Bryan Navarro ’10 gets a crash course in journalism and service through January Term experiences
In January of 2007, Saint Mary’s alumnus Bryan Navarro ’10 lived on a bus in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans while helping with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. While there, he learned not only about how to help people in need but also about how to tell a compelling story.
Navarro was recently named as director of creative video for Saint Mary’s Athletics, but his road to journalism all started through his January Term experiences. One of his first memories at Saint Mary’s was hearing about Professor Shawny Anderson’s travel course to New Orleans.
“I remember thinking, ‘That’s really cool, I want to do that’,” he said.
As he helped to rebuild communities in New Orleans, Navarro saw the impact of their work firsthand. “The students could see the difference in what they did, and you could see the difference in the residents’ faces” too, he said.
During the course, Navarro and his classmates documented their experience in short ethnographic videos. But after he came back from New Orleans, he started questioning what he was doing. “I felt like I was wasting a little bit of time, not living up to my potential,” he said.
Wanting to do more, Navarro went back to New Orleans in his sophomore year and to Brazil in his senior year to work in the Amazon, again with Anderson’s class. Meanwhile, he took courses in screenwriting and video production, all while editing and producing content for GaelVision. Then in December 2009, he really made a splash with a very artistic video of a rare snowfall at Saint Mary’s that went viral within a few hours.
By then, he was on a roll. In his senior year, he shot video for WCCTV at the 2010 West Coast Conference Basketball Tournament and the Gaels’ NCAA Sweet Sixteen run. A mentor at the WCC tournament came up to him and handed Navarro the spark that really launched his career, saying, “We gotta get you doing news.”
“That was the last I talked to him,” said Navarro, but “that little nugget was planted in my head.”
Following that advice, Navarro moved to Medford, Ore., after graduation to work as a reporter for the local ABC affiliate station. It was a quick learning curve. While he struggled with writing and reporting, because of his experiences with Jan Term travel courses and other projects, he excelled in shooting video and storytelling. Over time, he became a one-stop shop for journalism – writing, shooting and editing – fueled by his passion for telling stories.
His hardest assignment came in July 2011, when he covered the biggest murder in Medford’s history. The father of a family was suspected of killing his wife and his four children. Navarro had been talking to the victim’s family in Bakersfield, and he got permission to go down and cover her funeral.
“I had been covering this for two weeks already. It’s just a sad story,” Navarro reflected. “But it’s an honor to be able to have the approval from the family to do this and to be entrusted to convey this message to the community. It’s tough, but it’s an honor.”
Navarro later moved from snowy Southern Oregon to the heat of Tucson, Ariz., where he worked as a multimedia journalist for Tucson News Now. Now he has come full circle and is back at Saint Mary’s as a seasoned video journalist.
While his January Term experiences are memories now, he said he learned from them not only important journalism skills but also unforgettable life lessons.
“I had this opportunity to go somewhere, embed myself, and try to convey that experience and let people know what was going on,” Navarro said. “The story was never about me being there, the group being there, or what we were doing – the story was about what needs to be done.”
By Jazo Moises ’13