Alander Rocha is a second year masters student with a concentration in health and medical journalism. Currently, he is the health editor for The Red and Black and he is a research assistant at Grady’s digital media and attention lab. This summer, Rocha interned in the Southeastern bureau for Kaiser Health News.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Over the summer, I received a travel scholarship to attend the NAHJxNABJ conference in Las Vegas, and that was probably the most memorable experience I’ve had not just through Grady, but perhaps out of my past professional experience. Not only was it a validating experience to be surrounded by Black and Latine journalists from all walks of life, but I also got to meet professionals I look up to, who influenced my decision to enter journalism. I took a picture with Yamiche Alcidor after we briefly spoke, and I sat through a discussion with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, where she spoke about the challenges she’s faced as a Black woman from a Haitian immigrant family in media. After the career fair, I was invited to an upstairs suite to meet the managing editor of a major legacy newspaper, and that’s one of the coolest things I’ve been able to say out loud. Overall, I’m thankful for the many opportunities professors at Grady entrusted me with in the past year.
What does tenacity mean to you?
To me, tenacity means getting up every day with a purpose despite the challenges I’ve faced in the past. It means that obstacles may still be ahead, but I have the confidence to meet them head-on.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
As a lifelong learner, I hope to still be growing as a journalist, whether that’s in reporting or in a leadership position.
What motivates you?
Knowing that I’m contributing to my community is a major source of motivation for myself. Public service has always been at the core of what I’ve done, and it’s how I found my way into journalism. I’ve been thanked a few times for the stories I covered in migrant communities, a considerably under covered population in news, and each time, I feel tremendously proud that people feel seen through my work.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to talk to as many established journalists as possible. Fostering these relationships can help early career journalists, from providing mentorship to possibly being pointed toward career opportunities.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
People may find it surprising that I love the outdoors. While I served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, I discovered my love for hiking. I even summitted Ruco Pichincha, a peak that nearly reaches 15,500 feet. I’m not an athletic person, but hiking, although physically grueling, does not feel like I’m working out. I feel it’s meditative, often rewarding me with hours of reflection.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?
My biggest accomplishment in the past year was interning at Kaiser Health News under Andy Miller, who’s been a healthcare journalist in Georgia for the last 30 years. Through his mentorship, my growth was exponential, and I became a much more capable journalist than I imagined.
Where is your go-to restaurant in Athens?
My go-to restaurant in Athens is probably New Red Bowl on Barnett Shoals. Aside from typical American Chinese dishes, they have traditional Szechuan cuisine, which is amazing if you can handle the spice.