Talk Freelance To Me

White House Correspondent Laura Figueroa Hernandez Talks Journalism, Writing & Reporting About Politics

April 23, 2023 Laura Figueroa Hernandez Season 1 Episode 4
Talk Freelance To Me
White House Correspondent Laura Figueroa Hernandez Talks Journalism, Writing & Reporting About Politics
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Ashley interviews her longest journalist friend Laura Figueroa Hernandez, a White House correspondent for News Day. Listen in as Laura recounts what led her to pursue a career in journalism and why politics became her focus. During the interview, she takes us through a typical day in her work life, revealing the challenges and rewards of covering the highest levels of government. Don't miss this insightful and informative podcast episode with Laura!

In this episode, you’ll learn about:

9:11  What it’s like to be a White House correspondent

13:02 Some of Laura’s most memorable moments from reporting from the White House

17:01 How Laura has weathered many challenging economic times in the news industry

20:52 Laura’s advice for writers who want to report on politics

24:18 Why fact-checking is essential for any writer

27:06 How to uncover unique story angles

31:03 How Laura kicks writer’s block to the curb


About Laura:
Laura Figueroa Hernandez is a White House Correspondent for Newsday, a New York-based news outlet. She has covered both the Trump and Biden White Houses. Before joining Newsday's Washington Bureau, Laura worked as a political reporter for the outlet for five years covering everything from state to congressional races, New York City Hall, and the 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to Newsday, Laura worked as a staff reporter for The Miami Herald, which she dreamed of working for since high school.  At the Herald, Laura started off as a local government reporter but her reporting also took her to Haiti, Honduras, Cuba, and the U.S. Gulf Coast.  Laura's first job in journalism was as a reporter for The Bradenton Herald in Southwest Florida. Her work covering the area's migrant farmworker community was awarded by The Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. She is a proud graduate of the University of Florida's School of Journalism and Mass Communications and currently resides in Washington D.C., with her husband and their two children.

Read Laura’s reporting: 

https://www.newsday.com/people/laura-figueroa

Follow Laura on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Laura_Figueroa

Follow Laura on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/laurafigueroanyc/

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Ashley Mejia:

Welcome, everybody to the third episode of the Talk freelance to me podcast. I am so excited today because we have our very, very first guest, and she's very special to me and to the world. So I want to welcome Lauder Figueroa at Ananda to English speakers to the show. Welcome. Thank you, Laura, for being here. I appreciate it so much. How are you doing today? I'm doing great. I'm really thankful to be here. And thank you for the invitation. And obviously, I really support what you're trying to do here trying to help other women kind of tap into their own creative selves and use that as a source of income. So anything you know I can do to help. Obviously, I'm here and any knowledge that I can share. In my experiences writing, obviously, I'm happy to share. Thank you so much. So for anybody that didn't see all my little promotional things. Laura is a White House correspondent for Newsday, which is a very respected New York based outlet. And I want to read to you a little bit from her bio because she's accomplished a lot and it's an honor to have someone of her level on my emerging podcast. So let me read a little bit. Laura Figaro Hernandez is a White House correspondent for Newsday, a New York based news outlet. She has covered both the Trump and Biden White House's before joining Newsday is Washington bureau, Laura worked as a political reporter for the outlet for five years covering everything from state to congressional races, New York City Hall and the 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to Newsday, Laura worked as a staff reporter for the Miami Herald, which she dreamed of working for since high school. At the Herald. Laura started off as a local government reporter, but her reporter also took her to Haiti on dudas, Cuba and the US Gulf Coast. Laura's first job in journalism was as a reporter for The Bradenton Herald in southwest Florida. Her work covering the area's migrant farm worker community was awarded by the Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of newspaper editors. She's a proud graduate of the University of Florida's school of journalism and mass Communications, and currently resides in Washington DC with her husband, and their two beautiful children. Thank you, thank you for being here. I just gotta say, there's people in the audience who know me, Laura is my best dearest friend. So I gotta be forthcoming and just say that she's one of the most special people to me. So it's extra special that she's here. And I have had the pleasure of knowing Laura since before the first day of our university experience when we both were new J school kids. Do you remember that? Laura, what was your first impression of our program and us meeting?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

