URI journalism student pursues dream to become TV reporter

Alessandra Herrera honed storytelling, writing, editing skills as intern at TV stations, magazines

KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 10, 2015 – Alessandra Herrera wants to be a journalist and, yes, she knows it’s a shrinking profession, but she can’t help herself. The 21-year-old University of Rhode Island senior is hooked on telling stories.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else other than being a reporter,” she says. “I might have to end up in the middle of nowhere, which I’m prepared to do. Whatever it takes.”

Hello Fargo.

With internships at magazines and TV stations under her belt, Herrera will graduate with plenty of work to showcase her writing, reporting and editing talents.

She wrote for a parents’ magazine in New York, penned stories for Rhode Island Monthly and interned at two television stations: WJAR/NBC 10 in Providence and WTNH/ABC 8 in New Haven, Conn. Working in broadcast journalism was thrilling, she says, and convinced her to follow that path.

“Television is a powerful medium,” she says. “I want people to turn on the TV and watch me in the morning.”

Born in Peru, Herrera – better known as “Allie”– and her mother and sister moved to the United States when she was 6. They lived in Texas and New York before settling in Greenwich, Conn., where she excelled in the classroom and on the field as a shot putter and discus thrower. “I’d do a lot of Olympic lifts,” she says. “I was a thrower.”

She was also a writer. Her senior year she told her English teacher that she might study kinesiology in college. “No, no, no,” he responded. “You have a gift. Use it.”

Her first journalism class at URI – Introduction to Mass Media taught by John Pantalone, chair of the journalism department – was challenging and a game-changer. “After that, I was 100-percent hooked on journalism,” she says. From there, she jumped to magazine writing, TV news, multimedia reporting, public affairs reporting and more.

One of her more memorable articles for The Good 5 Cent Cigar was about Vivien Whitney, a food service aide at URI’s Rhody Market. She wrote of her courage and tenacity after she moved to the United States from the Philippines years ago. Herrera says they hit it off, sharing stories as first-generation Americans working hard to make a better life.

“I love meeting new people,” says Herrera, “and immersing myself in their culture.”

At Rhode Island Monthly, she wrote about women’s nutrition, debunking myths about eating and fitness and offering story ideas to the editorial team. An internship at NYMetroParents Magazine gave her a chance to write about bullying. But her TV internships proved to be the most fulfilling.

At Channel 8 in New Haven, she worked on CT Style, a lifestyle show, writing scripts and helping with interviews. She also came up with story ideas, including the one about Poh, a terminally ill dog whose owner took it on a 12,000-mile trip around the world.

“Working for CT Style was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. That internship led to the one at Channel 10, where she shadowed reporters covering breaking news. Although she never appeared on-air, she put together a tape of mock stand-up reports about everything from a hit-and-run to a storm warning, which she can use when she applies for jobs. Reporters also gave her much-appreciated feedback.

“It’s been a fun ride,” she says. “I cannot say I regret a single thing.”

What about her love of sports?

In one of her Channel 10 clips she’s standing on the football field in Gillette Stadium, joyfully reporting about the Patriots. She’ll be content covering traffic accidents for now, but she’s also not ruling out a career as a sports reporter.

“There are so many different paths I can take,” she says. “I’m willing to explore them all.”

Pantalone has no doubt she will: “Allie is one of the most ambitious and enthusiastic students I have seen in my time at the University. She has seized every opportunity to learn and gain experience in the field. She’s bright and energetic and has the kind of personality needed to do the kind of work she wants to do. We’re very proud of her.”

To look at her work, visit Alessandra Herrera.

Photos above: Alessandra Herrera, 21, of Greenwich, Conn., a senior at the University of Rhode Island who has interned at magazines and television stations as she seeks a degree in journalism. Photo courtesy of Alessandra Herrera.