ABC Anchor John Quiñones, 'Sesame Street' Actress Sonia Manzano Speak to JMC Students

Two-time Emmy award nominee and “Sesame Street” actress, Sonia Manzano, and John Quiñones, Emmy award-winning co-anchor of the ABC newsmagazine “Primetime” and sole anchor of “What Would You Do?,” addressed Kent State journalism students on Thursday, March 17.

Both speakers were visiting Kent State as part of the 20th annual State of the State: Equity, Opportunity and Diversity in Ohio Conference. The theme of the conference was “Understanding Our Past, Embracing our Future.” Manzano and Quiñones spoke about their Latin American and Hispanic roots and how their upbringing and culture influenced their careers in television and media.

Manzano, born in the Bronx, N.Y., is the daughter of two Puerto Rican immigrants. She recalled her time playing Maria on “Sesame Street” and how important diversity was in getting kids to relate to the show.

“To reach these inner-city kids, ‘Sesame Street’ had to look like a neighborhood they were familiar with,” Manzano said. “That’s why the set looked like Harlem with stoops, it was very New York specific.”

Manzano said she was raised during a time when it was very rare to see any Latinos represented in the media. She recalled watching shows like “Leave It to Beaver” and thinking it was a made up world.

“I had never seen the suburbs before – for all I knew, these shows were set in outer space,” she said.

Later on in her career, Manzano had the opportunity to write for “Sesame Street” and was given a lot of creative control over the story line of her character.

Quiñones spoke about how he grew up in a poor neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, and was inspired by other Hispanic reporters who looked like him. Quiñones related his passion for reporting on Latinos to his upbringing.

“When someone looks like you on television, it gives you hope,” Quiñones said.

Quiñones spoke in detail about his Emmy-winning story in which he went undercover and crossed the Rio Grande as an illegal immigrant.

“Don’t do (this career) for the money; do it because you have a burning in your soul,” Quiñones said.

Quiñones shared that he imagines the world as a dark room.

“Journalists are the ones with the little candle or flashlight,” he said. “They can shine it on the darkest corners of the room to illuminate injustice.”

Quiñones also presented a few of his favorite “What Would You Do?” scenarios, and explained how scenarios are conceptualized and handled behind the scenes.

POSTED: Friday, March 18, 2016 - 4:51pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 11:54am
Maggie Wachtel, '17 and Gabrielle Woodard, '17