Fernando Diaz

In the short time since Diaz, 30, graduated from Columbia College Chicago, he has worked as a reporter at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights and the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York; as an investigative reporter at the Chicago Reporter; as an online reporter for the Chi-Town Daily News; and as a community manager for, a blogger website created by the Tribune Media Company in 2009.

In the spring of 2010 he was given his biggest journalistic promotion yet: he was named managing editor of Hoy Chicago, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country, which is also owned by the Tribune Company.

Diaz credits his course work, internships, and experience as campus editor at the Columbia Chronicle with preparing him for the real world of journalism.

That included collecting newspaper articles with errors for a copy editing class, writing court stories by going to the criminal and federal courts buildings, and learning how to file Freedom of Information Act requests. “All those were building blocks for being on deadline and needing to turn in copy,” Diaz says.

Diaz is especially thankful for Columbia’s generous admissions policy. “The test is what you make out of it, not if you can get in,” he says. But he wasn’t always the best student by traditional standards. “Len Strazewski can tell you lots of colorful stories about me,” he says of his former professor. He didn’t always stick to the assignment. “I spent a lot more time focused on writing, trying to meet people, getting published, and learning the ropes.”

As cliché as it sounds, I don’t think there’s a bad moment I spent at Columbia. It was incredibly rewarding.Apparently, however, he paid attention where it counts. He appreciates that his teachers had real-world journalism experience, and recalls something associate professor Howard Schlossberg once said during class: “You will learn in three months on the job what it has taken you three years to learn in the classroom. But you won’t learn that quickly on the job unless you have spent that time in the classroom.”

Diaz realized how true that lesson was once he started working in the journalism world. “As cliché as it sounds, I don’t think there’s a bad moment I spent at Columbia,” he says. “It was incredibly rewarding.”