Angélica Casas wins Medill’s 2021 Cecilia Vaisman Award for Multimedia Reporters


Illustration by Meher Yeda

Angélica Casas, a video journalist for BBC News, won the 2021 Cecilia Vaisman Award.

Catherine Odom, Reporter

Angélica Casas, a senior video journalist at BBC News, was recognized with Medill’s Cecilia Vaisman Award for Latine and Hispanic multimedia journalists Thursday.

The award, which is co-sponsored by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, recognizes Hispanic and Latine audio and video journalists who cover their own communities.

Casas won the award for her sensitive coverage of Latine communities in the U.S. and Latin America. Gary Marx, Vaisman’s widower and an award-winning journalist himself, spoke about the work of Casas and his wife at the award ceremony.

“Like (Vaisman), you often get out of the way and let subjects tell their own stories,” Marx said to Casas during the ceremony. “By doing that, you nurture a trust and intimacy between subject and viewer.”

Casas, a native of San Antonio, Texas, was raised by a single mother in a family of immigrants from Zacatecas, Mexico. She said her family’s story inspires her work.

She has produced a wide range of stories about Latine communities. During the pandemic, she has reported on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latine families. 

Her work has also included breaking news coverage. Casas said one of the most challenging and impactful stories she has covered was the El Paso shooting in 2019. While she was in El Paso reporting, Casas said she attended vigils, met victims’ families and spoke with community members.

“It was a struggle to cover that, and it was very emotional,” Casas said. “I think that I’m still healing from having covered that, even now.”

Casas said her Latina identity shapes how she approaches reporting. Her background has made her better able to connect with her sources and help them tell their stories, she said.

She added the recent shift toward more transparency in journalism allows her to inform her work with her experiences and identity. 

“I’m very much in favor of people using their identity and telling stories in journalism,” Casas said. “I think it’s something that maybe two decades ago wouldn’t have been accepted… but I think now because of the racial reckoning that we’re going through, I think transparency in journalism is using our identity to cover stories.”

One of the most important aspects of Casas’ journalism is the personal angle of her stories, she said. She added she focuses on building trust and relationships with her sources. 

Casas said she uses video to focus on the people she is featuring. She utilizes techniques like limiting narration and having interviewees look directly into the camera to make her coverage more personal.

The award honors the late Cecilia Vaisman, a Medill professor and award-winning audio journalist who passed away in 2015 at age 54. 2021 marks the third year Medill has presented this award.

“Cecilia Vaisman was an amazingly thoughtful and talented journalist, a dedicated and inspirational teacher and a beloved member of the Medill family,” Medill Dean Charles Whitaker said during the award ceremony.

Vaisman was a champion of Latine communities and covered issues facing these groups in the United States and abroad. She also helped found Homelands Productions, an outlet that covers Latin America and the Caribbean.

Casas said empathy is a crucial part of not only the journalistic process, but also the purpose of journalism.

“I think we become better humans when we understand the experiences of other people,” Casas said. “If we forget that portion in journalism, then I don’t really know what the mission of what we’re doing is.”

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