So I mean, just to let everyone know, yeah, literally, Ashley was like pretty much the first friend I mean, at UF, and it was just meant to be we were actually part of a program for freshmen minority journalism majors. They call this all into big old auditorium, lots of empty seats, obviously, not that many minority journalism. Freshmen and actually sat right next to me even though there was like a whole bunch of seats. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And like Ashley said, we started off just trying to get our clips into the local papers in Gainesville and just doing whatever we could to get by lines and just clips to share and internships and it's been a journey.

Ashley Mejia:

It really has been and that's why even just reading that bio just gives me chills. Before we got online. I was talking to Laura about just how I remember being friends with her but also roommates in college. And seeing her get her first internship putting her portfolio together for her first she wrote for a college paper called The Gator times and also the independent Florida alligator. And then getting her first job and even interning for People magazine or I'm sorry, freelancing for people. That's something that stood out to me a lot, because in our 20s, when everybody was going out on New Year's Eve, for to go out and party themselves, Laura would be going in Miami for people on behalf of People magazine and reporting. I mean, that's the level of dedication when you read that bio, and you when you hear it and you hear these accolades, she worked her buns off a lot, so and sacrificed a lot. It's really special for me to just see the everything that you've achieved from this love of writing that started right when you were a little girl. Is that right? When you first wanted to be a journalist?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Definitely, you know, literally as far back as I can remember, I was always telling my parents like I want to be a journalist. I want to be a journalist. And I think a lot of that started with in my house. You know, my parents were very strong newspaper readers always brought home. You know the English language newspaper and the Spanish language newspaper. And so it was something that we, my brother would always fight over once my dad got home and we'd read the paper and we break up the sections. So I grew up with that love of like reading and getting to know the news and getting to know what was happening in the world. And even just writing was just like always something that just kind of made me feel comfortable. That's where I could express myself best. And so I've been very blessed and fortunate that I've had the opportunities that I've had. And you know, I really appreciate what you're trying to do. I think a lot of people like writing, love reading, want to write want to be published, but they don't necessarily know like how to get started, or they don't necessarily think that they can. And it's great that you're showing them that there are opportunities out there just kind of have to like look for them and kind of know how to pitch yourself.

Ashley Mejia:

I love that. And you're the perfect person to teach us teach the audience about pitching yourself about pitching ideas. And I think they're really going to value the things that we're going to talk about today. So I'm gonna go ahead, I had some questions prepared. So there's been a lot of misconceptions about the media, I feel like everybody says, Oh, the media's it's the media's fault for this. And it's the media's fault for that. And I can't help by being someone who was a newspaper reporter and worked in magazines, is feeling like well, the media is us, the media is reflects us reflects what we're doing and what we're interested in and what we're paying attention to. So I always kind of chuckle about that. You talked about being a kid and from the beginning, being interested in news. Why politics? That's so interesting to me, because politics, especially now is such a can be controversial, it can be a very taxing place, I think to be in terms of reporting, can you share what made you want to be a political journalist?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Sure. I think when you look at politics, in the sense of people, what drew me to politics is because I was interested in the people who become politicians, right? Like, what is your motivating factor? Like what is it that drives these people to run for public office to put themselves out there, and oftentimes, you see people with like, earnest goals and earnest ambitions, I want to help my community, I want to do more for my people and where I live, and then sometimes that transitions into something else. And sometimes politicians kind of veer off course, or sometimes they just grow in power. And they do and they are able to help their communities, because they've been around longer, but I think at the core of it is just understanding people's motivations for like helping one another. I genuinely do think that a lot of people get into politics, because they want to help people, right? You don't just kind of like throw yourself into the public sphere and kind of put all your business out there, if you don't have some sort of underlying desire to help your community or help your state or help, whatever it is that you're representing. And so I think that's kind of like what drew me to politics. And also just what drew me to politics is because politics is government, right? And so when you're looking at how this world works, and how people get help, it's through their government most of the times, right? And so who are the people who are controlling the purse strings of these programs that help people who are the people that are making the decisions that can help or hinder people. So I think that's kind of like how I got into it, and how I still try to kind of like view it through that lens.

