A Peabody award-winning journalist, author and speaker, Mariana Atencio is a renowned expert of the power of authenticity. The former Univision anchor and NBC News national correspondent has traveled the world to report on some of the most important issues of our times, including the Latino vote in the U.S., the cartel wars in Mexico and the global migrant crisis, all through her lens as a Latinx storyteller herself. Now, with her own media company, “GoLike,” she’s quickly become a highly sought-after host, motivational speaker and content creator, collaborating with major outlets, brands and organizations to represent and empower our communities.
For Mariana Atencio, there was always a desire to learn the truth. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, the future Peabody Award-winning journalist noticed that free speech was being curtailed all around her which drove her to want to tell stories that were not being shared with the masses. Atencio’s drive to attain the truth supplied the impetus to apply to journalism school, earning a scholarship to attend the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Fresh out of Columbia, she began working for El Diario in New York and her career skyrocketed from there, reporting for Univision, MSNBC, and NBC News.
No matter where she was on assignment, Atencio was guided by her desire to dig for the truth and inform the public. “Journalism, for me is storytelling with a purpose, and getting to be a storyteller in that respect is a tremendous privilege,” she asserted. “The famous French writer Colette said, ‘the hand that holds the pen writes history,’ so don’t give someone the pen to write the beginning, the middle and end of your story.” And that same thirst for storytelling has motivated Atencio to partner with Microsoft to promote a free online course entitled “Digital Storytelling for the Next Generation of Latinx Journalists,” organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas made possible in collaboration with Microsoft.
According to the Government Accountability Office, Latinx makes up fewer than eight percent of newsrooms currently. Atencio is eager to motivate the next generation of Latinx journalists to learn the tools they will need to tell the stories of their communities. “Storytelling that is reflective of our communities, to me also means the responsibility of getting to know those communities so well inside and out, that you are able to bring that unique lens to the forefront to tell the history of that community.”
In “Digital Storytelling for the Next Generation of Latinx Journalists,” students will learn about branding and exploring identity, using social media to tell stories and other tips and tools to elevate their journalism. Interested students can apply for the course via aka.ms/LatinxJournalism.
As a journalist, published author and keynote speaker, Atencio has won numerous awards for her work, but she does not consider the honors to be about her. Instead, she believes her success comes from making her coverage about the truth. “When you own your story, it’s the most powerful feeling in the world,” Atencio noted. “It’s about something so much bigger than you. It’s about representing a whole community in the best way that you know.”
Now based in Miami, the Venezuela native successfully crossed over from Latinx media to general market news and learned along the way that one of the keys to her success was to authentically be herself. “The more that you double down on what makes you unique, your unique skill set, maybe it’s that accent, the community that you come from, your parents’ story, the history of our community, I think the more that you will stand out in this profession,” Atencio asserted. She hopes this storytelling course will galvanize young aspiring reporters to feel empowered to be a part of the media industry and make a difference, as well as to seek out the truth and share it with the world the same way she has throughout her career.