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The people’s storyteller

by Catalina Myers  |   

Patricio Espinoza
New Atwood Chair of Jouranlism, Patricio Espinoza with his service animal and companion, Frida, on campus earlier this summer. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

 “A journalist’s job is to give a voice to those that don’t have a voice,” said Patricio Espinoza, this year’s Department of Journalism and Communications Atwood Chair of Journalism. In 1979 Robert B. Atwood, editor of the Anchorage Times, and his wife Evangeline established the Atwood Chair at UAA to advance journalism in Alaska. The professorship was created with the hope that students, faculty, media professionals and the public would benefit from the opportunity to learn and interact with journalists of national prominence. 

Currently, Espinoza is an associate faculty member at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M San Antonio. He is a TV News adviser for “Enlace,” a weekly bilingual student program. Additionally, Espinoza actively advises the Communication program at Texas A&M San Antonio to develop state-of-the-art multimedia production facilities for students learning.

Like the many Atwood Chairs before him, his resume boasts an impressive record. But the five-time Emmy Award-winning bilingual multimedia journalist who has interviewed popes and presidents has a simple goal and mission: to inspire his students to tell people’s everyday stories.

“It sounds cliche, but the truth is that journalism is about everyday people,” said Espinoza. It’s what he’s focused his career on, giving a voice to people, particularly Indigenous and minority groups and communities who are underrepresented in mainstream news and media. Originally from Ecuador, Espinoza arrived in the United States as an exchange student and discovered his passion for storytelling early in life. For the past 35 years, he has worked in every facet of the industry with the goal of telling minority peoples' and communities' stories. His work includes stories for CNN, ABC News, Univision, Telemundo, The Associated Press, and NBC News. He has recently taken his lifetime work and focused his attention on teaching and utilizing new media tools to produce interactive broadcast and digital content stories on multiple platforms. 

Espinoza says creating a hands-on, interactive and engaging experience in and out of the classroom for his students is essential for developing the diverse skills required to be a journalist in today’s digital multimedia world.

“I treat my classroom almost as if it was a living, working newsroom,” said Espinoza. “My expertise has always been as a broadcast journalist who then later transitioned into online and what today is known as digital multimedia. I love working with students on stories that can be used across multiple platforms.” In addition to creating a newsroom experience, Espinoza hopes to enlist local and national media experts to teach about covering news in Alaska and around the world and plans to develop community projects for his students to tackle, as well as online training opportunities for local nonprofits to take advantage of today’s digital tools to tell their stories. 

Due to COVID-19, this year’s professorship is currently online. Still, Espinoza is planning several visits to Alaska, meeting in person with students, and doing community outreach, depending on local and university regulations on coronavirus safety. 

Before the pandemic, Espinoza had the opportunity to visit Alaska and traveled across the state this summer. He said he was instantly hooked by the state’s beauty and the unique culture as well as the potential to research and produce many stories about Alaska and its people. Coincidentally, he met Larry Persily, the current Atwood Chair, who encouraged him to contact the university. When Espinoza learned of the Atwood Chair, he said he jumped at the chance and is hopeful he will spend some time in the 49th state before the summer ends and in the winter months to experience the Iditarod and other winter activities.

Despite needing to adapt the traditional classroom experience because of COVID-19, Espinoza is looking forward to a great year at UAA. He hopes that in addition to inspiring his students, he can also inspire faculty, alumni, and the community interested in learning more about multimedia and digital storytelling news in a rapidly changing world.

“I would like to encourage the community to support UAA and the journalism program so that the stories that are being told can be published in the community,” Espinoza said. “I think that’s especially important in today’s world.”

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