Helen UbinasDEGREES

B.S. in print journalism and Latin American studies, Boston University (after attending Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts—shout-out to community colleges!); M.A. in American studies, Trinity College


Columnist, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News


The serene beauty of the campus always felt like an oasis, especially on days when I had covered an especially hard story sometimes just blocks away. Also, the challenging but memorable discussions/debates I had in some of my classes stand out, especially these days when so many of us seem unable to talk to one another.

What do you do in your role?

Every week, I look around Philadelphia and the world and write reported columns of local and national significance, usually focused on equality and equity. I also try to write as much as I can about the people and issues that don’t usually get as much space, attention, or care in the media as they deserve. In Philadelphia, that’s often about the people impacted by gun violence. But it’s also about the people in the poorest big city in the nation showing up for one another in inspiring and impactful ways.

What was your path to your position?

It was long and winding, just like the scenic route I took through college. (As a first-generation college student whose parents exhorted the importance of education, I knew I had to get to college; I just wasn’t prepared for how to get through it once I got there.) I started my journalism career as a neighborhood reporter for The Hartford Courant. (Another shout-out to my beloved Courant, where I grew up and grew into the journalist I am today.) My role was to seek out and write stories about “ordinary” people doing extraordinary things in Hartford’s neighborhoods—so basically a dream job since there was never a lack of people and things to write about. The only downside was that the section was zoned, which meant the stories often were just seen by readers within the city, so it felt a little like preaching to the choir. We would have done everyone a bigger service if the stories were distributed widely. After that I took the road that many reporters at the Courant took: I became a town news reporter, covering Rocky Hill for several years, filing two, sometimes three stories a day. From there, if recollection serves, I became a features reporter with a short stint at the magazine—yes, we once had a magazine!—and then back to the news pages, where I eventually became their first Latina staff columnist.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

On its best days, being a journalist isn’t just a job, it’s a privilege. To be able to have a front-row seat to some of the most important moments in our communities and in our country is a never-gets-old thrill—and a responsibility that I never take lightly. To be a columnist and to have the ability to not just cover the news but to help interpret it for readers adds another layer of responsibility. And to do all of that as a Puerto Rican woman in a field where there is still not enough representation of women of color is something that I don’t take for granted and that I am working to pay forward. Last year I created The Ñ Fund for Latinas in Journalism, a way to contribute to the advancement of Latinas in the field through grants to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. With the help of generous donors who believe in the mission, I’ve funded an internship for an amazing young Latina journalist through Voces Internship of Idaho, and I hope to continue to empower more Latinas to thrive in journalism.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

It is challenging to still be the only Latina columnist, and one of too few Latinas, in the newsroom, a reality that is mirrored in newsrooms throughout the country. Even with the newsroom “reckonings” of 2020, representation is still an issue that affects everything from coverage to credibility.

How did Trinity help prepare you for what you do now?

I enrolled in the master’s program the same year I became a full-time columnist at the Courant—no pressure, right? At the very time I was beginning to write about Hartford with a critical eye, I was taking courses in urban studies and talking to professors and students about the city’s past and present—and let me tell you as a new city columnist, the timing could not have been better. Trinity was part of my journey to becoming the columnist that I am today.

To learn more about the Ñ Fund for Latinas in Journalism and the Voces Internship of Idaho, please visit trincollreporter.online/Ubinas.

To learn more about the Voces Internship of Idaho, please visit https://www.vocesinternship.com, and to make a donation to the Ñ Fund for Latinas in Journalis, visit the fund’s giving page.