Navigating the Newsroom

ABC National Correspondent and Atrevida, Stephanie Ramos, speaks on putting your best foot forward, embracing the failures, and striking the balance between suerte y sudor.

NB: How, as a Latina, has your background played into your work?

SR: I was born in the Bronx in New York City. I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican. I spent most of my childhood on Governors Island, a Coast Guard base that’s south of Manhattan. I have moved around the country quite a bit because of my job, but I am a New Yorker through and through. 

Because of my background and how I grew up, I have developed a different perspective. It’s wonderful to be so multifaceted, and that’s played a part in how I cover stories. For instance, when I covered the Vanessa Guillen story, the young Army soldier who was murdered on Fort Hood, I knew her family was not being listened to, in part, because of the language barrier. I also knew what was happening on the Army side, because as a public affairs officer in the reserve, I know what the protocol is. There were so many different aspects of my personal life in that story that I was able to figure out how to best tackle it and get it on the air on an American TV network. 

In my position, I’ve been able to pitch positive stories with Latinos and get them on TV. But there is a need for more Latino stories in media and that only happens when we are in the room – when we have Latinos in the decision-making rooms. 

And also by sharing and connecting with one another, so that we can share wonderful Latino stories and get them out there, to show our community is worth being highlighted in a positive way. We are hard workers and many of us are doing the right thing and doing great things for our community.

NB: What was your ‘ponte las pilas’ moment?

SR: I had thought about being a network correspondent and had made moves to go in that direction but there’s always that little voice that says, “That may not really happen. That’s a big goal. It’s a lot of competition.” 

When I got my foot in the door at ABC in 2015, it all became real to me and I realized that anything is possible. But no one’s going to walk you through it, no one is going to tell you exactly what you need to do, who you need to meet.  There are so many things that I know now that I didn’t know then. That was a “ponte las pilas” moment for me, knowing I had to absorb everything, learn as quickly as possible and put my best foot forward every single day. 

This was my dream job, and it meant a lot of seven-day work weeks and saying yes to absolutely every story anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world. I started as a multi-platform reporter which is basically a correspondent in training. I was promoted to a correspondent a couple of years later, but during that time, and even as a correspondent, I was always learning, absorbing and trying to be my best. 

I feel that “ponte las pilas” moment is always there. It’s always steady. In the beginning, it was raging, but you always have to put your best foot forward, you always have to be enterprising, be creative, and try to stand out amongst the rest.

NB: What is a big lesson you learned you’d like to share with any aspiring journalist listening?

SR: Don’t panic. It took me a while to get there, but I would say that was the biggest lesson. Just don’t panic because that will eat away at your time. Early on, I learned that when there’s breaking news you’ve got to work fast, especially on TV. I learned that 15 seconds on TV is an eternity; a minute or two on TV is an eternity. Just having that experience helped me for the years to follow. 

So if I’m in that situation where I have a minute to go to change something in my script before I pop on, I just focus on that.  Get it done, and that’s it. Try to stay as calm as possible, which is really hard.

NB: Who is your atrevido or atrevida preferida?

SR: My mom, both on a personal and a professional level, is such an inspiration. She went through so much, at a young age. She was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City when she was about 6.

She was a working mom and was able to manage five kids in New York City being fully committed to each one of us. To this date, she plays a major part in all of our lives. So she’s an inspiration to keep going and no matter what happens along the way, just being strong enough to know what you want, to know what you need to do, and then just get it done. Sometimes  when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I’m just like, “my mom did it so I can do it.” 

NB: ¿Suerte o sudor? What percentage do you attribute your success to in terms of luck vs. hard work?

SR: I don’t believe it’s luck when it comes to a career path, but instead opportunity. Recognizing opportunity, and hard work is what puts you in the opportunity realm for this chance at a better opportunity. I don’t think that they’re independent of each other. It’s luck and hard work. This is what you do to find people who put more effort into things to get that luck. You have to be in that realm.

I don’t ever think it’s this or that, but put yourself in situations welcoming those opportunities just based on probability. If you want to do something on TV, you’ve got to move in those directions. To find those people that are in that world moving in that direction with you. You hear folks say, “Speak it into existence, manifest it,” which is all great, especially for your mind. But it’s also not magic. If you start pursuing certain things, then the things that you want will be that much closer. If you don’t do anything, then those lucky opportunities may not be presented.  

With me, it’s been a lot of,  “I want to move here. What do I need to do to get there? Okay, so I need to do this, I need to talk to this person. I don’t know that person. Well, maybe I just hang around this person and just intentionally make those decisions to bump into that opportunity.”

It’s a mix, definitely a mix of suerte and sudor. So you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to push, to knock on people’s doors and be intentional with every move.

NB: Is there any last piece of advice that you want to share?

SR: I might sound cliché, but don’t be afraid to fail. Try new things, go for it, and don’t be afraid to fail because there’s plenty of rejection in any industry, in any business. But if one door closes, another one will open if you are persistent and you keep doing the work, putting yourself in those rooms and pushing for it. 

It wasn’t easy for me. There was plenty of rejection along the way, and it still isn’t easy. There are still things that I want and that I’m going for. 

Recognize your talent. Recognize what areas you may need to work on. Go for it and see what happens. You’re going to more than likely push yourself toward an opportunity that you didn’t know existed.