Fresno State alum appointed to Society of Professional Journalists board of directors

Victor Hernandez, the News Futurist

Fresno State Media, Communications and Journalism alumnus and two-time Peabody award recipient Victor Hernandez has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

“The timing is tremendous in that the SPJ board is currently undergoing a major transformation, streamlining from its longstanding 23 members down to a much smaller number in 2019. In 2017 at the Excellence in Journalism convention the SPJ members approved a ‘more practical and efficient’ nine-person national board,” said Hernandez.

According to SPJ, they are the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 7,500 members; works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press through its advocacy efforts.

The appointment is the latest accolade in a storied career that began with Fresno State’s Media, Communications and Journalism (MCJ) program.

“My academic experiences at Fresno State helped prepare me for a professional world I hardly knew at the time,” said Hernandez. “My professors and ensuing coursework provided me a foundation for critical thinking and quantitative reasoning. The ability to question the why – a very valuable skillset in journalism.”

Hernandez was able to take advantage of the extra-curricular programs Fresno State has to offer as well as an internship which gave him a broad range of experience beyond the classroom.

“My favorite moments [at Fresno State] were the hands-on practical experience and exposure to the business that I acquired through my time at The Collegian, KFSR Radio and a student internship at KSEE-24 NBC Fresno. Whether I was a student reporter covering the men’s Bulldog basketball team at Selland Arena, writing up highlights from the latest student speaker series for the campus paper or learning how to operate the teleprompter at the local NBC affiliate as part of my student internship, the on-the-job training helped propel me into a long career in and around varying newsrooms.”

From working as an Assignment Editor at KSEE-24 in Fresno and Assignment Manager at the NBC owned television station KNSD in San Diego, Hernandez was able to build up experience which led him to a long stint at CNN. During his time there, he advanced to be the Director of Domestic Newsgathering and gained a reputation as someone who lived at the intersection of emerging technology and storytelling. That focus on innovation allowed him to create advances in news production workflows, network reporting, and audience reach.

Hernandez says he was fortunate to have a front-row seat to some of the most significant news events of the time including presidential elections, natural disasters, economic collapse, mass shootings, and inspiring human interest stories. Through it all, what he remembers most are the personal aspects of life and professional growth.

“It is not typically these news stories and their associated outcomes that strike me the most. I tend to look to the people that have touched my work and growth, and those I’ve been able to support as the ultimate high points of my professional career,” said Hernandez. “Specifically the people I’ve helped to hire, mentor, lead, leave positive impressions on that sometimes reverberate throughout their careers that provide me the greatest source of accomplishment. I run into these individuals regularly at industry conferences and other gatherings and the best feeling is learning of some advice or helpful support I provided years prior, that in a small but meaningful way helped to guide the path of others. These are incredibly rewarding and powerful moments.”

Victor Hernandez shows off his Fresno State Bulldogs tie at CNN.

From CNN, Hernandez was promoted to Program Manager, Editorial Systems for Turner Broadcasting System. In this position, he served as a “News Futurist” and managed small teams of computer programmers who created the next generation of news gathering and consumption technologies.

After leaving Turner, Hernandez spent some time as a nonresidential fellow of the Reynolds Journalism Institute studying the impact of the Apple Watch and other wearable technology on newsrooms and news audiences. He was also the Director of Media Innovation at Banjo, a startup company which uses social media posts to detect news events. The platform is used by thousands of journalists around the world.

“I recently departed Banjo after three years of leading media innovation with the technology startup. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow with a fast-growth startup, particularly one focused on building powerful tools for professional journalists, but I realized earlier this year that my calling is helping to lead newsrooms from the inside,” said Hernandez. “I’m currently consulting media companies interested in improving their news and innovation strategies. I’m also teaching journalism workshops at places like The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, where I spent time recently training visiting international journalists.”

When asked what technology he is excited about and what the future of storytelling looks like, Hernandez responded with valuable insight that every journalist and aspiring story teller should pay attention to:

“I’m excited about a bunch of technology break-throughs that present interesting intersections with news reporting and engaging audiences. A few that immediately come to mind are VR/360 immersive, artificial intelligence, audio/podcasting, social/messaging, IoT/contextual awareness, and news personalization features.

“The future of news and storytelling is extremely complex and constantly taking on new forms and shape. Things are, well, fluid… Themes I am confident that will transpire over the next decade or so across the media industry include:

  1. Behind the scenes, content and programming teams will be comprised of dynamic personnel from diverse backgrounds such as editorial, design, mobile, and product areas.
  2. It will be essential for the relationship between programmer/publisher and news consumer to develop even tighter bonds, or risk alienation and total mistrust/devaluation.
  3. Misinformation and audience trust issues will become the greatest currency when it comes to how much a member of the community is willing to invest in that relationship with a news organization, if at all.
  4. The importance of Local News sources, credibility and expertise will grow to even greater heights.
  5. Specific audience preferences through personalization features will take on much greater weight and values.
  6. Themes of ‘evolve, adapt and change management’ will continue to be a part of every journalists’ professional way of life – largely because of the rapid pace of innovation and disruption and changing business models in news.
  7. Speaking of revenue, the business of media will continue to expand and contract based on smart (or not) leaps in the development of new monetization pathways.
  8. Journalism education is more important than ever – in terms of early development for future generations of storytellers and preparing them to properly begin to tackle the aforementioned areas, but also to create and build new types of revenue streams to further the reach and important service of informing communities.

“The current rate of change and disruption across the news media landscape is unprecedented. New trends along with shiny distracting objects are hurling toward us (and our screens) all the time. One of the great challenges of the modern era is being able to discern true potential from delusive spikes that often pull our focus away from executing effective content strategies.”

When asked if he had anything else to add, Hernandez made himself accessible as a resource to others with ties to Fresno State.

“My door is always open for Fresno State family (current or former students) to contact me anytime. I’d love to be an asset or resource for fellow Bulldogs – whether that’s help with a professional introduction, career advice or to bounce an idea off someone who’s worked in the business for a number of years,” said Hernandez. “No one has achieved high levels of success in our industry without having been the fortunate recipient of someone else’s time and attention. We all have mentors and people who have taken us under their wing at some point. I’m always thrilled to hear from someone with Fresno State ties. Please take full advantage. Go ‘Dogs!”

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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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