By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Angelina Mosher Salazar did not always plan on being a reporter. But over time she felt compelled to tell the stories of those around her, be they her relatives, strangers or friends. This desire ignited a sixth sense in her, that is, her ability to seek out a story and tell it to the best of her capability.
While Mosher Salazar’s journey from avid podcast listener to the current Eric Von Fellow at WUWM radio began with the people whose stories intrigued her—her life story began in west Michigan and took her all over the world.
Mosher Salazar spent her youth is Muskegon, Michigan, a city located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Muskegon, much like Milwaukee, was a city of dichotomy. It was incredibly segregated, she said. There were whites on one side, Blacks on the other, a few handfuls of Latinos and Mosher Salazar was in the center of it all.
Her father is of German and French-Canadian descent, while her mother hails from Costa Rica’s indigenous population. As a child, Mosher Salazar grew up speaking Spanish, eating rice and beans and with long braided hair. Her friends and the people around her were predominately white, and Mosher Salazar struggled to find her place among them.
She recalled being too white for the Latinos, but not white enough for the Caucasians. Because she couldn’t define herself, Mosher Salazar began making her marks in other ways. She worked hard in school, was captain of the soccer team and first chair in flute. Eventually, her activities led her to assimilate more with the white kids, but it wasn’t easy.
“The story of my life [was] of understanding two worlds but not belonging to either,” she said.
Mosher Salazar said she constantly negotiated with her race and her identity. This struggle to reconcile and come to terms with her identity, allowed her to see from different perspectives.
“It put me in a better position to understand Milwaukee,” she said. “I grew up with this [false dichotomy], I know what this is and how destructive it is.”
For college, Mosher Salazar attended Michigan State University in 2009. Her efforts in school paid off when she received the Rosa Parks Scholarship. While there, she earned two degrees, Arabic and comparative culture and politics and two specializations, Muslim studies and peace and justice studies.
She wanted hard skills. When she got there, she didn’t know any Arabic and when she left, she was fluent. During college, Mosher Salazar studied abroad several times. She visited and studied in South Africa, Lebanon and Palestine. After graduating, she transferred to Egypt, where she taught English and social studies for two years to kindergarten and fifth-grade students. She also started a salsa club complete with auditions, daily rehearsals and lessons about communication and respect.
“I loved teaching,” she said. “One of my favorite things was teaching kids how to read.”
While in Egypt, several things unfolded that would push Mosher Salazar towards reporting.
Over the course of her two years, she felt very isolated. She began streaming podcasts, the only form of media that the spotty internet could handle. Podcasts were her companion and she even attended listening parties in various bars.
“This is dope, this is what I want to do,” she said.
Then Syria blew up and suddenly, journalists from all over descended upon the city. It was Mosher Salazar’s first encounter with journalists, and she didn’t always like what she saw. The journalists didn’t make an effort to engage with the community or learn the language. Things, Mosher Salazar did every day.
Soon, it was post Arab Spring and there was a military coup. At this point, Mosher Salazar was “over the desert” and her contract was almost over. So, Mosher Salazar packed up and took her love of podcasts to the green and lush jungles of Costa Rica.
With a zoom recorder, Mosher Salazar began recording her family. She’d follow her uncle on horseback while he explained the medicinal purposes of the plants or she’d make friends with strangers. In 2015, she covered the migrant crisis on the southern border when Cuban began coming over in haste. She never published any of her recordings. And she soon ran out of money.
Luckily, she was recruited by the US Embassy in Costa Rica and began working with the foreign service officers. Mosher Salazar then realized she was being paid less than her American counterparts because she had been employed as a Costa Rican national. Although she tried to fight it, Mosher Salazar took as the push she needed to leave her job.
She quit her job, sold everything, rented out her house in Costa Rica and moved back home.
“I traded dinners with the ambassador for Friday fish fries with my dad,” she said.
She began working on an application for the Fullbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. Mosher Salazar would sit in her bedroom closet laying down tracks and recording her voice on an iPhone while her dad cut the lawn outside. Eventually, her mother encouraged her to seek help from her cousin in California, a professor and former reporter.
In a three-month crash course, Mosher Salazar received an education in journalism, thanks to her cousin. From there, she began applying to jobs in haste and even briefly considered applying to one at Panera Bread out of desperation. Eventually, one responded, and Mosher Salazar became the intern for Gimlet Media in New York.
Her internship turned into an associate producer position, but what she really wanted to do was be a reporter. So, she left Gimlet Media and went to Colombia to record a story on the false-positive scandal. She pitched the story to Latino USA.
“This is it for the first time ever, I am legit,” she said. “I am a reporter.”
While in Colombia, she received a call from WUWM regarding the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship, and the rest they say is history.