NOVA Alumus Issmar Ventura graduated from NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus and now works as an on-air news reporter for KRGV-TV in a heavy hitting media market in south Texas. Issmar talks to us about the importance of tenaciously following your dreams.
Issmar is a bilingual, multimedia communicator from the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia area. He is a professional with over five years of communication, marketing, journalism, public relations and advertising experience. Fluent in English and Spanish, he has covered stories in busy newsrooms such as Univision and Telemundo in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area as well as in the state of Nevada.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your NOVA experience:
I came from El Salvador in Central America. I graduated from NOVA in 2014, and it’s interesting because, although I graduated from Freedom High School in 2011 – I went to a community college in Reno, Nevada for about a year, and then I transferred to NOVA in Woodbridge where I completed my associate degree in Liberal arts.
After I graduated from NOVA, I went to Mason and declared a major in communications and specializing in journalism and marketing. I also did a minor in homeland security under the criminology department.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I liked communications, but I didn’t know which job or career path I wanted to take. At NOVA, I did some testing of the waters before I sailed my boat. Since I took a communication class at NOVA with Professor Jenny Lopez Ramirez – she advised me on some options. Years later, I still communicate her every once in a while on LinkedIn.
I remember telling her, “Maybe I’ll be an airline pilot.” She said, “Are you sure you see yourself flying the skies?” I said, “I just want to help people.” I worked two jobs while at NOVA. I worked at Dulles International Airport as a passenger service agent hoping to discover if I really wanted to go into the airline industry.
At NOVA I took a bunch of different core classes that I was interested in to get a taste of different career fields before completing my associate degree. Alex Coppelman, my previous academic advisor at NOVA was a huge help to me – he made a difference in my life.
Then I went into working at Target selling cell phones and plans to explore my potential in sales. I worked this job through my years at Mason, too.
Tell us a little about what you’ve done since graduating from NOVA:
I graduated from Mason in 2016, and at that point I was already working for Sprint Corp. as a store manager. Something was missing. I saw people on TV, and I wondered if I could do that.
My last two years at Mason, I was working for the school’s newspaper, ‘Fourth Estate.’ I was already part of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Hispanic Journalists as I was taking a lot of journalism classes. I even started my own Spanish television show on the Mason Cable Network.
Tell us a little bit more about starting in the media world?
My first internship was writing for BBC News for their Los Angeles office. Then I started interning at Telemundo, Voice of America and Univision in Washington. These internships solidified that I wanted to go into the journalism field and leave sales to pursue what I was passionate about. I quit my job at Sprint and packed my bags for the next big adventure.
I was accepted to University of Nevada, Reno into the media program for a Master’s in Journalism. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I started my first job reporting in Northern Nevada in Reno. I was working at NBC Reno as a digital producer and was at the assignment desk. I was working with reporters and photographers and editors for a year.
Later on, I got recruited by ‘Entravision Communications’ in Reno. I wasn’t looking for a new job. However, I got a call from the news director and he said, “I need you to quit your job and come work for me.” He said, “I’ve seen your reel, your work samples and I got more than enough references. I am looking to fill that position right now.”
I worked as the multimedia journalist for the entire Northern Nevada region from the Nevada/California line to the Nevada/Utah border. I was a reporter for Univision Nevada that covered events as the only Spanish outlet in the region. I was nervous, but I pushed myself though it. I perfected my camera and editing skills --- I learned so much.
I only had a photographer with me for huge events. The community really started to wrap its arms around me. I went from being a little journalist running around doing stories like pedestrian issues and local commute to the bigger stories on healthcare and politicians. I really focused on helping the Reno community. What I wanted to do were hard stories of difficulties that the Hispanic community had, being a minority in the area.
In a year and a half, I went from zero to 10,000 followers on social media. I covered the stories of people who were domestic violence survivors, to working with people who were undocumented who needed answers and did not know where to turn. I was covering casinos, gambling and investigations. Everyone knew who I was. I even got to interview presidential candidates like Kamala Harris who was campaigning at the time. A lot of big people I never thought I could ever meet, I got to see.
All the while I was working, I was still in my graduate studies and was set to graduate in May of 2020, which I did. Like many, I didn’t have a graduation ceremony due to the pandemic.
I knew I wanted to keep growing in my career and knew to do that, I had to leave Reno.
One day, I’m on LinkedIn scrolling, and I saw somebody post about looking for a news reporter in South Texas.
The posting said, “this is not your typical journalist job.” As a comparison, Reno is 129 in the Nielsen television rating table. Here, I am in the McAllen Rio Grande Valley area and its number 10 in the market for Spanish news. That’s a huge leap. It is a lot bigger here, and I am covering the pandemic and more than anything, national stories from the U.S. Mexico border almost every day.
How do you like what you’re doing now?
I am on TV again, and I’ll be here for a while. My goal afterwards is to go to an even bigger market. Maybe going back to Washington D.C. I am ready. I am ready for Telemundo or VOA Washington. I am doing this for the love and the passion; the investment into the career and for the investment in my professional growth – and to help communities get their voices heard. I eventually want to look into documentary work in international settings.
What words of advice would you give to a current NOVA student studying journalism?
If I don’t have good delivery, good relationship-building skills or I’m not skilled and practical, I would fail at my job.
The one thing I cannot stress enough for any potential journalist of color, or potential journalist from another part of the world, is to focus on your ideals when going into the world of media. The cutthroat truth – you can have whatever degree or educational experience you want, but in this industry, it is a whole lot more than that. You have to have the passion and integrity for it. You cannot think, “I am going to go in front of a camera” for the fame and that’s it.
The last thing I would say is, especially to first-generation students is that you have to be a shark. You have to be humble, nice and have a “go-getter” attitude. You cannot sit down and wait for things to fall from the sky. Experience will not fall from the sky. Your work ethic and work samples will not fall from the sky. You have to create your image.
Making a ton of money should never be a priority in this industry, either. You need to learn, stick to the plan, stick to the goal and move forward with it. No matter how scared you are, you can do anything you want in going into a media career.
You just have to set a plan for yourself. Break the obstacles, work hard, and never, ever give up.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.