Ashley Mejia:

I love that. I love that a lot of times people want to plug their ears and not listen. And you know, they get turned off, they get turned off with fighting with a relative on Facebook, about different political ideas and things. But we have to pay attention, right? Like, we can't complain about things happening in our country or our city, or we'll talk about politics being local in a minute. But we don't have that privilege to kind of tune out, we have to pay attention. And so I'm thankful to journalists, like you, who keep people honest, and are keeping track and are watching these things on behalf of the rest of us. So, so tell us about this job because I see your Instagram and the snapshots from inside the White House and from our beautiful nation's capitol. What does it mean to be a White House correspondent? Can you tell us about a day in the life of a White House correspondent?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Sure. So obviously, it's something that I carry with great gratitude. And it's something that I feel very like privileged about. So there's not a day that I kind of go into the White House where I take it for granted every day. I'm like, this is a great honor. Not that many people have the badge, they can flash to get in here, right to have the clearance to get in here. And so basically, the first couple of days, the first couple of months when I was on the job back in 2018. It was very nerve wracking, but I've kind of like become a more comfortable place like because it is such a small place. I think a lot of people see the White House on TV and they see the briefing room that's set up like on TV in terms of other like TV shows. So they think the briefing room is like this huge Blaze, and it's really nice. It's just really confined quarters and the whole like White House press briefing area where there's still like little desks in the back It's all very like cramped. But it's also like, because it's such cool quarters is a great opportunity to meet other journalists and like get to kind of like pick their ears, some of the best journalists in the country veteran journalist. So you know, any opportunity, I have to kind of like talk to folks who have kind of been around longer than me, in terms of political reporting, in terms of White House reporting, I take advantage of that. But you know, Ashley, like any day in journalism is never the same, you know, one day you're going in, and this really like nothing happening. And then some days, it's like the sky is falling. What I do appreciate about different administration's have different approaches, but the White House can be a place where you're walking into the briefing room, and then you'll see like an official or even like a secretary, or somebody kind of walking in that driveway heading towards the different cameras, where they have their TV hits and stuff. And you can like, you know, a lot of times like reporters will then like approach them. And so it's like somewhere where you're, you're able to ask questions on behalf of your audience, like you have the secretary of transportation in front of you, you're able to tap him and be like, Hey, I have this question about the gateway tunnel program projects in New York or New Jersey. So I think that's the great thing about living in a democracy, right? Like these folks are supposed to answer to the people, not just the people voted for them. But just so like everyone, right. And so that's our jobs as journalists is to like, make sure that we can get what we can out of them. And obviously, every administration, every politician is going to have their agenda and you know, want to kind of like savings or spin things right in a direction that's favorable for them. And obviously, it's your job as a journalist to try to get as much as you can to present it to your audience in a way that they have more context so that it's not just oh, I'm just transcribing you know what this person told me, but I'm giving you the full picture, like, okay, the Secretary said this. But you know, here's what people on the ground are saying about XYZ. And here's what experts are saying. And so I try also just in my recording, to just tap into, like, as many people as I can. And so I know, I'm kind of like rambling here, but it's awesome that we live in a country, right, that we're able to do these things, or we're able to like report on the government freely and openly.

