In a year unlike any other, education became a whirlwind of chaos as college students attempted to pursue their degrees amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Jesus Mata has persevered through the end of his college experience with virtual education, finally making it to the graduation light at the end of the tunnel.
Mata, a journalism major and professional writing minor, never really had any sort of interest in journalism growing up. His passion had always been sports.
“I wanted to play sports. That was, like, the ultimate goal,” Mata said. “But then, when I got to high school, I realized it was not going to happen for me.”
Of course, journalism provides one of the rare intersections between being involved in sports without actually having to play sports.
“I’ve always liked how the commentators talked on ESPN. I was a big follower of ESPN and NFL Network,” Mata said. “Then I made the decision after high school that I wanted to be a sports writer and a sports broadcaster.”
Mata has certainly made a name for himself in the world of sports journalism at the Daily Lobo. He has frequently reported all sorts of sports-related news. He said some highlights of his time at the Lobo included his story about Jennifer King and being able to talk to Katie Hnida, as well as his continuous coverage of the UNM women’s basketball team.
“That’s what I want to do in the future — (I like) being at the games, in person, and covering those sports,” Mata said.
Spencer Butler, a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo, has worked with Mata on multiple stories and attested to his patience and hard work.
“He doesn’t get too flustered with much of anything which is, I think, a good quality to have for any (beat),” Butler said. “He’s just a fairly easy-going individual who does the work.”
Working at the Lobo has changed Mata for the better. Looking back, he sees the rewards that can come out of hard work.
“As I got into sports reporting, I was super nervous,” Mata said. “Eventually, as I saw how the structure worked, I got more comfortable. So (you have to) just apply yourself and push yourself. That’s my main takeaway from working at the Lobo.”
While the Lobo has certainly been a major player in fostering Mata’s career goals, it wasn’t the only thing he was involved in. He wrote more than 50 articles over the span of seven months for Deceptive Speed, a college football media platform. In addition, Mata is the current president of UNM’s Society of Professional Journalists, a title he will leave behind once he graduates.
Another aspect in Mata’s life that is extremely important to him is his family.
“Like a lot of families, we are very supportive of what we’re doing with our lives, whether it be a life accomplishment or an academic one,” Mata said.
Mata is a first-generation college graduate and his father, Jesus Mata Sr., emphasized that Mata graduating college serves as an inspiration for other members of the family to do the same.
“Being the first, the whole family is very proud of him,” Mata’s father said. “He’s setting the bar for everybody else and for everyone in the family to follow.”
Mata’s sister, Janie Mata, highlighted the significance of the accomplishment of Mata graduating, not only for him but also for his family.
“He is the first of me and my brothers to graduate college. I always knew he would be someone important and I see that he’s working his way up to that,” Mata’s sister said. “When he told me that he got the job at the Daily Lobo and when I read his first article, it brought so much joy and happiness to me that he’s doing what he said he’d always do.”
Mata hopes to get an internship with ESPN Radio in Albuquerque after he graduates, as well as later move onto graduate school for his masters, ideally at the University of Texas at Austin. Mata highlighted his ambitious goals of working for either ESPN or NFL Network in the distant future.
John Scott is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JScott050901