Professor Vanessa Vancour driven by storytelling and her Latina heritage
Yahoo. Noble Studios. Channel 4. Visitors Bureau. Reynolds School of Journalism. Noticiero Mòvil. Ted Talk. Somos Nevada.
Vanessa Vancour may not have done it all, but she’s certainly done a lot. The Reynolds School professor is behind the bilingual news organization Noticiero Mòvil. She also just recently hosted a TedTalk in which she talked about her experiences as a Mexican-American in life and in academia.
“I feel most like myself when I speak Spanish, and that’s when I feel most connected to who I am,” she said..
A USC Annenberg graduate, Vancour spent her college years preparing for a career in broadcast journalism, with a minor in Spanish. Long before she started Noticiero Mòvil, she worked with graduate students on a bilingual news studio at USC Annenberg.
She says the VHS recording of her USC Annenberg bilingual news studio helped her land the job in Reno. Vancour eventually found her way to KRNV, where she worked as a meteorologist.
Vancour’s passion has always been telling stories. It’s what encouraged her to break her contract with Channel 4, and start working with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor’s Bureau doing social media management. Vancour says she didn’t learned social media in school, but the Bureau needed someone who could tell stories.
That was something she could do.
Vancour has always been a storyteller, and recently, she finds herself drawn to recording stories, particularly that of her family. Vancour’s parents met in Tijuana; her father from Massachusetts, her mother from Mexico. Her mother crossed the border twice, but Vancour had never really asked her mother about it. Vancour said after her father was rendered silent from a stroke, she found a new appreciation for her parents’ stories.
“I’m trying to be more mindful when I am visiting my parents, to record these kinds of stories, so when I sat down with my mom I kind of really appreciated what she had done at such a young age.”
Her mother became an official citizen when Vancour was in high school. She says she distinctly remembers her mother being shaken after a meeting with the immigration office, where the representatives challenged her mother’s marriage to her American father. They accused her of marrying him just to get into the country and that “she didn’t really love him.”
“I remember her coming out this interview really terrified, wondering if she had messed up,” Vancour says. “I was fifteen, so I knew it was bad, but I didn’t fully understand how scary that is.”
These experiences, coupled with Vancour’s own identity as a Mexican-American in Nevada, are the subjects of her TedTalk she presented at the TEDxUNR event in January.
“I’m naturally very attracted to issues on inclusion and diversity,” Vancour said. “I think diversity has become a buzzword that can turn some people off. It’s ambiguous, it means different things to different people, but it’s a starting point for at least a conversation.”
Ideas of conversations and starting points also inspired the ideas behind Noticiero Mòvil, the bilingual news organization Vancour runs within the Reynolds School. The platform formally launched in the fall of 2015, and has released dozens of stories on Latin-American issues in Washoe County and Nevada. Last fall, Noticiero Mòvil partnered with KUNR to continue creating stories, ranging from election coverage to Latina business owners. Reynolds School students contribute to the website and social media, many students are bilingual themselves.
“But I’m most impressed by my students who don’t have any cultural connection to the Latin- American culture but still see value in this and want to be a part of it,” Vancour says.
Noticiero Mòvil recently launched it’s first print publication, Somos Nevada. The magazine, which Vancour will publish twice a year, features student content in both Spanish and English. By sharing a physical publication around town, Vancour wants to reach out to those in the community who may not be as involved online as others. She also hopes giving students a place to publish work encourages them to continue telling stories.
“My hope is that they feel included into something bigger,” she says.
For Vancour, the next step is to figure out how to raise more awareness of the Noticiero Mòvil brand and where next to take it.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, “Vancour says. “Noticiero Mòvil’s not gonna go away.”