Ashley Mejia:

Absolutely. I think about that every, you know, Independence Day, and especially like, in the last couple years, there's been so many things, so many unprecedented things that have happened. And it's easy to point out these negative things. But I'm always grateful to my grandparents. And you know, my ancestors were coming to this country, because, you know, you hit the nail on the head, there are some countries where you don't question who's in charge, you can't question and certainly not people like me, and you women, moms, we don't get that chance. So that's to me journalism and democracy. I mean, it's they work hand in hand. So I appreciate that. So have you and I know you were mentioning that you worked for both administration. So I can only imagine things that you've seen and how days have gone left, you know, fast. Can you share maybe a memorable moment from your experience thus far being in this role?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Oh, there's just so many. I'm sure. I'm just trying to think I feel like my year is covering the Trump administration. We're just like one big blur. But I think it was actually, I don't even know how to say this. But I guess there's two memories that stick out. One was during the pandemic, right? There was, you know, obviously, the big scare like everyone was glued to their TV, everybody was glued to these briefings and trying to make sense of what this virus meant to everybody. And so the Briefing Room, obviously, like could not have the same protocols as before, we couldn't fill in all the seats. And so it got to a point where there was only 14 Reporters allowed for each briefing, right. And so we were on rotation. And so I just remember, like the weight of that, right, like knowing that you're only one to 14 for that day, you better make sure to have like good question, because you have to make a count right for the rest of your colleagues. Because there's people out there who are trying to figure it out what this pandemic what this Coronavirus means. And I remember being just at some of those Coronavirus briefings with the President with Dr. Fauci with Vice President Pence at one point like there was different ones, but with Treasury Secretary Minuchin. And, you know, being able to ask those questions. And obviously, like, there's always going to be debate about the information that came out of those briefings. But just the ability that we had to like, at least keep it going, you know, the White House Correspondents Association fought very hard to make sure that those briefings could continue because the White House could have very easily been like, no, it's a pandemic. It's a public emergency. We can't have people in a confined space, but like they figured out a way to make it work because they wanted to have this ability to inform the public daily about like what was happening. So that's just one thing that stuck out and the other was having the ability during the Trump administration. I'm part of a New York based paper and so being other regional reporters, so reporters who don't report for like the big national papers like the Washington post on your post, we got invited to like, sit down with the president kind of ask questions that were like specific to our state. And I'll give them that, like he was there for like an hour. And he talked to us. And he knew about a lot of these things. And whatever he didn't know about, he had his aides kind of like, look into it. And so it was just the fact like being able to be in the Oval Office with the president at the time, you know, it was pretty cool moment.

Ashley Mejia:

