About Kristina DeLeon, MA: Kristina DeLeon is the Morning Reporter for News 4 San Antonio and Fox San Antonio, a position she has held for more than 15 years. She began her career in broadcast journalism at the CBS station in Laredo, Texas, after which she served as an anchor, reporter, and producer for KGBT-TV before assuming her current role at News 4 San Antonio. In addition to her work as a reporter, Ms. DeLeon is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word (her alma mater), where she teaches courses in broadcast news, announcing and performing, and social media. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in 1996, with a double major in Psychology and Sociology, and a minor in Communication Arts, and returned to UIW in 2012 to earn her Master of Arts in Communication Arts.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background? Where did you earn your bachelor’s degree, and what motivated you to return to school for your Master of Arts in Communication Arts? May we have more information about your long-standing work at News 4 San Antonio as a News Reporter, as well as your previous roles as an Anchor and Producer at KGBT-TV and as a Reporter for KIII-TV?
[Kristina DeLeon] I graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 1996 with a Bachelor Arts in Psychology and Sociology (a double major), with a minor in Communication Arts. I was originally attending the University of the Incarnate Word to become a teacher. My plan was to pursue a teaching degree to become a special education teacher. However, during my last semester of college, I took a communications course for my minor. As part of that course, I did an internship with a local TV station, the ABC affiliate in San Antonio, Texas. During that internship, I fell in love with television news and broadcast journalism. That experience actually rerouted my entire career into television news. My friends and family thought I was crazy. But I was certain it was my passion, and I’ve been doing the same thing for more than 25 years.
After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I got a job as an Associate Producer writing for the Weekend Newscast and subsequently for the Morning Show. I learned so much about the ins and outs of putting together a show. I enjoyed that aspect of journalism, but I wanted to try and deliver the message in front of the camera too. However, San Antonio is too large of a market to be on the air without some established experience. So I stayed in San Antonio for about a year, making a resume reel and gaining key writing experience. I got my first on-air job at the CBS station in Laredo, Texas, and worked there for about three years. From there, I worked at the ABC affiliate in Corpus Christi as their morning anchor, a position I held for about six years. I subsequently worked at KGBT-TV, which is a CBS affiliate, as an anchor, reporter, and producer for about a year.
My goal had always been to return home to San Antonio. I got a job at the NBC affiliate News 4 San Antonio, which became the NBC and Fox affiliate during a merger. I’ve been at this station for more than 15 years, working as an anchor and reporter. For the past nine years I have also been an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word. I went back to school and earned my Master of Arts in Communication Arts in 2014. So even though my passion for journalism diverted me from a career in education, I returned to it later in my career. I am honored and humbled to give back to the University of the Incarnate Word because it has been so great to me for my entire academic and professional career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Your path to professional success was very self-guided, and is quite inspiring! Could you elaborate on what experiences really convinced you that broadcast journalism was your true vocation?
[Kristina DeLeon] The turning point for me really was the hands-on experience in my undergraduate internship. The first time walking into a newsroom was the moment of clarity for me. When I walked into a newsroom for the first time, I could hear the police scanners relaying real-time information. It was information that the news desk could hear then disseminate into our newsroom. Knowing that I was privy to important information about San Antonio, my home city, and about the world at large–knowing that I was responsible for conveying that information before anybody else in the city had even heard it–it was sacred to me. As a journalist, it is my job and my mission to put relevant information out there in a responsible way.
What was so special about my time at the University of the Incarnate Word was that from the moment I voiced my interest in journalism, my professors not only encouraged me, but also supported me and facilitated my new path in this direction. They went out of their way to help me. For example, when one of my professors at the time heard that I was interested in pursuing journalism, he said, “Let me help you with this scholarship!” And he helped me to apply for a scholarship from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), through which I was actually able to earn some course credits in communications. The NAHJ program was in Chicago at the time, and I got the opportunity to take several courses at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. What an honor and a benefit for me to be able to explore and navigate my way through a journalism career by taking some summer courses and getting some course credit as well in the process! It was this support that ultimately motivated me to earn my master’s degree at UIW. When I felt that passion and I felt that drive as an undergraduate, they said, “Go for it, Kristina!” They never told me, “Oh no, this is what you thought you wanted to do and have already worked towards…” They said, “You know what, it’s okay! In fact, let us help you.”
