Photo Courtesy of Society of Professional Journalism

Left to right: Elisabeth Weems, Abby Burton, Jackie Fernandez, Isiah Mowery, Patrick Kaminowski attended the event to hear more about Fernandez.


April 19, 2016

Jackie Fernandez from NewsChannel 5 gives tips to journalism students

Jackie Fernandez, “Good Morning Cleveland” anchor for NewsChannel 5, said on March 31 at Cleveland State University that she’s made a lot of sacrifices having a career in journalism, but when she’s able to change someone’s perspective and their life, “this is why I do what I do.”

Fernandez spoke at the Cleveland State Chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) first event this year called “Tips from a Professional: Journalism.” She spoke to students about diversity issues in the newsroom regarding race, sexuality, gender, political affiliation and religion.

Dr. Edward Horowitz, School of Communication professor, said the purpose of these events is to bring in speakers to introduce students to professionals in the field where they want to work.

“As a professor for Foundations of Journalism and Promotional Communication, I coordinate events with SPJ and PRSSA [Public Relations Society of America] to bring professional speakers into the classroom because it’s helpful for students to see their role model,” Horowitz said. “When students heard [Jackie Fernandez’s] story, they may have thought to themselves ‘if she can do it, I can do it.’”

In a phone interview, SPJ President Elisabeth Weems said SPJ took the initiative to sponsor and promote the event as it’s important to provide students with professional insight they wouldn’t necessarily learn in a classroom, especially issues regarding diversity in the newsroom.

In her speech, Fernandez said growing up in Los Angeles she never felt like a minority because diversity was common on the West Coast.

It wasn’t until she moved to New York City to attend Hunter College and interned at a news station when she felt like a minority for the first time.

In an editorial meeting in 2008, Fernandez said she remembered looking around the room, “At that moment, I knew what it felt like to be a minority as everyone in the newsroom was white.” She elaborated, “I thought, ‘This is my chance, I’m going to pitch something right now and wow them.’”

Fernandez said she needed to be brave in that moment because if she didn’t speak up for all of the voices of minority, then they would go silent.

“Minorities are more than just race,” Fernandez said. “And, this is something we have to bear in the newsroom.”

She encouraged students to be that person who speaks up for everyone else.

“You can be the change,” Fernandez said. “You can be the one to pitch that idea, change narrative and change the story.”

Weems said she could relate to the issues Fernandez spoke about, as she is a woman of color seeking a career in journalism.

“As a black female, I have to face these challenges and will continue to face these challenges,” Weems said.

She elaborated on the big points she took away from the speech and hoped other students learned from Fernandez, “You can never be meek and modest in the field of journalism,” Weems said. “You have to be forthright, demanding and courageous – all characteristics that are important when seeking the truth and getting answers.”

Weems said she wants to encourage students to get involved on campus and continue sponsoring these types of events.

“SPJ advocates for students to be involved,” Weems said. “SPJ was inactive for one year and not really present on campus for three years thereafter, and my goal is to establish SPJ on campus so students can continue operating the chapter.”

Weems shared her overall mission as the newly elected president for SPJ.

“As SPJ president, I want to prepare journalists with the networking skills they need in the field of journalism,” Weems said. “I want students to understand there are more options than just being a TV anchor.”

She continued, “We’re cultivating the next generation of reporters and storytellers – this is something that’s lacking for the School of Communication,” Weems said. “I want to bring in people from different backgrounds as far as TV anchors, investigative reporters and other forms of journalism to provide students with insight they may not learn elsewhere.”

For more information about The Society of Professional Journalists, how to become a member and future events, contact SPJ President Elisabeth Weems at


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