UNC Latinx Broadcast Is Back and Better Than Before

By Elaine Jimenez | 12/10/2023

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Latin newscast Carolina Ahora premiered on Nov. 29 thanks to students and faculty members passionate about sharing stories targeted toward the Hispanic community.

The series was established before the pandemic as a part of Carolina Week, another UNC student-led newscast. The program stalled after Carolina classes transferred online in August 2020 due to the rise of COVID-19 cases.

Professor Lelya Santiago and other students assisted in the reestablishment of Carolina Ahora. Students write, record and will soon produce the series that lives on YouTube and Facebook. Some reports are borrowed from Carolina Week and translated into Spanish. However, Carolina Ahora strives to have original content produced specifically for the Hispanic community.

A small population of Hispanics make up the total student body at UNC. According to a Fall 2022 report from the university, only 9.6% of undergraduates self-identified as Hispanic or Latino. Santiago explained that it is less about the numbers and more about representation.

Representing the multi-faceted Latinx community remains the primary goal for Carolina Ahora. Santiago said, “I’m hoping that in Carolina Ahora is something that not only reflects stories that we’re interested in but also reflects our stories, stories about us, stories that resonate with us.”

No one topic appeals to the growing Hispanic community despite how they are represented in the media. Since the 2020 election, Latinos have been associated with immigration. Santiago noted that Hispanics are concerned about topics other than the Southern border.

According to a September 2022 report from the Pew Research Center, 80% of Latino voters said the economy was a significant concern when voting. Immigration was the eighth important issue, with 54% of Latinos agreeing that it impacted their voting decision. Voters rely on the news to gather their information, which is why informing the Hispanics in their native tongue is essential.

Carolina Ahora included economic issues in the Hispanic community in their first broadcast. The feature covered a local Latino business owner, Juan Cruz, and the growth of his company, J.C. Landscaping Services.

The story aired on Carolina Ahora but not on their sister station Carolina Week. Santiago stirs away from taking English news and translating it into Spanish. She said, “I think it should be more than that. I think we should take into account who our audience is and what they’re interested in and create content that isn’t just news translated into Spanish.”

Before becoming a professor at Carolina, Santiago worked at CNN as a correspondent. She covered Latin America for two years. Because of her dedication to covering Latin America, she explained that she has “a passion for telling stories about our [Hispanic] communities.”

Hispanic UNC students also strive to represent their people. The Hussman School of Journalism holds 4.6% of Hispanic students, according to the Daily Tar Heel. Hussman Junior Ashley Santillan strives to learn the technique of covering a diverse group of individuals. She said, “I
hope to learn how to accurately portray the Latinx community.”

Carolina Senior Nayeli Jaramillo-Plata said, “Working on Carolina Ahora has helped me become a better journalist.” At the Hussman School, Jaramillo-Plata studies print reporting and videography. However, Carolina Ahora has given her the opportunity to test her broadcasting skills. She served as the lead anchor for the premiere of the series.

Santiago mentioned that Jaramillo-Plata was eager to begin filming Carolina Ahora. Jaramillo-Plata said she was excited to work on a project that would last after she graduates. She will leave Chapel Hill knowing she fostered a program that benefits future Hispanic students and
their families.

Carolina Ahora aspires to grow in the Spring semester. The series started in November to familiarize students with filming and writing for broadcast. A larger premier is coming in 2024. Santiago said, “The growth of the newscast, which I am confident will occur, will come with
time and getting people comfortable with their roles.”

Although the series was soft launched this semester, the crew made a few changes to the original design. They added an introduction song with more percussion, like traditional Hispanic music. Santiago said, “I thought to myself, ‘If it’s a Latino newscast, shouldn’t we have some
percussion?’” The team also designed a new graphics package specifically for Carolina Ahora.

The news series intends to continue into next year with a grander launch.

Santiago jokingly said, “Who knows, maybe we’ll add more percussion to the music.

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