From walking the halls of JJC as a journalism student to reporting from the U.S.- Mexico border, Maria Ines Zamudio’s career has kept her busy and well-traveled.
Since graduating from JJC in 2005 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007, Zamudio has worked in every journalism media except television.
Zamudio remembers her college experience as busy, yet positive.
“I was very busy during my college years, working and going to school full-time,” Zamudio said. “I was focused on graduating from JJC in two years and figuring out where I wanted to go next. While I was here, I believe I wrote a couple of articles for the Blazer.”
Zamudio was on campus recently to speak to the News Writing class of her former professor, Bob Marcink.
“I thought it would be interesting for our current students to hear from an alum who is doing some exciting and interesting work,” Marcink said. “Plus, I hadn’t seen Maria in a long time, and I wanted to catch up.”
During the 75-minute lecture, she talked about her early career as well as her more recent work for WBEZ in Chicago as an investigative reporter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, National Public Radio, NBC 5 Chicago, Telemundo and Univision among others.
She first started out in print, working in a Californian daily newspaper for about four years, and later at the Chicago Reporter magazine. She also worked in print for a Memphis newspaper as an investigative reporter before returning to Chicago for a journalism fellowship at the University of Illinois-Chicago while she wrote for the Associated Press.
She then joined the investigative team for American Public Media before moving to WBEZ as a reporter about a year ago.
Most journalists that work in print or online have a “beat”– a particular topic or subject that they cover. Zamudio’s beat is immigration. Although currently living in Chicago, she often travels between the United States and Mexico for her work.
When asked how she prepares to address the border issue, Zamudio said, “I don’t think anything can prepare you for the things you witness. It’s basically a refugee camp out there, although not an official one. You’ll find people living in tents and sharing port-a-potties with thousands of people.”
She talked to Marcink’s class about one of her recent stories with WBEZ, “Deported U.S. Veterans Feel Abandoned By The Country They Defended,” in which she and a team of reporters interviewed nine U.S. veterans who were deported to Mexico, India and Kenya. The story can be found on the WBEZ website with a seven-minute audio clip.
“You can obviously hear the worry in these men’s voices,” she said. “What I think is very powerful about audio is that it can really connect you to people in a way that sometimes print can’t. That’s why it’s really important to write in scenes, really take people with you.”
Zamudio also talked about her belief in the importance of investigative reporting, and in the work that reporters like her do.
“If you’re going to work in this industry, people are going to tear you down every single day, especially [if you are] women,” Zamudio said. “So you have to come to an understanding that as long as you are okay with the work you do, then everything and everyone else doesn’t matter.”