That's amazing. Like to just be around that much history. And it will be, you know, years from now until we're able to look historians will look upon this journalists talking heads will look back upon this season that we've been in, and it will be interesting to kind of, for you to be able to say I was there in there. Like that's really special. I love that. So we talked on the onset that we met before the first day of school, we didn't just meet in college, we met before the so when to be able to grow up and to see to witness, you know, your trajectory, that's been so special. You've been able to survive in journalism, which in itself is not an easy industry, right? We, I remember being in college, and we were both in college together and talking to other people who were studying healthcare or engineering, and they were getting paid to intern, right? And they were getting apartments and fellowships. And for us, it was like, No, you got to work for free for several internships just to even get an interview for a paid gig. And then we'll see how you do. And we'll see if you survive. So you've been able to survive in this industry, but also survive in the midst of a lot of economic challenges. What has been your secret and your commitment? Because there's a lot of folks who I know, I remember when we were college, they would say they went to the dark side, right? They were journalists, and then they went to PR, because journalism is not easy. It's not easy, especially for you as a wife, a mom now, how have you been able to not just survive in journalism with all of these challenges, but also thrive to the level where you're at now?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Well, I definitely think you have to be kind of flexible times of change, obviously, like you said, especially because of economic pressures, especially economic pressures on newspapers. So you know, I grew up with the dream of like, I'm going to work at the New York or at the Miami Herald. And that's where I'm gonna build my career and like editor of the Miami Herald and work my way up. And that was my dream for the longest. And then I was working at the Herald. That was a dream job, I work with amazing people. But I saw you know, it's like people were being laid off and because having furloughs and so I kept thinking to myself, is this where you want to be this newspaper have kind of like an economic plan, you know, to get through these storms? Or are you just kind of like waiting to be the next on the chopping block. And so I kind of told myself, you can't wait for somebody to make the decision for you. And so I think a lot of that in journalism, you kind of have to know that there is the possibility that maybe your outlet is not always going to do the best economically or profit wise, or whatever. And so, does that mean you should jump from place to place not necessarily, for me, you know, I use that as an opportunity. Once I saw that things were kind of getting like tough at the Miami Herald. I started to think to myself like, Well, what do you want to do? Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself? And part of me thought, well, you know, I'm young at that time I was on married, I was without kids, I kind of move freely. And I thought, I want to go back to New York, like I grew up in New York as a kid, I want to go to New York, and just kind of like, try it on for size and see how I do there. Get that out of my, you know, do the whole like, I love New York bit. And that's why I applied for Newsday, and I've been very blessed that, you know, they were hiring. And also it's like looking at the viability of the outlets that you're working for Newsday, at the time had just been purchased by a local owner. And he was very loyal to Newsday because he grew up on Long Island. And so he's somebody who has had Dolan who has like, put his money where his mouth is, he's very, like Newsday means something to him. He grew up with it. And so he's not like laying off recorders and maths, he's kind of investing in the product. And so that's kind of like what has kept me there as long. But even there, like I started off as a county government recorder, and then kind of just rolled with the punches like, Hey, Laura, do you want to go cover? It's the 2016 presidential race, or at the time, it was the primaries, and so you had Trump running, you had Hillary Clinton running. And at the time, the Republican primary was Fuller, right? There was Ted Cruz, there was John Kasich. And so they were all coming into New York in April. And so it was like, hey, we need somebody who can like go to all these events. And I was like, we send me I'm so kind of making yourself available and being that person who's like, Yes, I will do this. I will spend however much time how many hours, and then that led to like, Okay, well now Trump and Hillary Clinton are the nominees and their New York people. Let's follow them on the trail and then like one thing led to the other and then all of a sudden, I'm at the White House. So I like to think that like when opportunities come your way, sometimes you can't say here Everything. I'm learning that too. But as many times as possible, I try to say yes, because you never know what the next thing will lead to.

Ashley Mejia:

Right. So that's amazing. You have worked really hard. People don't understand that. I think when they see successful people think, Oh, she was lucky. Like you we can say blessed, right, but you worked in accordance with those blessings, right? You work for it. That's amazing. So I talked to a lot of freelance writers, some freelance journalists, and a lot of bloggers. And there's been interest I think, since that election in 2016, or the years before, people have become very interested in commentary in politics. And I think that's a great thing. What tips do you have for somebody listening to this who's interested in writing about politics? How can they get started in this area?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

