Emerging in a Hurry
Award-winning USA Today reporter Yamiche Alcindor is no stranger to covering major news. Tues., May 7, 2013.
By Sandra Muller
Sandra Muller (email@example.com) is a graduate student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.
Yamiche Alcindor is off to a fast start.
At 26, the USA Today breaking news reporter has already been involved in coverage of such major stories as the Boston Marathon bombing and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that she's been named Emerging Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.
"It is my first award," Alcindor says. "It is exciting that they put me into the same category as the peers I admire."
"Yamiche embodies what the Emerging Journalist of the Year Award stands for," Sarah Hoye, NABJ's Student Multimedia Projects Manager, said in a press release. "Engaged, curious and intrepid, Yamiche is a young and talented journalist with great promise who has distinguished herself in the field with her tenacious reporting and compelling storytelling."
NABJ President Gregory Lee Jr. adds, "It is inspiring to see young journalists like Yamiche take advantage of every opportunity presented them to learn, to grow, and to thrive. This is surely just the beginning of what will be a richly rewarding career for a talented young woman."
Alcindor says the award is a welcome vindication of her professional efforts. "For me, this means a confirmation that my work and my efforts mean something," she says. Journalism, she says, "is all I wanted to do since I was 15."
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Alcindor grew up in Miami, where she learned the importance of civic engagement. From early on, she says, she sensed that journalism was significant for society. "Journalism can make a country care about things," she says.
At 17, she made her first steps into the world that fascinated her with the Westside Gazette, a newspaper in South Florida, where she covered voters during the 2004 presidential elections. "I did not know much about newswriting," she freely admits. This changed rapidly after she received an internship with the Miami Herald. "From the minute I saw her, I was very moved by her enthusiasm," says Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles. "It was like I saw myself."
The women bonded over their heritage and became close friends. Charles, the Herald's Caribbean correspondent, was named NABJ Journalist of the Year in 2011. "I am very proud of Yamiche and the honor she received," Charles says, recalling her own feelings when she received her award. "She is a great and wonderful example of what we need because, despite all challenges, she still believes in the press and journalism."
Alcindor describes her Herald internships during the summers of 2005 and 2007 as an "awesome experience." "They took me from someone who could hardly follow AP Style to someone with good news judgment," she says. "They had an invested interest in seeing me grow."
Alcindor attended Georgetown University, where she studied government, English and African American studies between 2005 and 2009. During her freshman year, she became involved with NABJ after a reporter at the Herald suggested that she apply for an internship with the organization. She became a member, but it wasn't until 2009 that she became more active, going to conventions and meeting other members.
"It was amazing to see the commitment to diversity and to holding news organizations accountable for that," she says. "This country has still a long way to go," she adds. "I have never been challenged being a black journalist--I always got a job and internships--but the percentage of black journalists in newsrooms is still very low."
When Alcindor thinks about those who inspired her to reach the first milestones of her career, she names not only Jacqueline Charles but also Dwight Lauderdale, the first African American news anchor in South Florida.
Alcindor also interned with the Seattle Times and the Washington Post. In 2008, she freelanced for Mmegi, the largest newspaper in the Africa nation of Botswana, writing news analyses and rewriting articles on international affairs. In 2009, she participated in the New York Times' Student Journalism Institute.
Her career kicked off at Long Island's Newsday, where she covered gangs and neighborhood violence between 2010 and 2011 before joining USA Today in late 2011.
"She had a lot of talent when she came here," says Mike James, Alcindor's editor at the paper. "The skill that really sets her apart is this remarkable ability to write stories in a conversational and accessible way."
Alicindor says that while covering stories like the Boston bombing can be emotional taxing, "our job is to make the country care."
"I learned to deal with those emotions," she adds. "I go into these situations thinking, 'I need to tell this story well.' When I get upset, I take a moment to be a human being. But, at the end of the day, I need to meet my deadline."