GovSight is a non-profit technology and news company which was formed in 2019. In our weekly GovSight Diaries series, we share the stories of our challenges and successes in hopes that others can learn from our accomplishments and struggles.
Six years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I didn’t know what I “wanted to be when I grew up,” but it was around the time for me to start making decisions about college. And that constant question, asked by my parents and college counselor, made me feel extremely anxious about what the future held. I only knew two things: I liked to write, and I wanted to have an impact on this world. However, it wasn’t until my mom said, “You love talking and being nosy, you should be a journalist,” that I started thinking that I could pursue a career in journalism.
At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I decided to apply to Northwestern University — which has one of the best journalism schools in the country — without any media experience whatsoever. Needless to say, I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I had this idyllic and naïve plan that I was going to go to college, write, and magically fall in love with this industry.
But once I got accepted (surprisingly) into Northwestern's journalism school, Medill, and started my college career, I was scared and felt extremely unqualified. Everyone had been part of their student newspaper or had attended some sort of journalism summer program. Several times I wanted to quit because I felt like my English was not good enough (English is my second language) or because I failed an assignment due to a factual or small grammar mistake (the Medill F is a thing — Google it). Thankfully, I slowly started to fall in love with my major, and my high school dream no longer seemed as naïve after all.
Nonetheless, the hard part was still to come. How could I make a change?
Sometimes an impact is not immediate, but a change can still happen
As journalists, we can uncover as many injustices and lies as possible, but we also depend on policymakers and people in power to change legislation or how systems work. So if the law or policy doesn’t change, does that mean our reporting was for nothing? That’s what I thought when I was an underclassman in college, and it is still something I grapple with from time to time when I see governments not taking any action after journalists spend several months reporting on in-depth investigations that clearly show a need for change.
Raising awareness, however, is a step toward change. Reporting on injustices in areas like immigration, race, or police brutality can lead to a greater understanding of the issue and can incite the community to demand action, potentially allowing for new legislation or policies. Also, more often than not, reporting will shed a light on unknown injustices and having that knowledge is worthy enough as it changes what we know.
Throughout my short career, I have worked on projects that have both tangible and intangible impacts, but I learned that every single one of my pieces has an impact and is therefore worth writing.
How does GovSight fit into this?
So we come back to the idea of doing something outside your comfort zone to solve an issue you might see. Like choosing journalism as a career path, joining GovSight was a stretch for me. And making “citizenship simplified” was a change I wanted to see.
I was one of those people who say they “hate” politics. I choose to stay out of conversations about elections, the Senate, the House of Representatives, political parties, and pretty much anything else. But how can you stay out of politics as journalist, you may ask? It’s simple. You just sit back, listen, and nod.
The truth is I didn’t hate politics, I just didn’t understand it. Growing up in Santiago, Chile, I didn’t know what the electoral college was when I arrived in the U.S. my freshman year of university or how it worked. As months passed by and I experienced my first American presidential election, I slowly started understanding how politics in this country functioned. Nonetheless, the complicated nature of the system as well as how different it is from other countries’ systems made it hard for a foreigner like me to comprehend. Even people who were born and have lived their entire lives here can barely understand how it works.
When Miguel Pineda, co-founder of GovSight, approached me in October 2019 to join The InSight Podcast, I was skeptical, took one shot at it, and never did it again. Like my freshman year of college, I was scared and felt extremely unqualified. I quit, and I did not contribute to anything related to GovSight or politics after that.
But I had the opportunity to come back to write articles and produce videos at the beginning of April of this year. This time, when Miguel and Joe Magliocco, GovSight's political director, asked me to rejoin, I decided to try again because I wanted to make “citizenship simplified.” I wanted people like me, who don’t know much about politics, to understand how our country runs. Another perk was getting to learn more as I do it.
And yes, I will give you the “journalism is key right now” pep talk. With everything going on right now, a pandemic, worldwide protests demanding social change and our democracy dangling from its hinges, we need to stay informed. Journalists are under attack now more than ever. But if journalists don’t do their work, then no one else will. Even if a piece doesn't have an immediate effect, if it's factual and sheds light on something that needs to be known by the public, then it's worth it. The work GovSight does is not only worth it, but also indispensable.
So take that leap of faith, in journalism or whatever it may be in your life, as you can find your passion and leave your mark in this world.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.