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Evolution of a Journalist

Jesus J. Montero headshot
Image courtesy of Jesus J. Montero
“Growing up, journalism wasn’t something I looked toward as a potential career path. It was just something I saw on TV. Superman, he was a journalist. Spider-man, he was a photographer. I had no clue until I got into higher education,” says Jesus J. Montero (CMN ’17).

Montero, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication and media from DePaul and is pursuing a master’s degree at the College of Communication, has certainly taken to making journalism his life’s work. The first-generation college student said his Mexican parents didn’t have the educational background to offer career guidance. “There was no pressure for a specific path, but the pressure was school. They knew school would lead to something,” Montero asserts.

Montero was first exposed to journalism when he attended a meeting hosted by the Morton Collegian, the student newspaper of Morton College, the community college he attended. “That’s when the wheels started turning,” he recalls. “When I ended my time at Morton College, I felt DePaul would provide a place where I could grow.” DePaul’s mission resonated with Montero because he attended a small Christian high school “where every week we were doing something that gave back to the community.”

“It was a bit intimidating at first. A lot of the students were, ‘I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I was eight years old’ and ‘I was Lois Lane as a Halloween character back when I was in fourth grade.’ In fourth grade, I was getting Ds and Fs,” Montero says. “But once I started the program, once I became involved, I started to feel like a part of that journalism community.”

Montero credits his professors with building his confidence: “I think it’s been proven time and time again that if a person feels like they’re being valued or their work means something—even if it’s a small class assignment—that vindication means a lot. It definitely meant a lot to me.”

Montero has gained validation in more ways than one. In 2018, he was one of three recipients of a scholarship from the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). NAHJ cited his dedication to the chapter and to perfecting his craft through freelance journalism and photography as factors in his selection.

After he earned his bachelor’s degree, Montero was advised by every professional with whom he talked to enter the workforce. “But I wanted to come back for grad school right away,” he says. “I felt I needed to keep growing, not just for myself, but also for my Latinx community.”

When he returned, he was awarded a 2019 Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship from National NAHJ. “It’s huge! To see some recognition for the hard work makes editing a story until 2 or 3 a.m. worth it,” Montero reflects.

Over the summer, Montero was an NBC Summer Fellow at “Dateline.” Does that experience mean he’ll be headed for a network news career? He’s not sure. “I’m leaning toward the newsroom, maybe a producer role or something that deals with investigating. I do also have a love for music journalism.”

Whatever he decides to do, Montero is thrilled with the possibilities. “I didn’t think college was possible. The one thing I’d tell others is if you’re set on doing something, pursue it.”

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Originally published in Conversations (Fall 2019).