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'One of the Most Important Stories of Our Time'
Sachamama, a nonprofit founded by UNLV alumna and Telemundo journalist Vanessa Hauc, is kicking off its Climate Innovation Lab series in the UNLV Student Union 3-8 p.m. Oct. 5. The free event, co-sponsored by Defend Our Future and Voto Latino, encourages students to identify climate concerns important to their communities and then help design and implement solutions to these concerns. RSVP on the event website.
This story on Hauc, who will lead a panel discussion at the event, has been updated since it originally appeared in UNLV Magazine.
Colombia, the country where journalist Vanessa Hauc grew up, features Andean ice caps, Amazonian rainforests, and Pacific beaches. But Hauc didn’t find a career theme until she was sitting in classrooms 3,000 miles away in the Mojave Desert.
“In South America, the way we were raised, we were in close contact with nature all the time,” she said. “Then at UNLV, in my environmental science classes, I realized there was so much to learn about the planet and how important the environment was.”
Hauc, ’00 BS Communication Studies, is an Emmy-winning correspondent for Noticiero Telemundo, the flagship nightly national newscast for the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo. In addition to regularly reporting on economics and politics, she’s filed dispatches from Chile during the rescue of trapped miners, Paris during 2015's terror attacks, and just days ago from the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.
Climate change, sustainability, and other environmental issues dominate her news reporting, which reaches millions of households throughout the U.S. and Mexico. And that fixation has carried over into her volunteer work raising environmental awareness in the Latino community.
Though her educational journey spanned colleges on three continents, Las Vegas was where she had the “a-ha moment” linking her interests in journalism and the environment to her cultural background.
“I realized that the environment is one of the most important stories of our time,” she said, “and the Hispanic community is especially vulnerable to the changes on our planet. I realized it was important to me to communicate that message to my community.”
Born in Lima, Peru, Hauc moved with her family to Bogota when she was 6. Her striking features led to modeling jobs by 14 and a gig hosting a children’s dance show on Colombian television at 15. But as college rolled around, she traded a mass TV audience for solitary hours at a word processor.
“I enjoyed working on TV, but I wanted to be a writer,” she said. Hauc eventually struck upon an ideal marriage of her passions. “Journalism combined the two loves that I had.”
In her third year of college in Colombia, after a study abroad at the University of Aix-en-Provence, she married a Frenchman and followed him to Las Vegas where he had worked in hospitality. “I found UNLV because I it had a great program for broadcast journalism,” she said.
Hauc was able to transfer some credits from Colombia, and immersed herself in studying environmental science and sharpening her journalism skills on both sides of the camera. Six months before graduating, she landed an initially low-level position at KINC Channel 15, the local Spanish-language Univision affiliate. Las Vegas is a top-25 Hispanic TV market, but the station’s staff was tiny, affording Hauc a bonanza of skill-honing opportunities.
“I was doing teleprompter, producing, writing, whatever,” she said. It wasn’t long before she was reporting on air. “The station was very small, but it taught me to be resourceful and multitask, to own a story and work a story from every angle.”
By the time she left Univision in 2002, she was anchoring the news.
Her next job, at the city of Las Vegas’s KCLV Channel 2, was short-lived. Her appearances on the city’s monthly community affairs program led to a talent agent spotting Hauc and inviting her to try-out for a new show Telemundo was launching out of Miami.
She was cast on Al Rojo Vivo (loose translation: “Red Hot”), a newsmagazine that catapulted Hauc to a national network audience and a reporting post that seemed worlds away from life at a tiny Las Vegas affiliate. “We had so many more resources at the network, and every event you’re covering is very important,” said Hauc, who still works out of Telemundo’s Miami-area national headquarters.
During her 10 years reporting for Al Rojo Vivo, Hauc continued focusing on environmental reporting. She developed a weekly segment called “Alerta Verde” (“Green Alert”), highlighting environmental footprint issues. In 2011, she accepted former Vice President Al Gore’s invitation to moderate a climate change panel during four hours of 24 Hours of Reality, a global environmental broadcast watched by 9 million people.
That year also saw Hauc promoted to correspondent for Noticiero Telemundo, the network’s prime 30-minute evening newscast. Besides filing regular dispatches from throughout the United States and Mexico, she has reported from South America and Europe and covered both the election of Pope Francis and the re-election of President Obama.
Though she covers a wide range of stories, much of Telemundo’s news reporting is centered around issues important to its core audience of native Spanish speakers in the United States.
“I have to learn a little about everything: education, politics, the environment, terrorism,” Hauc said. “But 80 percent of our audience comes from Mexico, and there are viewers from Puerto Rico and all over Central and South America. So we try to look for those stories that are going to be important for them. Immigrants are still very close to their roots in other countries.”
The stories Hauc has filed leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election have given her key insights into the issues on the minds of voters increasingly seen as a prized voting bloc by both major parties. Education and the economy are key concerns among them. “People come here with a dream to have a better life and better opportunity for their children,” she said. “Education is the key to break the cycle of poverty. They care about this country and care about having better jobs.”
But one issue is of paramount importance to the Spanish-speaking voters Hauc interviews. “The community has been fighting to have immigration reform for the last eight years. It’s extremely important,” she said, particularly for those affected the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy changes. “If you think about all of the children who were born here who have parents who weren’t, they’re afraid their families will be deported. We have to find a way to solve this problem.”
When she’s traversing North America for Telemundo, Hauc travels to give seminars for Sachamama, the nonprofit she co-founded four years ago with her marine biologist brother. The group’s name means “Mother Jungle” in the Quechua language spoken in the Amazon, and it works to raise awareness of the environmental movement and sustainable culture among Latinos.
“Whenever I have days off, that’s what I do,” she said. “This is my passion, so it’s not like work.”
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