For Filipina-American journalist Cielo Buenaventura, getting into The New York Times and now holding the title of staff editor for the Culture section, was a combination of “audacious dreaming and dumb luck.”
In 1988 while on a scholarship at Ohio State University, one of her professors, a former Times editor, suggested that she try to apply to the paper after completing her master’s degree in public-affairs reporting and acquiring experience from small and medium-size papers . She said to herself, “Wow, the NYT was like Mount Everest, the mountain I’ll never be able to climb.” But he planted the idea in her head.
After five years working in two dailies – the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut and New York Newsday – she began climbing the peak of a publication that began as a hometown newspaper of New York City in the 1850s and is now one of the world’s greatest newspapers with 1.4 million readers daily, 57 million unique website visitors each month, and 114 Pulitzer prizes.
The Albay-born Cielo is one of two Filipinos at The Times newsroom. The other is restaurant critic Ligaya Mishan, whose mother is a Filipino immigrant.
“I learned on the job,” Cielo shared during a June 26 Kapihan forum organized by the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, where she was the guest speaker. “I didn’t have the Harvard, Yale and Ivy League credentials that other people had. But I found that The Times is a collegial place. ”
Without any local reporting experience, she applied for editing jobs in all the newspapers. In 1996, she became a copy editor on the metropolitan desk, where she also slotted stories for the weekend and regional editions.