Carlos Silva Jr. changed his narrative — and it propelled him and his staff to multiple honors in the most recent APSE awards.
As a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, he realized that engineering, his original chosen major, was not his passion. He wasn’t good at math, and working a 9-to-5 job wasn’t ideal for him.
He applied twice to join the staff of the Prospector, the UTEP student newspaper. He was denied the first time in 2007, but stayed persistent and was accepted in 2008.
“At that point, once I said no to engineering, I was like ‘I have to go all-in on something,’ ” said Silva, who was a member of the Sports Journalism Institute’s 2008 class.
Silva’s persistence paid off. He graduated from UTEP in 2010 with a degree in communications/print media, and he is now the sports editor of the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal.
Before leaving UTEP, Silva became the managing editor of The Prospector. He began his professional journalism career as a freelance writer for The Oregonian and El Paso Varsity. He then switched into the audio field with a stint as a color commentator for UTEP softball while he was the editor-in-chief at Miner Illustrated. This was all before he worked as a freelance sports reporter for the Associated Press.
Silva has spent most of his career in Texas working with Lone Star Varsity as an editor, Wreckem 247 covering Texas Tech sports, and with the Associated Press aiding in the coverage of Texas Tech. Silva also had an internship with the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat before joining SJI. He said the environment and the people that he’s worked with have kept him in Texas.
Silva has worked at the Avalanche-Journal for nearly five years and has been the sports editor since June of 2018. Silva and his publication won four top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors awards, including for his powerful column on the Texas Tech men’s basketball team, which wasn’t about the Red Raiders’ loss to Virginia in the 2019 NCAA national championship game, but about the emotions of the team after the game.
“I wouldn’t have gotten this story without the connections that I made with the players and Red Raiders coach Chris Beard throughout the season,” Silva said.
Silva learned how to develop relationships and many other skills during his time with SJI, a program dedicated to preparing journalists of minority backgrounds for jobs in the newsroom.
“Peoples’ stories need to be told,” Silva said. “Things off the field happen in sports, my passion and my goal is to tell a story, and that was really driven home by SJI.”
Alexis Cubit covers more than 50 high schools as a sports writer for the Avalanche-Journal and has worked with Silva for nearly a year. On a three-person staff, with Silva and Don Williams, who covers Texas Tech football, the workload can be overwhelming, but Cubit describes her time at the Avalanche-Journal as detail-oriented and relationship-filled.
“Carlos has always reiterated that some things can be explained instead of simply stated, and that goes back to painting a picture for the reader,” Cubit said.
With the sports world at a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Silva and Cubit have used the relationships that they’ve created with players and coaches to continue telling stories.
They interact with coaches and players off the basis of trust. By not always having an agenda, and sharing old-fashioned conversation. The reporters break down a barrier between what coaches and athletes are, and how fans may think they are.
“At the end of the day, people forget this because they see them on TV or they are some mythical icons, but in reality, they are people too,” Silva said. “I think that’s one thing that is always fun, you have to humanize them. Sometimes it’s fun to focus on people, find someone that was looking dominant or made a play, and try and tell that story. That’s how I challenge myself every day, by seeing whose story I can tell that relates to a topic.”
Storytelling is an essential aspect of being a journalist. Silva, Cubit and Williams have won more awards in four years than the newspaper had won in its entire 120-year history. Just this past year, Silva and Williams placed in the Top 10 for columns at APSE in February, and the staff won Top 10 for Best Daily and Best Sunday sections.
Also, in the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Awards, Cubit took first in sports feature writing, and Silva won first in sports columns while former Avalanche-Journal photographer Brad Tollefson took first in sports photography.
“It’s just affirmation to know that when you start in this business, you are at a starting point at the bottom of the mountain, and it’s always nice to be at the top,” Silva said. “But, I always say that there is always another hill once you get to the top of the mountain.”