Intense socio-political turmoil only heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic has made for great complexities in journalistic media. Two Daily Lobo alumni, Makayla Grijalva and Danielle Prokop, graduated, respectively, in 2019 and 2020, and have since found their passion as public watchdogs in reporting for local communities.
“Trying to unpeel the layers of bureaucracy is one of the fundamental things that we can do to live in a democracy,” Prokop said.
Since graduating from the University of New Mexico with bachelor’s degrees in international studies and journalism, Prokop has worked in a multitude of positions in different news organizations. She has been a copy editor and general assignment reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican, an accountability reporter at the Star Herald in Nebraska and is now a beat reporter for El Paso Matters, where she focuses on topics involving the environment and climate-change.
Prokop has enjoyed her time reporting across the nation, but has found herself hitting the same walls time and time again with jaded newsroom operators.
“Some of the greatest challenges that I’ve faced have been editors unwilling to see their own callousness often shaped by their worldview which is often racist and sexist, out of step with a lot of the community and what their community values,” Prokop said.
Grijalva attributes a significant amount of her success to Prokop and Justin Garcia — the Editor-in-Chief to her managing editor during her final year at the Daily Lobo — calling the pair “some of my biggest journalism mentors.”
Post-graduation, Grijalva was awarded a New Mexico Local News fellowship to spend nine months reporting for the Silver City Daily Press with a beat covering mining towns, and is now a staff reporter at Valencia County News Bulletin.
Through her exploration of newsrooms in New Mexico, Grijalva has settled firmly in her desire to participate in local journalism.
“I want to be able to tell the stories in a community,” Grijalva said.
Prokop shares with Grijalva an understanding of the importance of local reporting, but has been unimpressed with many newsrooms and some unethical tactics used for garnering attention.
“The local newspapers have a super valuable role and they sometimes just squander it for nonsense, sometimes political clout but just a lot of institutionalized garbage,” Prokop said.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
Grijalva has seen her fair share of issues within newsrooms regarding racial and gender-based inequity, but has generally had good experiences and is particularly happy with how her current editor holds her accountable while making sure she’s still learning.
Though she has felt somewhat isolated from her white male coworkers, Prokop has been able to find contentment and community from within the body of people she represents.
“One of the greatest gifts of being a reporter … (is) talking with people who are incredible and who have these incredible life stories,” Prokop said.
Prior to their entrances to the world of professional journalism, they both attribute a great deal of their successes to their roots at the Daily Lobo.
“The experience that I've had with the Lobo has been immeasurable. Through my work at the Lobo, I learned how to run a newsroom, how to edit … Whatever you put into the Lobo, it will give back,” Grijalva said.
Prokop’s takeaway from her time at the Lobo included improvements to her work and practice in a newsroom, but more than anything involved her own coming to understand the faith of a community in news media.
“I am really grateful to the Daily Lobo for a lot of reasons, one of them being that I did learn to really appreciate the amount of trust that people have (in reporters),” Prokop said.
Grijalva hopes to, over the course of her career, spend time reporting locally for many communities but is content with her current position at the Valencia County News Bulletin.
Prokop is open to new and varied opportunities and hopes to continue advocating for the public through accessibility reporting.
“Weaving the fabric of human experience is really incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Prokop said.
Natalie Jude is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @natalaroni