The University of the Incarnate Word opened a lot of doors for me–they helped me fill out the application and get a scholarship, opened my eyes to the opportunities in journalism that they could connect me with, and helped facilitate my dream and build on the passion that I had. My faculty mentors at UIW never shut down any dream or interest I had. Instead, they said, “Here, let me pave the path for you.” That’s what the university did for me and so I’m so grateful for UIW for doing that. A lot of schools will outline barriers to your desired trajectory; they might say, “You’re already on track for this profession, you have just one class left, it doesn’t make sense.” Instead, my UIW professors went out of their way to support me and to make sure I was taken care of.
In fact, it was these very faculty members who suggested that I become an Adjunct Professor. They said, “When you’re getting your master’s degree, you will have the option to take your classes at night. We want to make sure you have a college teaching course and we want to make sure you get credit for it too, so that you can learn to build syllabi, teach courses, and build a course load.” That way, I could leverage my background in education by teaching classes that intersected directly with my interests in communication and journalism! And for my first class, UIW made sure I had a co-teacher so that I could learn the ropes. UIW literally sweeps the way for you, preps the path for you with encouragement, resources, and sound guidance and advice. They don’t push you out of the nest; they help you out and make sure you know how to fly. That is what they do, and what they’re all about. And that is why I love this university and decided to come back to teach and be a part of this amazing teaching and mentorship culture. I have primarily taught courses in social media and broadcast journalism. Currently, I am teaching in the Broadcast Meteorology Department, co-teaching with someone who is a science and meteorology expert and who teaches the science side of things while I teach the broadcast end of things to aspiring broadcasting meteorology students.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue your Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word? What were your professional goals, and how did you see the Master of Arts program at UIW meeting them optimally?
[Kristina DeLeon] I knew from my undergraduate experience that the University of the Incarnate Word would open a lot of doors for me through their relationships and networking. UIW is very good about maintaining relationships with people and organizations throughout the community. I also knew that the University of the Incarnate Word offered a lot of courses that would broaden my horizons. The Master of Arts in Communication Arts includes courses not only in theory but also practical knowledge–courses that not only teach you new skills and ways of approaching and analyzing, but which also help you explore avenues you might not know about.
Something that the University of the Incarnate Word is really good at is building a faculty team that has a wide range of interests and areas of expertise. The University itself prioritizes a culture of diversity amongst its students as well as its faculty. My fellow students and my professors were from all different walks of life, with different stories to tell, different experiences to inform their advice and insights. I had professors who were from a different part of the country, and others who were from a different part of the world. And that simultaneous breadth and depth of experience is so important to any student sitting in a classroom chair or watching through virtual learning. I think any experience that can be offered to a student that is from a different viewpoint is incredibly valuable for their learning experience, because you’re not learning one way, you’re learning in so many different and unique ways.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Kristina DeLeon] One of the best things about the Master of Arts in Communication Arts program at UIW is how flexible the curriculum is. After my core courses, I was able to take a broad swath of classes that I felt would help me in my career. I took a practicum course, courses that I felt would help me develop my thesis, courses in media law as it was an area I was unfamiliar with, courses in interpersonal communication, and courses on advanced research and writing skills so that I could hone my skills in thesis-specific writing. Dr. Trey Guinn, who is the head of the MA in Communication Arts program, is a master of communication; he is incredibly insightful and masterful in the communication craft. I tried to take many of his classes as well, and from them I learned different concepts and principles around relating to people on many different levels and in many different ways, which has proven quite valuable in my personal and professional trajectory.