I think, like I mentioned, like the state of work kind of newspapers and local outlets are, a lot of them are starving for reporters, right? So they're not necessarily going to hire like a reporter who they're going to have to give insurance to and do all these things, and 401k, but they are in the market for freelancers and for stringers. And for people who can cover things that maybe they can't always get to, like I remember at the Miami Herald, they had a pretty deep bench of like freelancers or so called stringers who they could like rely on, and most newspapers do, right, they rely on freelancers and stringers to get to things that maybe their staff writers can get to. So I think one thing is, if you have an interest in politics, or government or any sort of even just like newspaper reporting would be to reach out to your local newspaper, open up the paper and look at the masthead see was the editor, managing editor, news editor, you know, and most times, like their contact information is on there, reach out to them, send them your clips, send them your resume and say, hey, you know, I'm interested in some freelance writing and looking for opportunities. I think that's kind of first step to kind of like build a relationship and see what's out there. I also think you don't necessarily have to look to the traditional newspaper, right? There's a lot of people like yourself to write like you're starting, you're kind of like immediate venture, you have your podcast, you have your Instagram and your profile. And some of the journalists that I know at the White House have actually gotten their start by like building an audience for themselves. I'll give you an example. There's this kid out of high school, he was in St. Louis, he started this newsletter about politics, like the daily politics, email newsletter. And this was before newsletters became like a big thing. And so he just send like a roundup. And all of a sudden, he's getting like, people from the New York Times and like Washington Post writing about him, because he got so many subscribers, because that's what people wanted, right? Just like a newsletter or something with all the daily headlines, something just like easy nuggets I'm love that that's a great story. And I think, you know, to digest. This Ken built like an audience of like, 1000s of with that, there's so much opportunity, but there's also some things to keep in mind, particularly because this space subscribers. And then He parlayed that he was in high has, you know, there's more people competing to have their school, you know, all these newspapers profiled him. And so voices heard, and everybody wants to be first and social he was able to like interview like the presidential media is, you know, we want information. We want new candidates, and because he's young, right, but he was able to information. We want it right now. And so with that, sometimes the facts get a little muddled as someone who went to J school, kind of carve out a niche for himself, his name is Gabe who has a degree who studied this in the academic sense and Fleischman. Again, starting off as a high schooler, he's now at mastered it, can you give some advice to independent writers Georgetown University, I think, you know, he gets into the White about fact checking? How do you approach this as a professional? House, now he gets credentialed, because he kind of built this Obviously, it's like the core of what I do, and obviously, for anybody who is looking into freelancing, because your name audience for himself, he was able to make the case of the is everything, right? Your credibility is everything. So White House, look, I report on politics, I have an audience and one false flag of bad information in your story, then that weighs heavily on your credibility kind of moving you know, he's able to get in there. And so just don't limit forward. When I'm thinking about fact checking. It's easy to just yourself. Like it's something that you're passionate about go into Google right like oh, let me fast track this back. But politics, or whatever the case may be. Maybe that's the way to nowadays, it's there is like you mentioned so much misinformation so many like pseudo blogs and pseudo websites and you don't go to is think about carving out your own niche online, right, know what to check. So a lot of times, you know, rely on the making a blog about what's happening in your community, sources that you know, start with the basics just like you building an audience in that sense, and then kind of taking learned in school, right, you start with the basics as sources of information and newspapers endemic it from there. journals things like that to kind of corroborate whatever it is that you're reporting. A lot of times what I do is I rely on like university professors, or if I'm, like unsure about something, what I like to say is like, call the experts up, right? Like, you know, figure out like, who are the people in this field who can like explain something to you. I'll give you an example. Last week, I had to do a story about the Trump indictment in Manhattan, right? The former president being indicted in Manhattan court, this is the first time this has ever happened. I'm not a court reporter. I don't know anything about like legal jargon and legal implications. I'm a Political reporter. I'm good at that, I think. So I leaned on, I called up different former federal prosecutors, former prosecutors, attorneys, university constitutional law professors, because they're the ones who are like steeped in this, they know these issues, and they can kind of explain it to you in laymen terms, because that's their job, right, playing it to their students. So if you have that opportunity to like, No, you think like, oh, I'm a freelancer, I can just call a professor. But you can call the university like media relations line and say, Hey, I'm a freelancer, I'm writing a piece for XYZ outlet pieces regarding this, do you have any experts in this field, and like nine times out of 10, I think they're willing to help you because they want to, like, put their university out there. They want to, like have that, that good public relations with like, Oh, our expert was quoted in this piece, or, you know, it helps give context to this piece. So in fact, checking, I would just say, like, be cautious of your sources, right? Like, do your due diligence, but also make sure that whatever you're kind of like backtracking against is coming from a credible source.

Ashley Mejia:

So good. And so important. The tip about calling the media relations, I think that that is so key, that's their job. That's why they exist is to be the intermediary between the public and the team at the University. So love that. So how can independent reporters and writers generate new ideas, enterprise their own stories from their local communities? How can they dig for story angles, without just looking at press releases that they receive?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

