By Alex Hutton
Brockport Beat Staff Writer
From a 17-year-old reporting the unfairness seen at a One Direction concert, to leading a project on Hispanic history month for Huffington Post, Kiara Alfonseca paved a path for herself from The College at Brockport to the top.
Before attending The College at Brockport, Alfonseca grew up in Middletown, New York in the Hudson Valley. She is a proud Latina, her mother is from Puerto Rico and her father is an immigrant from the Domincan Republic. Her heritage is a driving factor for her writing.
“I always loved telling stories and as I got older and I started learning more about social justice and advocating for people. I wanted to combine the things I love which were helping people and writing stories. That’s how journalism came into play and that’s when I really began to understand what journalism was and how I could be part of that,” Alfonseca said.
Her debut in journalism came at a free concert hosted by the Today Show, in Rockefeller center. Alfonseca slept outside for days to secure a front row spot to see the biggest boyband at the time, One Direction. After the soundcheck, instead of letting the girls that had been waiting for days inside, they allowed thousands of people with VIP passes to head to the front.
“They let in all the VIP people and we couldn’t even see, we were all crying trying to get to the stage, so I broke out my camera and started interviewing people,” Alfonseca said. “I made a whole documentary on youtube, about what happened that day. It’s embarrassing now, but that was my first take at reporting. When I did that, I did not think I would end up at HuffPost doing actual journalism.”
Alfonseca moved to New York City during her last semester at Brockport. She completed her courses remotely while interning for NBC. Before graduating, she applied for a position at HuffPost, expecting it to be a long shot. To her surprise they hired her. Alfonseca received what she can only describe as a “one in a million” opportunity. Just 21 years old, fresh out of college and signed on to HuffPost.
At Huffpost, Alfonseca is a producer for the breaking news video team. She reports on criminal justice, racial injustice/hate and identity.
“The media industry as a whole is prodominently white, male, hetero, cis-gender, and able bodied, leaving gaps in general news coverage and even in the most liberal of places there will still be vacancies and stories that arent being covered,” Alfonseca said.
It is her mission to help fill the gaps in coverage and shed light on the marginalized communities allowing their voices to be heard. Last year, she made big strides for the Latinx community.
“I was at Huffpost for just over a year, and Hispanic Heritage month was coming up, so I pitched an idea,” Alfonseca said. “I was able to lead the entire project on hispanic heritage month. I’m so proud of it and I will talk about it for years to come. I got a lot of really great feedback from people relating to stories or being excited to see these kinds of stories highlighted and it made it all worth it.”
The project included stories about racism and colorism in the Latinx community, Latinx entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and much more. During this project, HuffPost published their first Spanish language story. It was the first time that HuffPost US had Spanish on their homepage.
“A lot of reporters and journalists from marginalized communities, like myself, feel they carry the weight of advocating for their communities and reporting on their communities. I definitely carry that weight to my work here,” Alfonseca said. “I want to highlight Latinx stories. I want to highlight stories of those communities that aren’t being heard. I think that’s the biggest struggle, advocating for a community where there aren’t a lot of voices from that community to help.”
Although it’s tough to carry the weight of an entire community, she finds inspiration in the people willing to share their stories and be vulnerable. Whether it be those in the Latinx community, sexual assault survivors, or people being systemically oppressed, the people that share their experiences inspire her keep covering those stories.
At only 23 years old, Alfonseca has her foot in the door for a successful career in journalism. After looking back at her time at The College at Brockport, she has some advice for current journalism students.
“Don’t doubt yourself. If you are rejected, keep trying. Just know that you’re going to learn from it, see what you did wrong and grow from that,” Alfonseca said. “Apply for positions that you think ‘there’s no way I could get that.’ That’s what I did with HuffPost and here I am coming up on two years. You can do it, too.”