How WNPR’s Vanessa de la Torre found her voice

By Bri­an­ny Aybar, UConn Journalism
Sep­tem­ber 28, 2018

Get to know Vanes­sa de la Torre, a reporter for Hart­ford’s pub­lic radio sta­tion WNPR. She is part of a mul­ti-state radio col­lab­o­ra­tive called “Shar­ing Amer­i­ca”. This radio col­lab­o­ra­tive has reporters based in Port­land, Ore­gon, St. Louis, Mis­souri and Kansas City, Mis­souri who uncov­er local sto­ries focused on race, cul­ture and identity.

Vanes­sa has been with WNPR since the end of Decem­ber 2017. She worked as a reporter at The Hart­ford Courant for more than a decade before tran­si­tion­ing into radio report­ing. She explains that writ­ing for radio is much dif­fer­ent than writ­ing for a newspaper.

You can’t have too many com­mas. That’s one thing you learn right away,” she said.

When it came to news­pa­per writ­ing, Vanes­sa says she loves using ele­gant lan­guage, but when it comes to radio it is impor­tant to strip all of that away and use a more con­ver­sa­tion­al tone.

You’re let­ting oth­er voic­es tell the sto­ry. You’re let­ting peo­ple speak for them­selves,” Vanes­sa said.

Vanes­sa said that one of the biggest tran­si­tions from print to radio was actu­al­ly find­ing con­fi­dence in her voice. Not often hear­ing any­one that sounds like her on the radio, she assumed she need­ed to change her voice to have what we think of as a “broad­cast voice”. Vanes­sa brings up the con­cern that peo­ple in pub­lic radio need to seek out more diverse tal­ent with unique voic­es. Cre­at­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tive “Shar­ing Amer­i­ca” was an effort in that direc­tion and WNPR in Hart­ford recruit­ed Vanes­sa to be a part of it.

When it comes to cov­er­ing news, local news is Vanessa’s favorite thing to cov­er. “This our soci­ety, this is our lives, these are our neigh­bors, these are peo­ple we have to hold account­able. It is impor­tant to sup­port and main­tain local news,” Vanes­sa said.

She argues that local news is the bedrock of democ­ra­cy. Local jour­nal­ists doc­u­ment the whole range of human emo­tion and experiences.

Being Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can, the expe­ri­ences and point of view she is able to bring is some­thing that she believes is valu­able in the news­room. With more peo­ple of col­or as reporters as well as edi­tors, there are more per­spec­tives on how a news sto­ry might play out.

Vanessa’s biggest advice for young jour­nal­ists is to find a men­tor who can help steer them in the right direc­tion. She also empha­sizes prac­tice. Even if a media orga­ni­za­tion does not pub­lish your work, get it out there your­self. Vanes­sa said her main focus right now is cov­er­ing all the moments and sto­ries she pos­si­bly can. She’s not sure she will ever be satisfied.

TOP PHOTO: Jour­nal­ist Vanes­sa de la Torre spoke with mem­bers of the UConn Jour­nal­ism Soci­ety about her work at WNPR in Decem­ber 2018. (Pho­to cred­it Bri­an­ny Aybar)