This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to your local newspaper.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Vanessa Tapia was a child, she watched the Spanish TV station Univision with her mom at their home in Shawnee. This spring, Tapia, now a senior in media production at Pittsburg State University, began broadcasting on the station during a global pandemic.


Her goal: to keep the Hispanic community of the Kansas City metro area informed.


“I’ve observed that in the Hispanic community, many don’t believe the fear about the spread of COVID-19 is real,” said Tapia, who is of Hispanic ancestry and grew up speaking Spanish. “We’re a very social culture by nature anyway. We give hugs instead of handshakes, and people need to know and understand the risk. I want them to have the right information.”


Close to her family, she wanted a college experience that allowed her a bit of independence but wasn’t too far from home.


She chose Pittsburg State. In Professor Troy Comeau, who directs the media production program, she found her “No. 1 supporter,” she said.


“When I started, he encouraged me and said I’d do big things, because being bilingual was an asset,” she said.


Tapia gained experience by working behind the scenes broadcasting PSU athletic events with fellow students.


She also anchored shows for CAPS 13, the PSU Department of Communication’s student-produced cable television station. Students learn to use studio and portable video equipment and editing consoles to produce a live, 30-minute weekly broadcast, “GTV” (Gorilla TV).


Last summer, she landed an internship with Univision Kansas City helping to run the camera, edit and conduct a few interviews on camera.


Then, campus facilities closed, students were sent home to learn online, and Tapia’s work for Univision Kansas City took a new turn.


“Since COVID-19 started, we have been doing one-minute news briefs every day,” she said. “I choose topics our community needs to know about. I set up my camera and equipment at home, and I’m doing Facebook Live interviews with doctors and families of people who have had coronavirus.


“I interviewed the superintendent of Kansas City schools recently, too. I want everyone to gain more awareness.”


She’s also translating news releases written in English so the Spanish-speaking community can understand.


“I’m ensuring everything is clear to them, like a news brief about the federal tax deadline moving to summer, but the state ones are still due in April,” she said. “That was confusing to many of them."