Senior Chelsea Hernandez: From Watching Antenna TV to Producing the News
Editor's note: Leading up to commencement in June, we'll be featuring one student with a major or minor in CAHSS each week.
Chelsea Hernandez's path to journalism, and to her current producer position with Colorado Public Television (CPT12), was neither conventional nor easy.
Soon to graduate with a double major in journalism studies and criminology, Hernandez grew up with her brother and her single father who had been widowed. In an effort to save money, the family at one point had to get rid of their cable television subscription. So while most of her friends were talking about their favorite Disney Channel shows, Hernandez couldn't join in the conversation.
"I was watching antenna television for most of my childhood," she said. "Because of that, I kind of just learned to really appreciate antenna TV. And most of the time it's just news broadcasting."
Hernandez got into a routine of constantly watching the news, especially during summer breaks. She would wake up and watch morning news shows such as Good Morning America. In the afternoon she would watch the local news, national news, or international news. Her idols weren't teenage TV stars, such as Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron. They were news anchors, such as Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer — two women who come to mind when Hernandez speaks of people who inspire her.
"Every day it was just a process where I would always watch these specific programs," she said. "I learned to have this really deep appreciation for the news and being in touch with what's going on in the world. I really love that, and I told myself that one day I wanted to do that for other people."
Hernandez soon gained the opportunity to step into the world of media, earlier than she might have expected.
While at DU, she acquired the skills to secure a ten-week internship with CPT12 in Denver. Her first week was full mostly of administrative duties, but it didn't stay that way for long. By the end of that week, station manager Dominic Dezzutti asked her to write a script for a show called Colorado Inside Out, a panel show that analyzes current affairs in Colorado.
She and Dezzutti got into a rhythm, where she would write a script and he would provide constructive criticism and feedback. "[That feedback] really reinforced me to keep wanting to pursue that route [with CPT12]," she said.
One of the most special moments for Hernandez came about halfway through her internship. One day, Dezzutti read Hernandez's script and told her he didn't have any changes to recommend. To Hernandez's delight, production staff ran the script for the show just as she had written it.
By the end of her internship, she knew she wanted to work full time at CPT12, and that the station might need a producer. When she worked up the courage to ask about a potential full-time position, CPT12 responded with an offer to make her a producer. She gladly accepted, and started the job near the end of spring semester.
Hernandez says the most useful experiences that have helped her writing skills were her journalism classes at DU and her blogs for the Office of International Education while she studied abroad in Australia.
"[In Australia] I was uploading my personal experiences to their blogs and I got a lot of good feedback from that," she said. "So I think it just made me want to pursue writing even more. So I'm really thankful that I still get that writing aspect because I do enjoy it very much."
With CPT12, Hernandez has embraced a role with greater responsibility, and greater risk, than her internship. She says she has been enjoying it so far, and hopes that her career from this point on will honor her father, who sacrificed so much for her. It's that inspiration from her father that has propelled her through some of her most difficult moments of completing her degree.
"Sometimes you just want to give up. . . . You start thinking, 'Maybe I could just find a decent job as like a cashier somewhere and just stay there for the rest of my life,' " she said. "But I definitely want to do something with myself that makes my dad proud and really pays it forward for everything that he's done for my family."
Despite all of her success, Hernandez says she has also learned from failure during her time at DU and advises future students not to let failure get in the way of their goals.
"I think that in the moment it's just so easy for students to get caught up in the moment and be really hard on themselves, but they don't take the time to think about everything that they've done so far," she said. "[But] it's just one mistake. You can come back from it."