Gabriel C. Pérez

NextGen as an illustrator

by Hazel O’Neil


I applied for Next Gen Radio after hearing an ad on KUT. I am not a journalist, but I’m a lifelong listener of NPR and I really wanted to participate in this program. Doug Mitchell emailed me a few days after I applied that while the hiring team had already selected the journalism students, they noticed that I have a “strong background in illustration,” and invited me to join the program as an apprentice illustrator. I was so excited. I still can’t believe that I can say I’ve worked for NPR!

It was an intense week. I spent most of my days in a very cold air-conditioned room staring intensely at my computer. I was worried that I would feel like the odd one out, but my mentor, Ruth Tam, was really great. This was my first experience working with another illustrator and I was grateful for her company. Ruth had advice on game plan to tackle the workload, color palettes and Twitter. On Tuesday afternoon I realized that the banner image I had been drawing all day wasn’t working conceptually. Ruth was a sympathetic ear to my crisis and talked me down from distress. I started over early the next morning and I’m so glad that I pivoted. The final image showcases who “Austin: Over 60” is, and that’s what this collection of stories is all about.

On the first morning of the program, Jennifer Staton from KUT gave us a talk on social media ethics for journalists: don’t express political opinions, don’t publicly donate money, don’t take an opinionated stance on anything lest you compromise your professional nonbiased integrity…. I didn’t have a Twitter until day two of the program (Ruth advised that “tweeting your beat” actually is helpful to stay connected in the professional world), and I wasn’t thrilled at the implication that I shouldn’t be active about issues that I care about. That being said, my ears are open to advice and news, and for now you can follow me @hazeloneil17.

What a cool project! I am so proud of the work I’ve done and grateful for the chance to participate in a public ode to my community. I loved meeting local students, mentors, and interviewees. I liked giving tourism recommendations to the visiting team; my mentor was on a quest to sample Austin’s queso and hearing her reviews was a true delight of the week. Austin is near and dear to my heart and this project was a great reminder of why that’s true. Thank you Next Gen Radio for a wonderful week!