Journalism major finds voice in the morning newscast

Jonathan McVerry
June 07, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about summer internships for students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Mornin­­gs before class, when fellow students were rubbing sleep from their eyes, heads still wet from showers, Erik Arroyo was figuring out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Arroyo broadcast a news show every morning to the 1,110 students of Belleville High School. Each day with a small news team, he updated his classmates on the goings-on of the school in northern New Jersey. It was a big jump from his days as a shy middle school student. Arroyo loved knowing that his voice was echoing through the classrooms and hallways every day. He found his voice and was excited to use it.

Now a Penn State senior, this summer Arroyo is using that voice 14 miles from his hometown during an internship at CBS2, a network news station in New York City. Working at the station’s assignment desk, Arroyo is shadowing several seasoned reporters who cover the Big Apple and northern New Jersey. For 10 weeks he will be working with the reporters to learn how the news cycle spins from beginning to end in a major media market.

“The classroom is great, but hands-on experience is a different chemistry,” Arroyo said. “Working with cameras, writing stories … seeing it minute-by-minute … it’s how you really see the news structure come together.”

Belleville High has a particularly strong communications program, which Arroyo took full advantage of. Fighting his shy demeanor, he tried every aspect of the newscast and began appreciating the importance of news.

“In the ’80s, it (Belleville) was one of the first schools to get a communications program in the area. It’s actually one of the best programs compared to other schools,” he said. “It was a privilege to have that. It’s cherished.”

Arroyo took all the journalism classes available. He got involved in the school’s news program where he delivered the news, covered a variety of topics, produced news packages and ran cameras. It was the ability to give a voice to the voiceless that got him hooked. 

High school can be hard enough, but growing up as an openly gay teenager made it even more difficult for Arroyo. Belleville is a small, suburban town five miles north of Newark where “everyone knows your business.” However, that wasn’t going to silence him.

After a stint as class treasurer junior year, Arroyo ran for class president his senior year — and won. When the election was over, he tried to shake his opponent’s hand. He was rebuffed and called a slur. Arroyo decided to stand up instead of sit back.

“It motivated me,” Arroyo said. “I needed to speak up.”

Arroyo was driven to provide a voice for the underrepresented. He created a diversity club and a gay/straight alliance group at Belleville, giving those students a forum to be heard.

Seeking a natural next step, Arroyo found the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State — a highly regarded and nationally ranked mass communications program. When he arrived at University Park, he immediately got involved.

He joined the College Democrats and was the public relations chair for the campus Latino Caucus last year. He was a part of the LGBTQ Student Roundtable, an initiative run by the Office of Student Affairs. He is also a member of the Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity and participated in the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute Collegiate Leadership Development Program.

He also embraced opportunities in the classroom. Originally a film-video major, Arroyo discovered a “megaphone” in broadcast journalism. He made the switch midway through a film production course after finding so much enjoyment in the fact-based nature of documentaries.

“Erik dove into all of his projects,” said Catie Grant, Arroyo’s film production instructor. “I think he latched onto the storytelling of people and events. He is a creative, genuine student who is very passionate about what he does.”

Arroyo said that, in a climate where news is often derided and labeled “fake,” he would like to change the way people look at news. A role reporting on LGBTQ and other diversity issues would be an ideal beat, he said. He hopes to engage in some of those topics while interning in New York City, two short train rides from his home in Belleville. He hopes to learn skills that will enact important change politically and also strengthen the voices that need to be heard.

“I think the integrity of telling factual stories from a journalist’s perspective interested Erik,” Grant said. “I am positive he will excel at whatever he chooses to do.”

Arroyo was excited to connect with CBS2 at the Bellisario College’s “Success in the City” event in April. An underclassman at the time, he was surprised to get the offer and very happy to accept. However, he has something else specific in mind for after graduation next year.

Similar to those early high school mornings, classmates may view the future timidly with blurry eyes, but Arroyo knows exactly where he wants to go — California. Graduate school or a job at the Los Angeles CBS station are potentially on the horizon.

“I love Penn State and even though I grew up here, I don’t plan to stay in the Northeast,” he said. “I’ve always had my eye on L.A. It’s a big dream of mine.”

Last Updated July 19, 2017