Jorge Ventura has covered it all; from the 2020 protests, mass shootings, and just about anything imaginable on the border. It’s hard to believe his career began here at College of the Canyons, but Ventura’s story goes back much further than that.
Ventura’s career as a journalist has taken many twists and turns, but it all started at COC. He began his time with Canyons News covering local sports, but eventually found his passion for covering more impactful stories. It was that passion that propelled Ventura to being a nationally accredited journalist.
Growing up in Palmdale, California to two Salvadoran immigrant parents, Ventura spoke about the hardships they faced to get to the United States:
“…during the time they were growing up, the civil war broke out. My dad was actually forced to be a teenage soldier by the Government. So he was forced into combat. My Mom was trying to help out her Mom with house duties at the time. My Mom would always tell me she would be seeing dead bodies at the time while going to school… They were about 19/20ish when they made their journey to the U.S.”
Ventura didn’t find his passion for covering stories at the border until later in life. What initially attracted him to the media industry was his love for sports.
Ventura could break down cap space and free agency from as young as 13 years old! He also had a connection into the world of sports journalism through his uncle, Saul Rodriguez. Rodriguez is still a sports reporter for Telemundo.
Despite having the urge and connections to break into the industry, it took Ventura a while to settle on his career path. After graduating at 18 he went straight into working full time. Years of hard labor helped Ventura to realize it was time to pursue his childhood dream.
I kept hearing great things about College of the Canyons, so I came down here and I met Dave.” Ventura said. “I talked to [him] about me wanting to be a sports reporter, and he felt College of the Canyons had the tools to help me get there.”
Enter Dave Brill, an MEA Professor here at College of the Canyons for over 20 years. During that tenure Dave has helped hundreds of students follow their dream of working in the media industry. When speaking about Ventura, he acknowledged a tremendous work ethic. Something that even Dave Brill can’t teach.
“Some students will wait [for me] to tell [them] what stories to cover.” Brill said. “Even this morning [I had] students reaching out saying ‘Oh my plan A went up, my plan B went up. Do you have anything for me?’ And I never heard this once from Jorge.”
Shortly after starting at COC Ventura was covering local sports all across Santa Clarita Valley. What he didn’t know was Dave was about to give him some advice which changed the direction of Ventura’s career.
“I always encourage my sports people to do news because I think it turns them into a better, more well rounded storyteller.”
That push was all Ventura needed. In the following months as a COC student he was on scene for some of the biggest stories in both the United States and Mexico. During his time with Canyons News, Ventura traveled to Mexico to cover a breaking story on a migrant caravan. At the time he was one of the only student journalists to ever travel to another country for a story.
“So I went to Mexico, did the story on the migrant caravan, and right there I kinda knew I was probably never going back to sports. I loved the storytelling of politics and breaking news after that.”
From that point on, the world became Ventura’s oyster. During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Ventura managed to secure an internship with the Daily Caller, a popular conservative news outlet. The timing of that internship couldn’t have been better for Ventura’s career. Only a few days after starting as an intern, the Minneapolis Police Department released the video footage of the murder of George Floyd.
“I think it was a couple days later I got a call around 1 a.m., from my editor. I thought it was just a mistake, I’m just an intern – an unpaid intern. So I pick up the phone and he says ‘Hey, there’s protesters fighting the Secret Service right now and it got so bad they had to put Trump [in a] bunker.’ I was like okay, what does this have to do with me? He says, ‘Well, we have no reporters picking up the phone, can you go cover the story?’”
This was when Ventura had his first ‘viral’ moment as a reporter. While on the scene covering the protests, tensions rose to a breaking point when a group of protestors began attacking a Fox News reporter.
“So I get on my phone with the selfie stick and I start filming this assault. I didn’t know who it was at the time but I said ‘This Fox News reporter is being assaulted by protesters.’ Eventually Leland was able to break out from the crowd, I chased right after him. I said ‘You have no idea who I am, I’m just an intern, I just filmed your whole assault.’”
Ventura posted the story on Twitter and woke up to messages full of news outlets covering the story he broke just hours earlier.
“On Monday, the White House press pool, then actually asked Trump about my story. Tucker Carlson ran it on Fox News. And that kind of started the summer riots or whatever you want to call it, civil unrest. And I ended up covering it because I broke the biggest story.”
It was a career making moment for Ventura; all he had to do was build on it. That’s exactly what he did as he continued to chase stories throughout the 2020 protests. Once that began to cool off, Ventura turned back to his hometown to tell the stories of his community. He released a documentary titled “Cartelville, USA” about the illegal cannabis operations in Palmdale. Ventura also took time to discuss the hardships faced by business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not everything has to be action, right? So one thing I did was, I told a lot of stories of Hispanics during the lockdowns of, hey, they’re losing their businesses. I got to tell those deep human stories that I really enjoyed.”
Ventura was just finding his footing as a national journalist. After branding himself as someone who isn’t afraid to get on the frontlines, Ventura shifted his focus to all of the chaos at the U.S. and Mexico border.
“So in March 2020, when I went to the border, and fell in love with the border,” Ventura said. “It was another place where it was kind of raw, it was dangerous. You have a cartel element, you have human smuggling, drugs, the migrants, the stories are remarkable what people go through.”
Ventura is risking his life every day he goes out into the field, all to educate people on what’s really going on at the border. He recalled one particularly chilling morning in Yuma, Arizona. Ventura had spotted a smuggler taking someone towards the border. What stuck out was these smugglers normally bring many people, sometimes even families. As Ventura and another independent reporter were filming what they were seeing, they caught the attention of the smuggler. This is when things took a turn for the worse.
“So he sees the both of us. And he starts speaking in Spanish just saying put your phones down. And then as he did it, he had a pistol on his hip, grabbed a pistol and was like, ‘put the F—ing phone down’ in Spanish. Right there, I thought I was gonna die for the first time.”
Lucky for Ventura, no shots were fired and he was able to safely escape. From College of the Canyons to nearly being shot on the border… Ventura has had an interesting rise to success to say the least. Despite those hardships along the way, he’s filled with nothing but gratitude. When reflecting on his journey, his time here on campus has felt more and more special as he’s risen through the industry. It’s the place that enabled him to follow his dreams.
“I feel like it actually saved my life. Like I told you, when I graduated high school, I didn’t go straight to college, I went to the real world. And I worked a bunch of jobs, I hated it. I know what hard labor is. I’m really grateful that I get to do what I love. And I never, never take it for granted.”