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Mauricio Pena

Mauricio Pena (MSJ14)

Education Reporter at Chalkbeat


Mauricio Pena (MSJ14) began his career as a breaking news reporter for DNAinfo Chicago, before working as an investigative reporter at the Desert Sun. There he covered immigration and equality issues in the Coachella Valley. Pena also worked as an associate digital editor at Chicago magazine. Most recently, he became a founding reporter at a nonprofit, independent newsroom called Block Club Chicago, which is dedicated to delivering reliable, nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

What do you do now and what are your main responsibilities?

I’m a reporter covering a cluster of neighborhoods including Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards, Near West Side and West Loop. At Block Club, we treat every neighborhood as if it is its own city. That means we cover politics, environmental issues, housing, development, businesses, crime—anything that happens we try to report on it so residents are informed. 

How did your Medill degree help advance your career?

I came to Medill with no journalism experience. Everything I learned gave me the foundation I needed to drop into a newsroom and report any story that was handed to me.

What skills did you gain at Medill or what experiences did you have that were particularly beneficial?

The first quarter, which was a boot camp of sorts, helped me learn the basics on how to navigate different types of stories. I also took part in a fellowship while at Medill and completed a special reporting project for my capstone. Both of these helped me learn how to navigate larger reporting projects.

How has the Medill network helped you?

In the third quarter at Medill, a professor of mine recommended me for a job at DNAinfo. Fortunately, I went on an interview and received a job offer before completing my degree. That first recommendation was instrumental in helping me launch my career.