The following was written by Max Zeronian, special to the Outlook
Flintridge Prep junior and aspiring journalist Valentina Martinez, 16, attended the 66th annual California Scholastic Press Association’s High School Journalism workshop, held at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. The workshop, held from July 9-21, hosted 24 students to teach them real-world experience in the field of journalism.
At the end of the intensive two weeks, Martinez was one of three students to receive an award. She won the Stan Kelton Award, given to the student who best embodies the spirit of the workshop, according to the CSPA.
Martinez was encouraged by Flintridge Prep English teacher Dan Hare to look for a summer journalism program. After applying to similar programs at Columbia and Arizona State Universities, she decided on the program with the CSPA.
“The experience was challenging but fun,” Martinez said. “We had tight deadlines, which were designed to give us real life experience before we enter the field.”
The event consisted of in-class workshops combined with practical applications of the skills learned. Such activities included interviewing a Cal Poly basketball player, spot news writing and timed writing assignments.
“We had 35 assignments in two weeks, along with class every day,” Martinez said. “We worked with the campus radio station, went downtown, and even went to the clerk’s office to request public records for a story.”
Coming from a monthly high school newspaper, Martinez said deadlines there are not as critical. But experiencing that taste of real-time journalism also gave her the certainty that she wants to pursue it as a career.
“I was in awe of the speed everyone worked at,” Martinez said. “There were 24 of us from all different levels. By the second week I could do it.”
Going into the workshop, Martinez said she was pretty nervous. At the end of two weeks, she would know if journalism was the path she would want to take in near future. But after taking the classes and doing the practical work, Martinez said, the spark for the news business was kindled, and she plans to take the skills she learned back to her high school paper, the Flintridge Press, in the fall as assistant editor.
Martinez said the best parts of the summer experience were those real-world experiences, and what especially inspired her was the emphasis on accuracy.
“They taught us that accuracy is extremely important,” Martinez said. “Everyone wants to be the first to break the story, but if it isn’t accurate, you’ll lose credibility.”
During the 13 days of writing, photography, broadcasting and social media, the students produced online content in the newsroom of the Cal Poly Mustang News, as well as a four-page newspaper. Students worked with InDesign and Photoshop to produce content, and were helped by Cal Poly faculty and other volunteers.
“Some of the speakers were volunteering time out of their days to be with us, which makes you want to listen more,” Martinez said.
The workshop also included putting together podcasts and their own film broadcast, all of which took place in the main journalism building on campus. Martinez said that after attending, not only does she know what she wants to do for a career, she understands why the work is so important.
“What we write is for the public,” Martinez said. “They don’t want fake news, they want the real news.”