Acacia Coronado’s mother hid journalism from her. Before Coronado was born, her mother was a breaking news, politics and crime reporter in Mexico. Fervorous scribbles, crumpled papers and constant close reporting, for both print and radio, her mother’s life moved at an incredibly quick pace. Knowing the restless lifestyle and occasional danger, she wanted something different for her daughter.
Today, papers fly onto Coronado’s desk as her phone regularly rings. Hello. Hola. Bonjour. In The Texas Tribune newsroom, Coronado answers in one of the three languages she knows. She rifles through her 40 open tabs, typing up story after story.
Acacia Coronado found journalism.
Coronado has a reporter’s résumé that any professional in the field would be happy to have — The Wall Street Journal, The Texas Tribune, the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Chronicle, the Texas Standard, The Daily Texan, Burnt X and others.
One more impressive thing about her résumé: Coronado built it all as a full-time journalism student at The University of Texas at Austin. She says she has trouble recalling all of her internships, fellowships and contributing reporter bylines from her past 3½ years at UT. Her experience earned her recognition as one of the Moody College of Communication’s remarkable graduates of the fall 2019 semester. Coronado writes about politics, immigration and domestic abuse (and in some stories, all three). She has written stories for which confidential sources have entrusted her with their lives.
“I learned so much from community experiences about immigration, laws, courts and the way the criminal justice system works,” she said. “It’s been one of my biggest missions to be able to inform the community the way I wish people I know had been informed.”
At 5 years old, Coronado won her first storytelling contest. Watching her child recite a story that offered a wide range of perspectives on a fictional friendship between lions and zebras, her mother realized keeping Coronado away from a career in writing would not be easy.
“I knew she worked in newsrooms, but she would always be very vague,” Coronado said. “I consumed news, but I never really understood the back end of it.”
Coronado went to Explore UT, an informative tour of UT’s campus, on a rainy day. Amid the heavy downpour, her group retreated to the nearest building — the Moody College of Communication. “I always knew I wanted to go to UT since I met Vince Young as a kid and I was like, ‘Dreams come true. He won the Rose Bowl,’” she said. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to do here. And that day, I was like ‘Moody — that’s where it’s at.’”
Coronado scrambled in her room, trying to apply to the right major. Her mother came in with an open laptop and a knowing expression. “This is the one career I haven’t shown you, but I’m going to feel guilty if I don’t,” she said. Coronado set her gaze on the journalism homepage. And finally, she fully entered the world of words.
At the dawn of her first year, Coronado instantly connected with the messages in the Fundamental Issues of Journalism course taught by the Emmy-winning Tracy Dahlby. From there, a veritable daisy chain of events and connections through UT alumni, the UT chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, working professionals and ultimately the journalism school had Coronado sprouting off in new directions and internships every semester.
“I even felt guilty applying to journalism because I thought this is too fun. I have thought that it was a selfish job because it was something that I enjoy so much,” she said. “It took me about a good year of changing the kind of stories I told to understand that it was a public service and not something selfish.”
Like her mother before her, Coronado has a fast-paced schedule. “The process of publishing a story is mostly doing about a thousand different calls to anyone who might know something, and then asking them who you should call and making another round of calls,” she said.
Once she thinks she has enough, Coronado goes to her editors to plan her next steps. Every day she shuffles between more phone calls, editors, the writing desk and phone calls again. Maybe lawyers? Sometimes she’ll head to the border to report in person. She repeats these steps a few more times, and eventually, a story goes live.
This past summer saw Coronado intern at The Wall Street Journal. Approaching Sixth Avenue in New York, she weaved through unfamiliar streets with her parents. “They went with me to practice my walking route because I am prone to getting lost,” she said.
With anxieties and hesitations looming as large as the News Corp. building before her, she noticed her father. “I realized that my dad was kind of upset that I wasn’t taking in the moment,” she said. “I went to stand next to him, and he told me he was thinking about every generation of my family and what they had to do for me to get to that point and place.
“Just looking up at the building and realizing where I was — I remember thinking, ‘Now I can bring these communities’ stories to this level.’”
The street paused around Coronado and her father. Tears steadied behind her father’s eyes as he smiled with his daughter, as his wife, the former journalist herself, readied the camera. The family stood together, the parents ready to support the daughter, and the daughter ready to support the communities that she serves.
Coronado is already a full-fledged journalist. She says she looks fondly at her time in the Moody College, and she is glad her mother decided to let her know about the career that has turned into her passion. She isn’t entirely sold on living in New York quite yet. This fall saw her back at The Texas Tribune as part of an investigative reporting fellowship. No matter where she is, Coronado says she wants to continue her goal of informing people on issues that matter.
“I think a lot of people will tell you not to go into journalism,” she said. “They’ll give you plenty of excuses not to. But if it’s something that you’re passionate about, and if you truly have it in you to make a difference with words and the stories you tell, then follow it.”