You know, one place to start is if you live in a certain community, and you feel like there's certain things that aren't being covered, or maybe you're curious about the community you live in, it all goes through, like your local government, whether that's your town, council, city, Council, town commission, like they all have different names, but just start local, right? Whether it's a commission committee, or whatever, it's called assembly, and they normally meet like, once or twice a month, and they normally put their agendas online, and look through the agendas. And you know, maybe there's some things you don't understand, but you can always like, call the town or public information officer and say, I'm a citizen, I don't understand what this agenda item means. Can you explain it to me, and then kind of like, take it from there. So I was looking at like, meeting agendas as a great opportunity to like find, you know, different things. Like I remember, when I was kind of like a municipal reporter. Sometimes it's like, it's not even like big ticket items. But like, you'll find like a great story. And like, there's like different parts of meetings where like, people get commendations, and things like that, and you, like, see certain people are being honored in your community. And you're like, wow, like, why hasn't anybody written about this person? They have, like an amazing story. So there's just like, a lot of opportunities in itself within like an agenda. Believe me, I know, it sounds like boring, but there are opportunities there. And I think just kind of like going out to events and seeing things for yourself and things that you're curious about. I remember when I worked at the Herald and I kind of had this gig, it was called general assignment. And basically, it was like, you're supposed to figure out story ideas. Like it could be anything, right? I wasn't tethered to like a town or municipality. And I was like, Oh, my God, that's so broad. I don't know what to do. But I just started to think about things that I was curious about, like, at the time, I was in my 20s. And that was like, when the whole Twilight era was like, big. And so I was like, I'm curious about and so I heard that there was like, all these people who identify as like vampires, and I was just curious about that, right? Like, who are these people who like, identify as vampires and they like, get their teeth like pathetically fixed or whatever. And so then I started Googling. And then I found out there was like, a party of these people. And I was gonna write friend Cynthia to this party, and I was like, full of like, people just as vampires and they had the fangs and everything, you know, and just like approaching them, like, Hey, I'm a reporter. And I'm curious about this, you know, Would you be okay with me interviewing you like after this party like somewhere else? And I found like people who made for like, a really interesting story just about like this kind of like subculture of people. So one of the things is that if you're curious about something or you're interested in something, follow that pursue and see like where it leads, it can be a story that you pitch.

Ashley Mejia:

That is amazing. I love that. That's I want to read that I'm gonna have to go back into your archives. Or you know what, yeah, life short if you want to be a vampire, be a vampire.

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Right? It's not even like I know people think like, oh, tournaments have to be all serious and stuff. You know, it was in the Metro section, the Miami Herald and it was a human interest story was about there are these people who identify as this and like, here's where they go party. And there's like dentists who specialize in like helping them get their teeth fixed or whatever it's happening. You know, just you're supposed to have fun too with like writing, right? So freelancing, whether it's freelancing or wherever, like, just have fun, curious.

Ashley Mejia:

I love that. I love that. And I thinking about these stories and that need right to turn something in to generate your own story. It just made me think about, you know, your job, you can't say to your boss, hey, I had writer's block, and I can't meet my deadline. You You've write a lot, you produce a lot, and you have to do it by these critical deadlines. Do you have any secrets or tips that you can share with our audience on? How do you produce so much? How do you write more efficiently so that you can meet these deadlines and these goals?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

