Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Miznazi

Ashley Miznazi: UT alum reframes global concerns with community-centered reporting

By Christian DeBrady

From features on hostages in Haiti to earthworms in Florida, Miami Herald reporter Ashley Miznazi never imagined how wide her community-focused coverage would reach.

“Didn't think I would be at a newspaper, but I'm happy to still be in journalism. I just didn't take a very linear path to have a job in that,” she said.

Now a climate reporter, Miznazi didn’t see science reporting in her future when she entered The University of Texas as a journalism and corporate communications student in 2018. Now, she said, it gives her the chance to explore how national issues impact her local audience’s everyday lives. 

woman standing in flood waters with camera set up on tripod

“It’s a very interesting beat to be reporting on because you have to meet people where they’re at and what they care about,” Miznazi said. “But finding ways to make that interesting to people here and now and not like something that's 2 million years in the future is kind of my job.”

Since joining the Herald last May, Miznazi said her most rewarding stories have left a lasting impact in the Miami community she serves. Her story about Miami-Dade County public housing residents left without air conditioning in last summer’s record heat led county officials to pledge to install A/C in all units within the year. Following up with residents for months to ensure that promise was upheld was fulfilling for Miznazi even though the story “didn’t get a ton of clicks.”

“We did a lot of boots on the ground reporting to tell that story, which I was proud of,” she said. “I think those are the types of stories that are really important if you can do some accountability.”

Miznazi had never set foot in Miami until she joined the city’s branch of The Haitian Times through Report for America for her first post-graduation job. As a multimedia journalist reporting on immigration, arts and culture, she spent time listening to the stories of Hatians serving their families and communities in both the United States and Haiti. 

woman standing in water with camera

She was then hired by the Miami Herald because of the deep relationships she built and her expertise on local issues, a skill she learned in UT’s journalism school. According to Miznazi, her “Reporting the World” course first taught her to see reporting as “a way to learn the idiosyncrasies of life.”

“I think that inspired me to do something like taking the leap of moving to Miami, knowing no one and building yourself as a journalist from there,” Miznazi said. “Understanding how things work, how communities work and rebuild, it's just the foundation of being a journalist that sticks with me.”

Miznazi used all the journalism tools she could at UT through photography and video with The Daily Texan and reporting internships at The Texas Tribune and Austin’s NBC station, KXAN. She also served as a host for the “Darkness” podcast hosted at UT’s audio production house, The Drag, which was “the largest writing project [she] did through college.” Miznazi believes getting so involved early on prepared her for the world of professional reporting. 

“Every experience that you can kind of put under your belt helps you in different ways because it teaches you how to work with different people,” she said. 

Miznazi isn’t finished learning how to better spotlight people’s stories — her goal is to produce a full feature documentary one day. For now, she plans to keep following her passion for local stories with the potential to create major change.

“I feel like there's always going to be a whole lot of stories that I want to do,” she said. “But the thing I was reporting [at UT], then always flocked to and I'm still doing now is community oriented stories.”

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