The David Letterman Professional Lecture Series welcomed John Quiñones April 11. Quiñones hosts the TV show “What Would You Do?”
Quiñones starts his lecture by talking about his show and asking his audience, “What would you do?”
“A lot of people don't want to hear ‘what would you do’[it’s] the show we created because we wanted to hold up a mirror to American society,” he said. “We wanted to know, how do you unlock the power and the light that exists in each one of us so that we're all better equipped to say ‘that's wrong’ or ‘how can I lend a helping hand?’”
Quiñones focused on the injustice of people of color, people in the LGBTQ community, people with non-American accents and everyone who has been marginalized.
He grew up in San Antonio, Texas as a fifth generation Mexican-American. Despite his generation, Quiñones said he didn’t learn the English language until he started first grade. His accent is something he said he has tried to get rid of in order to get to where he is today — a host and producer of a national television show.
Quiñones went through his life, starting with his poor upbringings, and he focused on how he wanted to make his family proud. He was a first generation college student and knew he wanted to be a journalist at 13-years-old.
After he graduated from St. Mary’s University, he got his first internship with a radio station, and for a while he was hired at radio stations exclusively.
“No one would hire me on television but I never gave up,” Quiñones said. “I kept pushing and dreaming [and] when no one would hire me until I was in Texas, I applied to Columbia University and I got accepted and not only that — I got a fellowship to the journalism schools in New York.”
Quiñones went on to get his first broadcasting job in Chicago. He did a story where he went to Mexico undercover and paid a smuggler to cross the border illegally. After this, he went back to Chicago and again went undercover to cover a story on a restaurant that had seven undocumented workers that had not been paid in 17 weeks. It aired shortly after on CBS Chicago.
Quiñones said he was meant to tell stories about the injustice going on in the world. He called journalism “the candle in the darkness.”
Paaige Turner, Dean of the College of Communication information and media, said Quiñones is someone who is doing things that she wants the students of Ball State to do.
During a question and answer session at the end of the lecture, Quiñones said future journalists should take advantage of social media, something he never got to utilize when he was first starting his career.
The David Letterman Professional Lecture and Workshop series started in 2009 and will continue bringing industry leaders in each year allowing students to work hands-on.
Hannah Amos also contributed reporting to this article.