So I think when I first started out in journalism, especially like in my 20s, I was so attached to like everything I wrote. So it will take me forever to write something new, that word doesn't belong there. And I think like, as I've gone along, sometimes I've realized, like, you know what, Laura, not every story is going to be the great American epic piece of journalism, like sometimes you just need to like crank it out. And so a lot of it is just like getting out of your own head and being like, you know, what, just power through it. Like, it may look clunky right now, but just get whatever's in your head, just get it down. And then you can kind of go fix things later. I also have like a different writing process than most people, like, some people will, like, start off with their lead. And then they do like the middle of their story. And then they do their end. And sometimes, like when I'm stuck on a lead, where I'm like, I don't even know how to like, start this piece. I'll start with like, what I do know, right, like, so I'll say, Well, you know, I have a lot on this part about, let's say, Trump's indictment, I spoke to this lawyer, and he told me a lot about like, the constitutional implications. So let me just start with that section. And then I find that like, I have written this whole section, I'm like, okay, good. If it puts me in a better zone, I'm like, Alright, two to 300 words down. Now, I have some sort of shape. And you know what, I can put that in my lead, you know, something about this, and then mix it with that. So it's like, sometimes I just find like writing what you have, will help like, kind of guide you in terms of like, what else do you need? What else do you feel just kind of kind of complete the story. And then one of my, like, journalism mentors, she mentioned to me like that another editor had told her sometimes when you haven't written in a while, like your brain is like, I don't know how to write and you have to write something. So she was like, you just have to do a quick and dirty sometimes, like, all it takes is doing like something small, like a small piece of writing to get those like creative muscles moving again. So for example, let's say if you have like a big freelance project that you do, in, you know, two days, and you're like, I haven't gotten started on that I don't really like my brain is fried or whatever, try something small, even if it's something like writing a letter to to like a family member or writing something else, right. Like in journalism, I would write maybe like a 10 inch story. Oh, let me just write that quick story about the city council meeting, I went to that all of a sudden, I find that like, by writing that small story, I got that out of the way. And like my brain is like, reved up again. So that's just kind of like another thing that might work for people.

Ashley Mejia:

So good. So I've kept you a long time. I want to thank you so much for all of the advice and inspiration that you've given to our audience. Really, really appreciate it. What's next for you? What are you looking for? What's What's your dream? Where do you see your career going next?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

You know, that's an interesting question. Because you know, me like I've always wanted to be a journalist. And I've just kind of learned that you don't necessarily need to glue yourself to one goal or one thing because, like I said, like, when I was starting off after college, when I got my job at the Miami Herald, I was like, I'm here. I mean, I'm done. I'm here. And I would have stayed there, obviously. But sometimes I think about it. Like, I'm like, what would have happened if I would have stayed there? Would I be at the White House now, you know, so it's like, right now I'm at the White House. I'm working for a paper that I really like value that treats me well. And so like, I'm kind of like leaning into that. And I don't know what comes next. Because sometimes you kind of like, need to leave it to chance, right? Or see what other opportunities come up. But like, I don't want to ever say like, well, then this is going to school. And so hopefully, like your readers to content or your audience can like, see that? Especially with freelancing you can kind of like go where you want and see, you know, make it work for you. And you don't have to be like tethered to one thing or one dream or whatever.

Ashley Mejia:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Laura. This has been such a great conversation. Where can people find you online if they want to follow your reporting and learn more about your work?

Laura Figueroa Hernandez:

Sure. If you're interested in my political recording, you can go newsday.com and I believe they have like all my articles under newsday.com/people/laura-figueroa Are you can find me on social media on Twitter @Laura_Figueroa

Ashley Mejia:

Thank you so much. We'll go ahead and let you go now. We appreciate your time. Thank you for being on the tuck freelance to me podcast. Thank you for having me appreciate this. And with that, we've come to the end of another episode. Please make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already done so. And give me a five star review on Apple. This will help out a lot and getting the word out about this brand new podcast. I invite you to check out the show notes and also grab my free niches get riches, freelance writing worksheet to brainstorm the best niches for your writing business. If you're not a writer, you can still use it to get business ideas. And until next time, this is actually a talk freelance to me. Don't forget, we all get this one precious life. Don't constrain yourself to a box that you were never meant to fit in. It is your right to profit from your own creative gifts. This podcast was created by Ashley Cisneros Mejia. Our music was composed by Donna Raphael of World Instrumentals. Talk Freelance To Me is a product of Fenix Creative Studio.

Why Laura chose a career in Journalism
Why Laura decided to report on politics
What it's like to report from the White House
How journalism and democracy go hand in hand
The job of a journalist
Memorable moments from covering the White House
How the White House Correspondents Association fought to keep briefings open for the public
Interviewing President Trump
How Laura has thrived among tough times in the news business
Advice for people who want to write about politics
The importance of fact-checking in the digital age
How to find unique story angles
Beating writer's block and meeting deadlines