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Senior Kiara Alfonseca in New York City. Photo by Morgan Bulman '16.

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  • 2018-02-27
  • Val Dimino

The Scoop on Brockport’s Star Journalist

Kiara Alfonseca’s nose for news has led her to ProPublica and NBC.

Heading into her last semester at SUNY Brockport, journalism and broadcasting major Kiara Alfonseca wanted to use that time wisely and make a statement before graduating. Her statements have found a national stage.

She earned three interviews with NBC outlets through the NBCUniversal Campus 2 Career Internship Program, ultimately landing a paid internship with NBC News Digital in New York City, which she began in January. Along with taking two online classes to complete her remaining degree requirements, she spends her days researching, writing, and pitching stories for NBC. She earned her first byline on her third day.

“It was so cool to see my name under the NBC logo,” she said. “It’s such a big name, and to be recognized and see my words on the screen was such a really awesome experience.”

That first story was assigned to her. The next two were ideas she pitched herself.

Having served as editor-in-chief of The Stylus on campus and as a freelance reporter for Rochester’s City Newspaper, Alfonseca was well seasoned upon arrival at NBC — but the work environment has been a change of pace from those weekly papers.

“Now, I’m getting a story out in an hour,” she said. “It’s definitely taking a little more energy than I’m used to. But it’s so exciting to understand all the cogs to the machine that is this huge market. It can be nerve-racking, but it’s going to be such a valuable experience.”

This work is helping her to build upon foundational skills learned at Brockport.

“In school, you learn the basics of writing an article, ethics, law, all of these different aspects of journalism. And at The Stylus, I got further practice,” she said. “Now those basics are ingrained in me, so I can experiment with how I’m telling the story — how am I going to convey this event, this theme, this problem in our society, to my readers?”

These are questions Alfonseca first got to explore in depth last year through an internship and fellowship with ProPublica, a nonprofit, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalism website. In the fall, ProPublica named her an Emerging Reporter. She was one of five honorees nationwide, from 275 applicants.

“I knew I wanted to make work that was meaningful and that has an impact on the community I’m reporting on,” said Alfonseca. “I want to be able to look at my work in the future and say someone gained something from it. They showed me how to do that [at ProPublica] — where to look, who to ask, how to find those stories that aren’t being told.”

That lesson came about the hard way in one pivotal case, as she developed an in-depth piece, “When Hate Meets Hoax,” as part of ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” project.

“I made a draft within a week. My editor [Senior Editor Joe Sexton] said, ‘You don’t have a draft. Have you been to Minnesota? Then you don’t have a story. Book your hotel, book your flight; you are going to Northfield.’”

Once there, Alfonseca talked with students from St. Olaf College, the focus of her piece, going out with them for meals, hearing firsthand their experiences, their backgrounds, their fears. That input allowed her to bring new life to the story.

“I had a 2D version of the community initially,” she said. “When I look at the final product, I see real people and a real community with complex issues. I failed these people originally. It was a huge lesson to learn.”

Alfonseca also credits Brockport for many important lessons in her professional development.

“Where would I be without Brockport?” she said. “I wouldn’t understand the pressure of deadlines, teamwork, being factual. I really appreciate the community atmosphere; it fosters a healthy environment to pursue whatever goals you’re trying to pursue.”

Associate Professor of Communication Marsha Ducey says she saw Alfonseca’s potential in her freshman year.

“It’s rare to get a student that knows from the moment they come in what they want to do and what they want to be when they get out,” Ducey said. “She knew from the very first semester.”

Ducey said she would often bring story ideas to the Stylus staff, and “any time I went to Kiara, she already knew about it and had three sources ready to go!”

In just over one month so far at NBC, Alfonseca says she has seen growth as a writer.

“I can really see my voice,” she said of her most recent articles, “when I hadn’t been able to in the past. That was something I was really proud of: they didn’t edit that much; that is me. That is pure, unadulterated Kiara.”

Last Updated 7/29/21

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