As storms pounded Central California in late February, New York Times reporter Soumya Karlamangla contacted Faith Sidlow, chair of the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism at Fresno State. She was looking for help to cover the weather and flooding in Planada, a small town east of Merced.
“Soumya needed someone who spoke fluent Spanish and could translate her interviews,” Sidlow said. “She also wanted someone who could travel to Planada to do interviews on their own.”
Sidlow knew the perfect person to cover the story, her student Viviana Hinojos. An email and a phone call later, Hinojos had her first assignment with the second-largest daily newspaper in the United States.
“The next day, I woke up at 6 in the morning, got ready and went to Planada,” Hinojos said. “I just started driving around, looking for people and talking to them.”
Hinojos said she interviewed four people that day and saw the devastation they faced. Their homes and vehicles were damaged or destroyed by the flooding. Their rescued belongings were stacked on the curb alongside piles of soaked sheetrock, clothes and debris destined for landfills.
“It was very eye-opening for me,” Hinojos said. “It made me feel a lot of compassion, and I wanted to do a great job with the story so they could get more coverage because they need more help.”
Hinojos said Karlamangla primarily wrote the first story, but Hinojos’ work and interviews made it into the article. Later, Karlamangla thanked her in a text and informed her she would share a byline in the New York Times.
“I started crying,” Hinojos said. “Four years ago, I thought, ‘one day I want to write for the New York Times, and one day I want to work for NPR.’ It’s crazy to think that, as a student, I was able to do that.”
Even more, she was able to fulfill her dreams, reporting on a subject she is passionate about.
“It wasn’t just a story about anything. It was a story about a population that is 98% Latino and Latina. That is why I got into journalism – to be a voice and an advocate for those who desperately need it.”
Since that first story, Hinojos is now part of a reporting team covering the California storms for the newspaper. She is on the New York Times Slack channel, a communications platform used by many journalist organizations, and has continued storm coverage in stories and on the newspaper’s live blog.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to Faith,” Hinojos said. “I love the MCJ program. I’m so thankful I chose Fresno State. I’m really impressed by this program. It has done incredible things and impacted my life in so many ways.”
During her time at Fresno State, Hinojos has interned with ABC30 and NPR in Sacramento. She has also been published in EdSource.
“Viviana has impressed me since the day I met her,” Sidlow said. “She is dedicated to journalism and storytelling. She was the first student I thought of for the NPR NextGen Radio project. She knocked it out of the park at NextGen, and I knew she would do well with the New York Times assignment.”
Hinojos graduated in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in media, communications and journalism with the broadcast and multiplatform option. She plans to be a television reporter after graduating. The California News Publishers Association recently awarded Hinojos third place in the profile category for her Fresno State Collegian story on artist Veronica Garcia.