The Life of This Teen Journalist Is Filled With Risks and Rewards
By Ria Malatesta
While most New Jersey high school students’ lives are centered around schoolwork, Carlos Ramirez’s life lies right on the front lines of a crime scene.
Ramirez is a 15-year-old New Brunswick native who works as a reporter and writer for New Brunswick Today, a hyper-local newspaper with a focus on bilingual journalism. His work is mainly centered around investigative story-telling, in which he reports live from crime scenes with an iPhone 5s and uploads them to his Hispanic community-focused Facebook page, Carlos Ramirez Today. During his year-long experience as a journalist, he has written over 20 articles and counting.
New Brunswick’s large Hispanic community, with 45 percent speaking Spanish at home according to the U.S. Census, inspired Ramirez to pursue journalism and give a voice to his fellow Spanish-speakers.
“Most of the people are not able to read English, so being able to inform my Spanish community in their own language is really important,” Ramirez said. “I want to show them the many positive things the town has to offer and resources they can get.”
As an active member of Lazos America Unida, an organization advocating for Hispanic communities at large, Ramirez is passionate about keeping Hispanics of New Brunswick up to date with the latest news. He hopes to raise awareness and understanding of Hispanic culture in media through his work, especially surrounding culture and social justice issues.
However, Ramirez’s inspiring work comes with a price.
“I’ve been cursed at by people on crime scenes,” Ramirez said. “People involved with the incident push me or throw stuff at me because they usually don’t want their faces on the air.”
Ramirez has stood in the line of duty with little to defend himself. His protective gear includes his iPhone 5S camera to capture harassment, and a walkie-talkie connected to the New Brunswick crime watch group to report violent activity during crime scenes.
His young age has also sometimes been an issue when out covering stories.
“They don’t expect a young person at the scene, so they don’t take me seriously sometimes,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez’s own experiences struggling with safety during his work as a journalist inspired his passion for the safety and security of his neighborhood.
“Carlos got walkie talkies for people around the neighborhood, and participated in a lot of crime-fighting and crime-watching roles for New Brunswick.” said 31-year-old Charlie Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today and supervisor to Ramirez. “A lot of people appreciate his role in the community.”
Ramirez also volunteers as a security guard when he’s not reporting, doing work as a CCTV operator for security cameras. His passion for security is also reflected in his plans for the future.
“I can see myself as a home security owner later on. I want to provide security to homes and businesses while helping people in my community get cameras and other security equipment,” he said.
Though Ramirez is doing diligent work for his community, he still struggles to balance the realities of being 15.
“I try to get as much work done as possible in my school, and it’s usually hard to keep up with it. I’ve had to do my homework in one or two days,” Ramirez said. “I’ve also had to miss school to do my stories.”
Ramirez’s dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed in his community. Ramirez won first place in a local journalism competition for his coverage of immigration issues. And he won third place for Rookie of the Year from the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists’ New Jersey chapter.
His Facebook page, Carlos Ramirez Today, has an audience of over 20,000 people who support his work.
Though already preforming at the level of professional journalists and having the focused and matured mentality of a reporter, Ramirez believes that he can improve on his work in the future.
“I want to work on my communication with the people I’m interviewing,” Ramirez said. “When you’re interacting with a certain community you have to be careful that your language and the questions you ask don’t offend anybody.”
“I’ll tell him if he needs more work, or if there are things he’s missing,” Kratovil added. “But Carlos’s writing keeps getting better with every story.”
To support Ramirez’s work, visit his GoFundMe page under Carlos Ramirez in New Brunswick to donate and help further improve his work as a young journalist.