My experience at Newsroom By The Bay

Stanford program opens broadcast opportunity

Claire Chu, Monte Vista High School

A week of meeting strangers from around the globe, navigating one of the most prestigious universities, completing the soonest deadlines and sleeping maybe four hours each night: Newsroom By The Bay (NBTB) hits all of these spots.

In my freshman year of high school, I had little news awareness and lacked media knowledge. Every month, our CC Spin editor would send in the best stories from the school’s student newspaper, The Stampede, after every completed edition, and it was always my hope to make it in. That year, it didn’t happen. But toward the end of the school year, our Spin editor announced a special opportunity that our staff could participate in at Stanford University.

Wow. Stanford? Sounds like a dream. But I chickened out. I didn’t think I had it in me to venture into an environment where – at the time, I thought – I needed to excel in the journalism craft.

During sophomore year, I was selected to be the CC Spin editor. Me? Yes, me. This time around, I slowly began understanding the ropes of journalism. With the majority of The Stampede’s staff graduating that year, I was motivated to sharpen my skills and tackle in-depth stories. Around February, I received an email about NBTB. This time, I had more interest and read about the program. I decided to join.

Summer of 2018, I arrived at the beautiful Stanford campus, surrounded by the notorious tall trees and gorgeous sunshine. On the first day of camp, I was mesmerized by the number of aspiring young journalists who wanted to dive deeper into the realm of storytelling. The introductory crew of Year 1 kids are split up into groups with a team leader who has vast knowledge of journalism and teaches us throughout the week. My group of seven high school students came from the local Bay Area to overseas in China to share our different skills that would manifest into meaningful work.

For four days during the week, our mornings consisted of learning from esteemed journalism instructors in the fields of reporting, photojournalism, broadcast and multimedia. With these lessons, we applied our new knowledge to afternoon reporting, where we developed and published our own stories to create a multimedia website with our team.

With incredible access to a wide range of tools, I was truly able to experience the resilient role of a journalist. My first story covered the diversity of America and what it means to be an American. This meant I had to approach people of all different backgrounds and interview them about their personal stories. On our field trip to San Francisco, which was fittingly on the 4th of July, I spoke with immigrants and natives about their journey in the States. It was such an eye opening and enriching experience to corroborate their perspectives. Coming into camp as a shy kid who dreaded public speaking, I learned how to be confident in my ability to be a voice to the voiceless and shed light on narratives that may be uncommon.

More specifically, I explored broadcast journalism, an avenue I wouldn’t otherwise be able to try as my high school doesn’t offer this medium. The keynote speaker in 2018 was Sam Ball, the director of the film “American Creed,” who brought his brilliant mind to speak with NBTB students. Not only was I able to produce a newsreel of his presentation, but I expanded my communication skills and teamwork through this process.

On a high school publication, deadlines come about once a month. At NBTB, we had one week to complete an entire website filled with multimedia content. This challenged me to engage collaboratively in efforts to produce quality work with timely content that pointed to the overall camp theme – the American Dream. After staying up consecutive nights to design my team’s website, I understood the work ethic needed to properly and diligently work in a real newsroom. It’s not just my work out there – it’s the stories and lives of humanity that’s at stake, and that’s something special.

Before I embarked into junior year, I reflected on my time at NBTB 2018. The hands-on experience I had was rare, but I could apply many lessons and victories as I began my new role as Managing Editor for The Stampede. Gaining insight from professionals at NBTB, I was able to revamp Monte Vista’s news website and start the teamwork rolling efficiently.

After my first year at Newsroom concluded, NBTB co-founder and director Beatrice Motamedi reached out to me to help pilot “Since Parkland”, a documentary through 100-word obituaries for every child killed by gun violence since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This exhaustive project humanized and brought life to a new genre of journalism. The strength and perspective I gained developed a new desire to report, curiosity to learn, and dedication to seek the truth from which I cherish with deep passion.

Needless to say, my valuable time at NBTB struck my second go-around. I joined as a Year 2 student and Counselor-in-Training for NBTB 2019. This time, I entered with a greater understanding of journalism, but I still had plenty of room to grow and be inspired. From the start, student editors led our Y2 project full of ambition – a 20-page interactive magazine. I know the type of work that can be completed in a week, but to be honest, I was skeptical about this one. Twenty pages filled with solid content and layout? It would be a long week, but we got to business.

I worked alongside masterminds of this project, Allie Kelly and Joe Meyerson, who were Editors-in-Chief for the magazine 650 West. Learning from their passion in storytelling and engaging in purposeful conversations with them, I knew that no goal is too aspiring with the dedication they exemplified. And sure enough, after nights of crying and frustration and smiles, we delivered (see here).

Because I was on a scooter or crutches for NBTB 2019 (snowboarding accident), I helped on the administrative end for most of the week. The eagerness and hard work of camp staff often go unseen and bring me greater appreciation to their time and energy. I am thoroughly inspired by the detail, professionalism and captivating personalities that the people at NBTB embody. They are testaments to the storytellers and world changers we need in society to encourage and equip the next generation.

As NBTB celebrates its decade this year, the program has expanded to a two-week camp with extensions of broadcast, international reporting and magazine. I will be on the admin team to run logistics and ensure that the workflow goes smoothly each day. Unsurprisingly, the tenacious team acted persistently to launch NBTB Online in lieu of the in-person camp for NBTB 2020.

More specifically, NBTB Online will be set up as a digital newsroom to serve students as they participate in a new broadcast classroom, report with NBTB’s sister platform Global Student Square or create the second edition of 650 West. Career journalists and instructors will teach students the laws, ethics and fundamentals of journalism. Then, these aspiring student journalists will apply the lessons and skills to their projects with the guidance of team leaders.

Although the atmosphere of camp will be different without the Stanford campus, I imagine the experience of NBTB Online to be just as enriching. As our world changes daily, learning from home mirrors this evolution, and this is our opportunity to adapt and show what we do best.

Ultimately, NBTB’s philosophy – the hunger to innovate, the power to welcome failure, and a deep commitment to lean on one another – has shaped me into an inquisitive person who never backs down from any forthcoming challenge. I’ve made friendships at NBTB that I still maintain and connect with leaders that continue to mentor me.

I’m forever grateful to the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative for connecting me with NBTB and supporting me through the program. I’ve had the pleasure of learning and being inspired at the local and national level, and I hope to continue discovering new perspectives as a journalist and citizen of the new decade.

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