Growing up in a Mexican American immigrant household, Guadalupe “Guad” Venegas remembers spending most of his time surrounded by books. “I thrived in the public library,” Venegas said. Sifting through pages and finding information felt powerful, he said, especially when there were limited resources available for his family.
Venegas was raised in Southern California, near the U.S.-Mexico border, an area he said is often misunderstood. “I wanted to be the best communicator I could be because I grew up in a community where there was never good communication with police or authorities,” he said.
His passion to serve and inform underrepresented groups led him to a journalism career. Venegas first reported in Spanish for NBC Telemundo, focusing on diverse communities. His deep understanding of his culture and ability to communicate in two languages enabled him to cross over to English-speaking broadcasts, as a correspondent for NBC News.
In the video above and the following text, Venegas shares his personal challenges and advice on transitioning to English-language news.
Storytelling differs between English- and Spanish-speaking newscasts
“You can’t get the CliffsNotes to cross over into English,” Venegas said, recalling his first reporting for NBC News. “It was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever accomplished.”
Those who grew up bilingual and bicultural have two sides to their personalities, Venegas said. When speaking Spanish, he said he taps into his “Mexican side.” He uses his full name, Guadalupe Venegas, and changes his mannerisms “a little bit.” When speaking English, he calls himself Guad, a nickname from his childhood in Southern California.
When Venegas joined NBC News in 2021, he changed his approach to producing stories. He said his Telemundo stories focused on characters and their emotions in order to connect with audiences, while English-language storytelling has reporters write short sentences, “punch certain words” and “focus on the verbs.”
Regardless of language, Venegas wants to diversify mainstream media. “America is used to seeing journalists that look and sound a certain way, but now there’s more producers and reporters who look and sound different,” he said. “It’s OK to have a soundbite with someone that has a thick accent, because millions of people will relate to that.”
Be prepared: Find a mentor, read, study
While Venegas credits his own drive, he said, he owes his career “mostly to the help I’ve received.” He emphasizes being resourceful and learning from peers through mentorship. Colleagues who previously crossed over into English-speaking newscasts, like José Díaz-Balart, a bilingual journalist for MSNBC, NBC Nightly News Saturday and Noticias Telemundo, have made all the difference for Venegas’ growth.
Journalists looking to cross over into a different language should train and receive instructive feedback from various coaches for voice, and about camera skills and writing, Venegas said. He also recommends attending national journalism conferences and taking classes for improvement.
Venegas tells journalists to believe in the process, and their hard work will pay off.
“It’s going to be hard,” Venegas said. “I mean I’ve cried.”
He advises not to “compare your path to a person who isn’t bilingual,” adding that it’s hard work to keep up with your Spanish and “get your English to the right level.”
Your background can help you connect with communities
Venegas has extensively reported on the U.S.-Mexico border, speaking with impacted families and authorities. He says his upbringing, cultural background and sensitivity contribute to his ability to effectively communicate..
“Whenever the reporting we do is in underserved communities and you come from one of them, it’s just like visiting your family,” he said.
Venegas adds that he is often asked how to approach migrants, and he responds, “I just talk to them the way I talk to my mom, and that’s it. You can’t teach that,” he said. “That was my mom 30 years ago, and that changes everything.”
Venegas learned how to provide essential information as a young boy, helping his parents understand a foreign language.
“Translating services is one of the first things we do as sons of immigrants,” he said.
Those childhood experiences fueled his passion for journalism and serving communities. “Being bilingual and bicultural is a very powerful thing. We have skills that life taught us in a hard way because of the way we grew up, and we have to tap into that,” Venegas said. “You want to create change. You want to help people who need resources.”
In turn, Venegas looks to his past for inspiration for what lies ahead.
“When you think about your parents, about what it means for people to see you, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I have to succeed.’ And there’s a lot of strength,” he said. “Don’t ever give up.”