A year ago, Dania Alexandrino was filming a newscast for a Univision affiliate in Puerto Rico, and twenty-four hours later, she was overhauling the Innovation News Center’s (INC) Spanish-language department at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Today, the Puerto Rican native’s fast-paced nature matches the tone of the media industry, which is why her curriculum and management style are ambitiously preparing her students for the competitive communications industry.
Alexandrino was born in Puerto Rico, but was raised from the age of seven in Boston. From there, she had early ambitions to join the Air Force and then become an international lawyer. Her early disqualification from the Air Force due to asthma seemed like a hurdle for her future career, but it quickly became a building block for her passion in journalism. She earned a full-ride scholarship to study journalism at Boston University, and later, a master’s in public relations. Working in radio and television with companies like CNN Español and Univision followed.
Flash-forward to March 2017, when she was presented with two choices: being a weather forecaster for Accuweather, or serving as the first Spanish-language News Manager for UF. Her mentor from Univision knew that she was meant to be a Gator.
“Her push was actually what made me think that yes, I do need a challenge. I’ve been a beat reporter for so long that it was time for me to have a change of atmosphere, a challenge,” Alexandrino said, adding that she was also attracted to the opportunity because it meant she could pass on her knowledge to the next generation of students, a responsibility she feels intensely.
Switching roles from a reporter to educator was a challenge for Alexandrino, but prompted her to work harder to make her goals for future communicators to become realized. Within a year at the UF College of Journalism and Communications, she has modernized WUFT’s Noticias’ website, enhanced its weekly Saturday morning radio show, doubled enrollment of students participating in the Spanish-language newscast between fall and spring, created a weekly social media newscast and rebuilt Noticias to make it an avenue where students can produce material for every media platform, giving them a broader perspective of what journalism entails and bilingual students an edge.
“Long gone are the day where print journalists were just print journalists ... they've become multimedia journalists,” Alexandrino said. “If you’re not willing to learn all aspects of the business, you’re not going to survive in this business.”
Noticias reaches Alachua county and its surrounding areas, like Marion county, along with the UF community and the students’ own families in Latin American countries because of its social media newscasting and online presence. Its social media newscasts, including “Noticias in 90” (news overview in 90 seconds) and 15 to 20 minute weekly news videos, produce the highest amount of viewership, reaching up to 500 views in two days.
“The fact that kids here are producing a daily newscast that airs on a PBS affiliate is a big deal,” Alexandrino said, “What we have here for our students is beyond amazing. Not to mention that I’ve worked in small news stations and yet this is a fully loaded newsroom that has nothing to envy from other newsrooms across the country.”
Alexandrino’s main goal with Noticias is to expand outreach even farther, and the university’s own Latinx community to let them know that it is here to tell their stories while also increasing student enrollment in the Spanish news program to increase production size.
Her urgency to energize the program is to thoroughly prepare her students for real world challenges of the industry and keep them ahead of their competition. This is why her collaboration to create a Spanish-Language News certificate with the Center for Latin American Studies (LATAM) and the Language Learning Center will soon arrive with perfect timing for any student interested in the Spanish or Latin American communications field, providing a valuable foundation for those interested in public relations to international nonprofit work.
“The hope is to open it up to other students that are not necessarily journalism students, but are probably [public relations] students and want to learn a little bit about what it takes to produce a newscast or produce news content because journalists and [public relations] are two in the same. They depend on each other in this business,” Alexandrino said.
The certificate program will offer students the opportunity to learn about cross-platform communication in the Latinx market, and teach skills ranging from how to seek news coverage for a nonprofit to how to write a press release in Spanish. The 15-credit course requirements will include two courses in the CJC, one of which is the Noticias reporting class, two courses in LATAM and one course conducted in Spanish called español en periodismo (journalism in Spanish).
Additionally, she serves as the liaison for a partnership with Telemundo. This joint effort was created in 2017 and provides one students with a one-year fellowship at the broadcast network, along with enrollment in the television news production academy held twice each semester at the INC for Noticias students.
Reflecting on her past year, Alexandrino said that it's the little things -- such as knowing that her students have received jobs thanks to the training they had with Noticias - that make her glad she’s able to be part of the UF community.
“The school spirit here is just amazing, people here love their Gators! Even the community support for the university is great. Just being a part of something like this makes me feel good and every day I just know I made the right decision to be here,” Alexandrino said.
“Definitely since Dania came on board we’ve seen a growth in Noticias,” said Zalome Briceño, a 22-year-old telecommunications student who has been part of the program for the past four years. “I was working on the radio show for the first two years, up until last year we only had a radio show, but now that Dania came on board we finally have a Spanish manager specifically dedicated to Noticias and we’ve seen a quick growth and we’ve all benefited from that.”
“Noticias has definitely been a plus on my resume,” Briceño said.