Emilio Reyes

Get to know some of our College of Media students! Emilio Reyes is a Class of 2025 journalism major. 

What made you choose journalism at Illinois?
In my senior year of high school, I was doing a lot of self-reflection and I asked myself, “What am I good at?” I knew I loved talking, getting to know others, and sharing people’s stories, so I did research on certain journalists. As a first-generation college student, I knew nothing about college, so I just looked up “best journalism schools near me” and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana came up. I realized how close it was to my hometown and how I could do broadcast journalism where I could share stories, be on TV, and have an impact on people. As a Latino, growing up I didn’t really see other Latinx on-air, so I felt like I wanted to take on that role.

Did you have any prior high school experience with journalism?
I had zero experience. My high school didn’t really have anything that was journalism-based, so when I came to college, my Introduction to Journalism class was my first-ever experience with journalism that I had. I remember walking into that class and being insanely intimidated because all the students around me had experience from their high school. I was discouraged lots of times because I felt like I was being thrown into a profession I knew nothing about. I continued to believe and trust in myself, and look at where I am now.

What clubs or extracurriculars are you involved in at U of I?
I’m in a Latino-based fraternity called Sigma Lambda Beta that's also multicultural and international. We focus on cultural awareness, brotherhood, leadership, and scholarship. The fraternity really helped me get in touch with my Latino roots on campus and build that community. I’m also in Student Alumni Ambassadors, which is where we are in charge of spreading school spirit and large-scale events, such as Sights and Sounds and preparing for Homecoming week. 

How did you play a role in starting up UI7 En Vivo, the Spanish newscast?
It started out in JOUR 217: Content Producing for UI7, taught by Ken Erdey. I was very lucky to have him because he sees you for who you are, deeper than the student level. One time, I stayed after class because I was doing some photo editing and he noticed that, so he asked me if I wanted to work at the studio. I started working as a lab monitor and that gave me more time with Ken. Ken always wants to do something for minority students and my dream was to be the voice of Hispanic people, so I told him that. He told me that the studio was about to be under renovation and that there would be more opportunities and resources. Ken asked me how I would feel to start up my own show in Spanish and if I wanted to commit to it, we could make it happen. Towards the end of my sophomore year, Ken held a meeting with clinical assistant professor Colleen King where we talked about the logistics of it and how we wanted to execute this show. WCIA interviewed us and we were featured on WPGU. The beginning of my junior year, everything was all set and we were able to start producing the show.

What do you hope to pursue with journalism?
As a junior, I’m still very ambitious about being on hard news stations such as CNN, however I view myself as an entertainment person. My personal dream has been to have my own late-night show like James Gordon or Jimmy Fallon and be able to talk to celebrities. I love the impact journalism has on people and I’m looking forward to doing that for the Hispanic and Latino community. 

What advice would you give to new students entering the College of Media?
I would say get involved. While you're prioritizing your work and school, make sure to prioritize yourself. I saw my life completely change my sophomore year as soon as I got involved. I created a home away from home for myself. Take advantage of the time you have and take risks. It’s so much better to make mistakes in your undergraduate career rather than your professional career. See what you like and see what you don’t like. Don’t compare yourself to others because everyone is figuring out things for themselves. When you are stuck in that comparison, you have to remember that you won't grow as a person. College is a time to find out who you are and it is a learning experience, so make sure to take advantage of every opportunity.

Interview by Mila Mitrovic, New Voices Intern

Emilio