Retired mass communication professional shares love of storytelling with students

Saldaña’s work on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Campaign influenced many PR students and showed them how to execute an involved product. Photo by Ashley Skinner

By Ashley Skinner

SAN MARCOS – Since the age of 17, Lydia Saldaña knew she had a passion for storytelling. Over 25 years later, her hunger for storytelling molded her life and career in ways she never expected.

Saldaña pushed her way into her first job at the age of 17, becoming the youngest intern for KSAT 12 news in San Antonio. While going to school at Trinity University, she hosted a radio show from 2-6 a.m. until she needed more to fulfill her desire to tell people’s stories.

“It just wasn’t enough,” Saldaña said. “I applied for jobs in Austin and I was so fortunate to be hired on at KLJV Radio. The plan was to go to UT while I was working, but that didn’t happen right away because it was six to seven days a week.”

From this experience, Saldaña was able to network with the news director for channel 36 in Austin, landing her first job in TV news. She credits earning her degree to her boss at the station, as he worked with her so she could go back to school.

After finishing her degree, Saldaña moved back-and-forth between Dallas and Austin, working for various TV news and radio stations. In 1990, Saldaña found herself unemployed in Austin. During this time, she stumbled across a video production job for Texas Parks and Wildlife; a job that she would have for the rest of her life, even after retirement.

Saldaña was eager to answer questions after the presentation, doing whatever she can to make sure students leave it having learned something. Photo by Ashley Skinner

“My boss there, Andrew Sansom, who actually works at the Texas State Meadows Center now, became my mentor,” Saldaña said. “He saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there.”

Saldaña worked at Texas Parks and Wildlife for 23 years until she retired in 2013. Post-retirement, Saldaña became the communications director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, creating campaigns to influence people to enjoy nature. She spoke at Mass Comm Week, presenting We Will Not Be Tamed, the most recent campaign she helped develop.

“When I heard she was coming for Mass Comm Week, I knew I had to have her speak to my PR Campaigns class,” said Jennifer Scharlach, assistant professor of practice at Texas State University. “I worked with her back in the early 2000s and she really became my mentor. She asked thought-provoking questions and was always there to help, and I wanted to pass that down to students here.”

Students filled the room, leaving no seats empty. They were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at a campaign from start to finish, as well as ask questions regarding the hardships faced by a once-aspiring journalist.

“I really took what she said about dipping our toes into multiple areas to heart because so many professions involve more than just one aspect of mass comm,” said Jessica Pruitt, senior advertising and mass communication major. “Her campaign took a different route than the normal and I was inspired by it and her story.”

Saldaña said everyone may not know where they are going at this point in time, but with a solid foundation and skills to support it, life will take a person places he or she may have never thought to go.

“If you told me I would be a conservation storyteller, I would have called your crazy because I never knew I would end up here with my skills,” Saldaña said. “There is an innate, human need to hear a story and tell a story. The best communication out there is a story and it draws you in close –it’s something very deep in all of us, in me, and it became the basis of my life.”

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