Robertson School alumna launches Spanish news platform for ABC 8 News

“Hoy en RVA” is a daily video that helps the Richmond Hispanic audience understand developments that could affect them.

Person stands in front of TV showing a news broadcast. [View Image] VCU alumna Keyris Manzanares is the producer and anchor of “Hoy en RVA” on WRIC. The videos are less than a minute long and feature up to four relevant stories. (Photo by Keyris Manzanares)

Keyris Manzanares set goals early in her college journey and in her career. Less than a year into her time working as a digital content producer at ABC 8 (WRIC-TV) in Richmond, Manzanares launched a news platform in Spanish for the station’s Hispanic audience.

“I want to do something that, if my parents lived in Richmond, they would benefit from,” said Manzanares, who graduated from VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences in December 2018.

Manzanares pitched her idea to the ABC 8 recruiting team before she was hired a year ago. Just seven months after she started working for the station, the project was in motion.

The platform features local, national and sports stories, as well as relevant news from across Latin America. Manzanares works alongside reporters to collect information, then writes and edits the stories in Spanish. For national, sports and international news, Manzanares gathers stories in Spanish from The Associated Press.

The efforts go beyond digital news. “Hoy en RVA” is a daily video in which Manzanares shares important news of the day. The videos help the Richmond Hispanic audience understand the developments that could affect them and how to prepare accordingly.

Despite having just an hour to work on the platform each day, Manzanares manages to publish more than five stories and produce “Hoy en RVA” on her own. Most of the time she is focused on her duties as a digital content producer, but by the end of each day, she has the content ready for the Spanish platform.

Manzanares said her boss was receptive to the project and the station is supportive of her efforts. No other local outlets are producing videos in Spanish, she said, and her efforts are good for business.

“He realizes and acknowledges the importance of it and the need to diversify,” Manzanares said. “That's going to get you another audience that you don't have already.”

I want to do something that, if my parents lived in Richmond, they would benefit from.

Increasing access to information

Manzanares was born in the United States, but her parents are from El Salvador and she was raised speaking Spanish. Beyond language, her heritage carries over in traditions of the food, the history and the pride of being Latina.

Her goal to report and work in the news goes back to growing up in Falls Church, Virginia, where she watched Hispanic content produced in Washington. She also read El Tiempo Latino, a free weekly Spanish-language newspaper, and watched a lot of “noticias” (news) growing up.

“In Washington, D.C., you can get news in Spanish, you have three major channels in Spanish that you can watch at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.,” Manzanares said. “I thought Spanish-speaking people have access to news everywhere, but that's not true.”

When Manzanares arrived in Richmond in 2015 to attend the Robertson School, she paid close attention to how Hispanic people consumed news. She focused on understanding their occupations, interests and relevant topics. While studying broadcast journalism, she kept imagining how it would be to report for that population.

“I wanted to give more access for people to read stories,” she said. “Sometimes you speak English, but your native tongue might be Spanish, so you may want to read something in Spanish or maybe share something with your parents or friends who might not speak English as well or at all.” News reporter stands in front of camera. [View Image]
While studying at the Robertson School, Manzanares worked as an anchor and reporter for VCU InSight. (Photo by VCU InSight)

‘One of the brightest … students I have worked with’

While at VCU, Manzanares worked for VCU InSight as an anchor and reporter and at The Commonwealth Times as a sports journalist. She wrote for Odyssey online and Society19. She also interned for Richmond Magazine, NBC 12 (WWBT-TV) and CBS 6 (WTVR-TV). Along the way, she also received mentoring from Robertson School alumnus and advisory board member Sergio Bustos, deputy opinion page editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

As a senior, Manzanares participated in a research study with Karen McIntyre, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of graduate studies in the Robertson School, and Kyser Lough, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism at the University of Georgia. Their study, "Solutions in the Shadows: The Effects of Photo and Text Congruency in Solutions Journalism News Stories," considered the impact of photo and text congruence in connection to solutions journalism.

The experiment evaluated reader reactions to solution and conflict-oriented news stories when a photo paired with the story was congruent or incongruent with the narrative. Manzanares said the study pushed her out of her comfort zone and helped her become a more confident journalist and researcher.

Manzanares approached McIntyre about working on a research paper together, and she was impressed.

“Keyris is one of the brightest, most passionate and hard-working students I have worked with at VCU,” McIntyre said. “From the moment I began working with Keyris, she told me it was her ultimate goal to offer news to the local Spanish-speaking community. I couldn't be more proud to learn that — this early on in her career — she has already reached that goal.”

One of Manzanares’ former instructors, Gary Gillam, audio and video lab supervisor in the Robertson School, said she was involved in everything and always stepped up when there were challenges. He said Manzanares used her determination and skills to keep learning.

“I am so proud of her since she graduated,” Gillam said. “She is an achiever. Her success in starting this new WRIC division comes as no surprise.”

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