like that helps people get to know us a little better. I did mine on playing the viola. I wasn’t entirely happy with how the audio turned out, particularly when it came to the music recordings. I also make quite a few viola recordings for school that I’m never entirely happy with due to the audio quality on my phone. When we tested the Padcasters, I did a test with my viola to see if the microphone on there would make a noticeable difference. I’m never making a music recording without the Padcaster ever again. The audio was significantly better and I didn’t have to waste time propping up my phone on books or tissue boxes because the Padcaster stand worked perfectly. I’m really excited to make more videos, both reporting and music, with the help of the Padcaster.

Day 1 went by pretty quickly. I’m excited to get into some more detail in the lectures later in the week. I’m really interested in broadcast media, so I’m particularly looking forward to Wednesday when we get to be in our virtual studio.

Day 2 at Greene: Kate Nalepinski pep talk, photography, and Kara Hahn

Day Two got off to a quick start with a pep talk from Long Island Herald Editor Kate Nalepinski. She gave us advice based on things she wishes she knew when she was first going into journalism. What she and Stephanie Brumsey both made clear was that connections are important. I’m glad that we have this opportunity to create a network during this program. Nalepinski gave us three main points: think of yourself as a content creator, find your niche, and be a daily consumer of the news.

Being a content creator gives us more of an opportunity to find a job because we have a wide variety of skills. This is something that I need to work on. My main skill in the journalism area so far is writing. I need to get better at photography and video editing in particular since I’m not exactly tech savvy. I’m not concerned about finding my niche. I’m passionate about hockey, and that’s what got me into journalism to begin with. My niche is sports journalism. I’m a daily consumer of the news in the sports area for sure, particularly hockey, of course. But I recognize that I need to take the time to read through stories on other news as well instead of just quickly taking in headlines to see what’s happening.

We had an incredible opportunity to meet with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Williams next. His instruction was informative and I feel like I truly learned a lot. As someone who had essentially no experience with photography prior to today, it was a little bit overwhelming but I enjoyed it. His photos were amazing and I was speechless looking at most of them. I greatly appreciate that such an important and skilled photographer took the time out of his day to talk to us.

One of our teams is doing a story on Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. She joined our Zoom meeting for their interview today. While it was more orderly than an in-person press conference would be, it really felt like our first real journalism experience. I was interested in everything she had to say, especially her main focus on the opioid epidemic. It was pretty surreal to be able to sit in on an interview with such an important person.

Stony Brook’s own Professor Rick Ricioppo did a lesson on shooting video and visual storytelling. His presentation was a lot to take in, so I took extensive notes. I’m looking forward to being able to employ some of his tips.

To close out the day, we met with our teams. My team has decided to do a story on Stony Brook medical students that were on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sent out some emails today to Kali Chan with public relations and Dr. Adam Gonzalez as well as a couple of the school’s medical clubs to try to get some contacts and interviews. It has the potential to be a really interesting story and I’m excited to see where it goes. We’re going to be in the virtual studio tomorrow and I can’t wait to experiment with broadcasting.