The Communication Arts Department at UIW has faculty who can teach students about a wide variety of areas in communication arts and media. This is reflected in their elective offerings, and the flexible nature of the curriculum where, beyond the core courses, students can design they own path under the guidance of faculty mentors. UIW is founded on the values of the Sisters of Charity, which are all about giving back to the community and giving back to the world at large. I was influenced by that mission statement while at the University of the Incarnate Word, but also it was always really important to me to give back to the San Antonio community, where I’m from, and to give back to the people who have helped me get where I am today. That’s why I’ve gone back to the students of San Antonio to try and help them become the best citizens and communication professionals that they can be.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your thesis? What communication issue, challenge, or research question did you explore, and what was the structure of your thesis? What advice would you give current and future students of UIW’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts regarding the successful completion of their capstone project or thesis?
[Kristina DeLeon] In completing my thesis, I wanted to do something that I thought would be insightful and relevant to my community. So I oriented my research question around social media, which has been a prevailing concern for both consumers and creators of media–socially, politically, and commercially. My research question concerned how social media avenues at the time –which were Facebook and Twitter, lent themselves to reporting out in the field. Do they make a difference either in the short term or the long term with regards to reporting and what we do for television and broadcast media?
For my study, I surveyed a large group of people in television media, sending a SurveyMonkey out to several hundreds in a news organization. All responses were anonymous to better ensure transparency, and the survey itself was comprised of questions about whether Facebook and/or Twitter made a difference on a large scale or small scale in journalists’ effectiveness in what they did for a living. And if so, how so?
For my survey participants. I asked them about their sex, female or male, how often they posted, what they posted, and how many followers they had. I also asked them about their social media habits, and I was surprised about the responses and how they indicated a dramatic growth in social media use. That was several years ago, and currently, as you can imagine, social media has become part of our day-to-day life as journalists. It was fascinating to study social media just as it was beginning to become established as a growing trend, and to then experience its integration into my daily professional life as a journalist. Social media is now about more than connecting with others; it is also disseminating information. When I was first studying social media in graduate school, I at first thought it was going to be primarily a social platform, but now it has become a news publishing platform, to the point that people will actually go to Facebook and Twitter to gather their news.
[MastersinCommunications.com] As a reporter, how have you seen the move from television to online/streaming and social media change the ways in which reporters must package and deliver news?
[Kristina DeLeon] It definitely adds to our job, by adding to the content we need to create and put out to our readership. We need to customize our content to our viewers’ preferences and media consumption habits. The person consuming news on social media is going to be different from the person watching it on TV, or reading it on a news outlet website. And for each of our content channels, we have to tailor how we deliver the news accordingly.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from UIW’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Kristina DeLeon] One of the most important pieces of advice I can give a graduate student, and particularly master’s students at the University of the Incarnate Word, is to go back to their schools and use them as resources. They are institutions of higher education for a reason, and I would hope that you would love your school so much that you want to go back and connect with your professors again, and leverage their expertise and their investment in you. I would also hope that you love your institution so much that you would feel compelled to give back to it and to their current students, in a teaching or mentorship capacity.
I know at the University of Incarnate Word that I can always go back to the faculty and the staff there and get help anytime I need. I consider them to be family, because of the way they supported and encouraged me during my college and graduate school years, and even now as an adjunct.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it is at UIW or another university?
[Kristina DeLeon] I would say in everything you do, make sure that it is channeling a passion or a love of yours. That is so important, especially in a master’s program where your culminating experience is a thesis or capstone project that requires so much of your time, your intellectual resources, and your emotional bandwidth. You’re going to spend a lot of time researching and reading, so make sure that you love what you’re researching and love what you’re reading. And to accomplish this, it’s important to work closely with your committee and to use their expertise and their insight to help you determine the ideal research topic for your interests and goals.
Also, be sure you honor what your original research question is, and to always remember the purpose of what you’re doing. If you do not lose sight of that, you will value the end product when you’re finished all the more.
Thank you, Ms. Kristina DeLeon, for your excellent insight into the University of the Incarnate Word’s Master of Arts in Communication Arts program!