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Through the Lens
As Told to Dennis Malcolm Byron | Photo: Photo by Jeremy Freeman/@ 2017 Cable News Network/A Time Warner Company | August 21, 2017
Bilingual reporter Nick Valencia is one of CNN’s brightest and youngest national correspondents covering the Southeast from his home base in Atlanta. In the last two years, he’s covered the Orlando, Fla., Pulse nightclub shooting; El Chapo’s escape; the shooting of Baton Rouge, La., police officers; and the trial of Charleston, S.C., shooter Dylann Roof. Coming up on the first anniversary of the November elections he covered extensively, he tells us, in his own words, about watching history unfold from the front lines.
I knew I wanted to be a journalist since I was about 14 or 15 years old. I had an English teacher in high school who worked for Rolling Stone magazine, and he was one of the first people to inspire me and encourage my writing.
When people talk about having their dream job, that’s me. But the dream doesn’t always look exactly like what you thought it would. Originally, I wanted to be a war correspondent. As it turned out, I’m a national correspondent for CNN, and I certainly cover my share of conflict, but I tend to focus more on domestic news. I think being a journalist is the coolest job in the world. We get to see events right before they become history. We get to see those monumental moments right before they are recorded.
My dream has always been to travel the world and have people’s stories impact me. Journalism has changed me for the better. I cannot wait to see where the news takes me next. Each of us has been impacted and shaped by our own personal experiences. I’m not a robot. I feel things deeply, and I have opinions. But our job as journalists is to bury our bias and deliver facts, to be objective observers. That shouldn’t be confused with being a passive observer. There are two sides to every story (and sometimes more), but our job isn’t to simply regurgitate information. We have to challenge convictions. If someone is trying to tell me that the sky is red, I have the responsibility to challenge them. We owe that to the public.
However, it can be challenging maintaining objectivity in certain situations. We have to look people in the eyes after loss and tragedy, and I have to find a way to convey that emotion to the public without being overrun by it. But we prepare ethically for situations like that. Also, it’s not just the message, but the messenger. CNN trusts me to do my job in stressful situations, and I know that I have to be fair to everyone. Everyone has a story. It’s our job to get to the root of their story without losing sight of the truth.
I try to mentally prepare for these events. I talk to mentors. I speak about things to my wife, who grounds me. I go to yoga to find inner peace. But sometimes, honestly, I cry. The world can be an ugly place. And we see the worst of it. But we also see humanity in its most raw forms. In chaos, there are always going to be people who help out of the goodness of their hearts. I try to focus on that.
I have beared witness to so much, and I feel like I’m just getting started.