The first time I saw Janice Mejias, editor of digital newspaper Diálogo Digital, she was giving an orientation about the Diálogo internship program to my Journalistic Writing class. It was shocking to think of her as an editor. She wore a black flow-y dress, flat ankle boots and brown belt. But when she started to talk, it was clear she was the one made for the job. As evidence, I decided to apply for the internship after listening to her.
The first day was intimidating. I didn’t know what to expect from a graduate student who was already an editor. That being said, she was not your typical “I’m the boss and you are my slave” editor. The aura she transmitted to all her team was friendly, yet demanding. She knew how to be critical without hurting your feelings, and, when your work was worth recognition, she made sure it was. Never did I ever feel frustrated about my work or unworthy of being a journalist.
Still in her 20s, Janice Mejias has just obtained her master’s degree the School of Public Communication at the University of Puerto Rico and has excelled in her job as Dialogo Digital’s editor, directing the online newspaper towards the lines of new journalism that is fresh, compelling and truthful.
What do you consider to be the key of your professional success to date?
Being responsible, kind and punctual. You could have a lot of talent and be a douche or turn in your work late, and you will never get anywhere.
Being Diálogo Digital’s editor, you are exposed to a lot of situations, in which you have to exercise power over other people, how do you deal with this?
I’m still struggling with that. What I’ve learned is that you have to deal with each case differently. There are people that need a strong hand and others respond better when you build trust with them. But I still haven’t found the formula for success in that area.
The Diálogo Digital team is super close with each other; do you really think it’s possible to work with your friends?
Definitely. I have been able to certify it. It’s difficult because sometimes it’s hard to tell your friends what to do, but, if you understand that the work dynamics are not reflected in real world, it’s doable.
How did you manage your time between your work at Diálogo and your master’s degree?
This was a challenge. The most important thing was to manage my time well and establish priorities. Also, be honest with both tasks and recognize which were my limits. I always do a to-do list and establish daily goals. One has to sacrifice a lot. I knew that some days I couldn’t go out or spend time with my boyfriend, friends and family. But it can be done and I managed to.
There’s the stereotype that the female boss is bitchy and demanding, how do you avoid to fall under that cliché?
[Momentary silence] I believe that really depends on one’s personality. I am not aggressive, but I am sincere. I try to make my honesty not sound like an insult. But some times, being too good is also bad because people misinterpret being good with being an idiot. Once you recognize that that is happening, you lose trust in that person. Also, not take things too personal. If someone doesn’t turn in something, you first impulse is to tell him or her to fuck off. It happens to me often, as often as three days ago. My impulse was to tell them to fuck off, but, in our profession, that is not a way to affront situations. So, I didn’t take it personal on the site or me but as an irresponsible move in their part.
Since Diálogo’s team is mainly made up of students, do you feel pressured to be an example or do you consider your mistakes to be part of their education as well?
I actually feel pressured for other things. I feel pressured because I don’t have that many years of experience in this field. I only have a few more years of experience than those I supervise at Diálogo. Some times, I don’t know a lot of things. I have never taken it as me not being capable of doing the work or not deserving the position. I take this exercise as a learning process for everyone. The previous editor, Marcos Pérez, is a brilliant man. I always said to myself that I could never be like him and he told me one day that he didn’t know a lot because he was brilliant but because he was old. He had had more time than me to read and learn. I’ve learned that knowing comes with time. If I make mistakes, which I have, I take it as a learning experience, not as a professional fault.
What do you look for in students who interview at Diálogo?
First, resumés and curriculum vitae are important. I do not hire people who have messy resumes. Small things count and resumés reflect a lot of how you present yourself professionally. During the interview, I look for people who have confidence in themselves, who admit that they don’t know everything but show interest in learning. I like someone who isn’t afraid of asking questions or propose solutions. People with initiative, but, moreover, people who are responsible and punctual. Someone who is a great writer but is not punctual or responsible is of no value to me, professionally.
What would you advice to a future journalist?
To read a lot about everything and from everywhere, learn how to manage multimedia, editing and cultivate maliciousness. Don’t accept what people say to you as absolute truth, but to question everything. It’s something you learn with practice. Truth has lots of versions.
How do you maintain yourself motivated to continue your career?
When one studies journalism, the panorama that you are given is super discouraging. People say there are no jobs or that the jobs available are in places where information is being controlled, where you can’t denounce people. My experience- because that’s how I chose it to be- has been in journalism projects that are not from big media corporations. I’ve worked in 80grados, CPI (Center for Investigative Journalism), Diálogo and La Jota. They were all projects based on citizen journalism, communitarian journalism, and student journalism. I wouldn’t be motivated inside journalism if it weren’t for these projects. It’s not that I think that big media corporations don’t have relevancy or validation, but it’s a scenario that I do not like. If, at some point, I end up in one of them, I wouldn’t be as motivated. Structurally, they don’t have the creative space that a journalist like me needs. Also, I’m very excited about all the changes that have been occurring inside journalism, in the ways of doing journalism, in the styles, not only here, but also in other parts of the world.
Based on your experience inside the digital world, how have you made the best of these new technologies?
Since I started college, I use the Internet every day. So, for me, this is normal. What’s not normal for me is waking up, going to a pharmacy, buy the newspaper and read it. Since two years ago, my day starts with checking e-mails and read stories from Twitter and Facebook. And then, if I have time, read the printed newspaper to see things that may not be on the Internet. Whoever says that digital journalism is not going anywhere is being irresponsible because it’s more than evident in academic investigations and in practice that digital journalism is where we are at the moment. To resist the change is to involution the profession. Since I never had experience working in print, I can’t comment on the pros or cons of that. I can only comment on my experiences and, for me, this is the future.
Where did you go to school? What did you major in? Bachelor’s in Journalism at UPRRP; photography at Liga de Arte de San Juan; Master’s in Theory in Investigation and Communication at UPRRP.
What are your favorite publications? The Atlantic, Slate, BuzzFeed, Indiewire, The New Yorker, NY Times, Center for Investigative Journalism (cpipr.org).
What book are you currently reading? La Tregua by Mario Benedetti and Zealot by Reza Aslan.
Who are you favorite musicians? Gustavo Cerati, and Franz Ferdinand.
What is your favorite place in the world? Japan.
How do you take your coffee? Black from Hacienda San Pedro.
Zodiac Sign: Aries.
Editor’s Note: Janice Mejías is currently the editor of BrandShare, a content marketing division at GFR Media.
Image by Giovanni Maldonado.