Typically when getting ready for an interview, Maria Monteros will gather her reporter's notebook, her phone and her laptop and head to the agreed-upon coffee shop or library to fine-tune her questions and double-check her research before her source arrives.
She may also grab a back-up pen in case her favorite one runs out. She calls herself a dinosaur as she prefers taking pen-to-paper notes during her interviews—it helps her remember better.
But these days, she moves from the living room to her writing corner—a spot in her bedroom that used to be dedicated to doing her homework and studying—and settles herself in front of her fold-out floor desk.
When it’s time for her first call of the day, Monteros dials the number. The phone rings once. Twice. Right before the third ring, someone answers on the other end of the line.
“Hi, this is Maria Monteros. I’m a reporter for the Nashville Business Journal. Is now a good time to ask you a few questions?”
Monteros graduated this year with her degree in multimedia journalism, and on June 1, she became an intern-level reporter with the Nashville Business Journal through the Dow Jones News Fund (DJNF).
A highly competitive program, the DJNF’s American Business City Journals program pairs journalism students with local business journals to expand upon their reporting skills while earning bylines for respected publications. Monteros is one of 78 participants in the program, whittled down from more than 750 applicants.
Monteros is originally from the Philippines, where she lived with her family until she was 17. She’s always been a writer, and as someone who is interested in going into business journalism, the DJNF internship was a perfect fit.
“At first, it was just something I enjoyed. I loved to read and write—I always have. When I look back now, I can see that I was always a writer. At one point when I was younger, I challenged myself to read 50 books and ended up reading 75. It wasn’t exactly news, but I’ve always been curious,” she said. “I didn’t really know that this whole world of business journalism existed until I took a class through Trevecca’s partnership with King’s College and got my first look. Then, when I interned with MarketWatch, I learned to find the financial angles of every story. The way people interact with money and companies is very interesting to me.”
Monteros said she is interested in the ways people interact with money and large companies. Whether she’s writing about businesses or not, it’s the feeling of getting closer and closer to the heart of a story with each question she asks that she loves more than anything.
“I don't really know how to describe it. You just feel like there’s something there and then you start interviewing people and see a pattern,” she said. “It’s incredible.”
Jo Ellen Werking-Weedman, Trevecca professor of journalism and advisor of the student newspaper, said Monteros is one of her students who has always gone the extra mile.
“Maria does not go for the easy, obvious story. She is a digger and a thinker, and she’s incredibly diligent. She’s that mix of talent and exceptionally hard work and dedication,” Werking-Weedman said. “[Her being selected for this internship] really speaks to her skillset, her knowledge, her ability. It’s a national honor, and she’s worked extremely hard to get here.”
Though the nature of her internship has changed due to COVID-19, Monteros will still be working remotely with the Nashville Business Journal in her DJNF role. She will cover minority-owned businesses and the challenges that come with navigating the marketplace in a COVID-19 world. Monteros said working remotely will give her opportunities to further build her skills as a journalist.
“The thing I love about journalism is that it’s ever-changing. I don’t think it will ever die. I’m sorry to say for the non-believers, but whatever the best way to tell stories is, I will adapt to it. I’m not a purist. I love writing, but if there becomes a new way to convey information, I will do it. [Because of social distancing], we can’t report with our five senses like we’ve been taught, but we have this advantage to adapt and learn new skills,” she said. “I have to find new ways of acquiring information, and I have to rely on what my sources describe to me to paint the scene. There is plenty to learn.”
Werking-Weedman said if anyone is equipped to learn all over again how to do their job in the midst of the pandemic, it is Monteros.
“Maria is probably one of the most self-motivated students I’ve ever worked with. She’s so dedicated to research, to looking at all the facts, to reporting truthfully,” Werking-Weedman said. “I think she is one of the finest young minds in journalism right now. She understands the news business, and I think any publication in America would be lucky to have her.”