By Cara DeGette
Nicholas Garcia likes to tell the story about how he got bit by the journalism bug. He was in fourth grade when he started filing stories for a student-produced publication sponsored by his hometown newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain.
His earliest stories included coverage of the grand opening of the Pueblo Children’s Museum, and speeches by Gen. Colin Powell and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
Garcia, now 31, received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from MSU Denver in 2011. While at the University, he was the managing editor of The Metropolitan, which was honored during his tenure as one of the top 25 student publications in the country.
He was a recipient of the prestigious Persina Scholarship, awarded by the National Press Club to students committed to bringing diversity to American journalism. And he was a contributing editor of the Gayzette, a now-defunct newspaper catering to Denver’s LGBTQ community.
After college, Garcia became associate publisher and editor of Out Front, Colorado’s oldest and largest LGBTQ news magazine. He held that position for three years. “It was such a privilege to be able to report and write about LGBTQ issues in Denver, during such a critical time in the fight for civil unions,” he says.
The fact that journalists can specialize in LGBTQ topics as a full-time job – not only for niche publications but also in the mainstream – speaks volumes about how far society has progressed, Garcia says.
When Garcia departed Out Front, it was to jump into another reporting specialty that he believes is critically important: education.
He’s currently the deputy bureau chief for the online news organization Chalkbeat Colorado, which specializes in education issues. He covers the state Legislature and Colorado Department of Education. He is struck by the number of public schools and districts across the state that are struggling.
“So many knobs are broken, and people are trying to fix all those knobs,” he says. “Chalkbeat’s role is to help inform the debate on how to improve the nation’s schools.”
In the fall of 2014, Garcia returned to MSU Denver to teach a course on journalism tactics and techniques. He shows students how to differentiate between good and bad journalism – something more important than ever.
In an era of declining traditional media and the rise of online news sites, Garcia notes that it can be hard to know where to look for quality journalism. It’s also critical that students get their hands into the mix. “You’ve got to do journalism to learn journalism,” he says.
Doing journalism has rarely translated to the high salary that comes with other jobs in the field of communications. This is particularly true in an era when traditional newspapers continue to experience financial uncertainties. Garcia admits that sometimes, “there’s a little voice in me that thinks, wow, having a six-figure salary would be nice.”
“But there are too many stories yet to tell,” he says. “When there are no more stories to tell, that’s when I’ll stop doing journalism.”
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