Antonia Cereijido wins inaugural Cecilia Vaisman Award


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Latino USA producer and Medill alumna Antonia Cereijido (Medill ’14) speaks at the Cecilia Vaisman Award presentation Tuesday where she received the inaugural award.

Natalie Chun, Reporter

In an emotional night, Latino USA producer and Medill alumna Antonia Cereijido (Medill ’14) received the inaugural Cecilia Vaisman Award, named after the late Medill professor who died in 2015.

The award was created to celebrate audio and video journalists from the Latinx community and was conceived by students from Northwestern’s chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

“She was an amazing instructor and a journalist, and a wonderful colleague,” Medill Dean Charles Whitaker said in the event’s opening remarks. “We are all very saddened by her loss and feel her absence daily. But thanks to our students who encouraged us to create this award in her honor, we were very, very pleased to find a way to remind both us and the community of all that Cecilia’s life and legacy mean.”

Medill senior Laura Zornosa, one of the NAHJ presidents last spring, was one of the students on the committee of around a dozen people who chose Cereijido for the Cecilia Vaisman Award. Zornosa said they chose between a number of journalists who worked in audio and video and identified as Hispanic or Latinx.

Medill Professor Mei-Ling Hopgood, who worked closely with Vaisman, served as moderator Tuesday night. She said she never met Cerejido during her time at Northwestern, but she felt like she knew her because Vaisman constantly talked about her.

Cereijido said she is grateful for her relationship with Vaisman and that it “impacted her whole life,” even though she only knew her for a short amount of time.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have a career because of her,” Cereijido said of Vaisman. “She helped me professionally but also personally in the sense that — just as being a living example of someone who upheld a lot of the values that I cherish.”

In addition to honoring Vaisman, Cereijido also showed some of her work and spoke about her journalistic process, field experience and Latinx identity.

When talking about being a reporter who identifies as Latinx, Cereijido said that although she does want to report on issues important to the community, she doesn’t want to only cover immigration and the border crisis.

“Because of the mission of our show, we can’t ignore what’s happening politically or act like what’s happening with immigration isn’t important,” Cereijido said. “And we want to cover those things. But we also want to honor the complexity and richness of life and not let people be defined by their status.”

For that reason, Cereijido said she covers a wide range of subjects. She talked about pieces that she worked on about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but also about the origins of Dora the Explorer and a day in the life of Pitbull.

Due to the added level of emotion and vulnerability in audio stories, which Cereijido said makes the content more exciting, there is room to do something more creative and still make her reporting meaningful and profound.

“One of the cool things about narrative audio storytelling is that obviously, it is journalistic — you interview people, you’re observing the world,” Cereijido said. “But also, you get to create this thing that is beautiful in its own right, that other people can also enjoy.”

Cereijido also gave advice to students in the audience about being journalists and taking advantage of their time at Northwestern. She told students to find the kinds of stories they want to tell and to work at places where they can improve on that craft.

She also stressed the importance of having others look at your work and recalled Vaisman’s harsh critiques that ultimately made her a better journalist.

“Cecilia is still teaching through the people that she taught,” Hopgood said. “And it is so powerful for me to see.”

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