November 21, 2019
At a time when the free press is under threat, they woke up before dawn on a Saturday — to travel from as far away as Riverside, Ventura, and Orange counties — and descended on CSUN to talk journalism.
Last month, more than 230 high school journalism students from 22 schools across Southern California participated in the largest California State University, Northridge J-Day Youth Journalism Conference. They were joined by dozens of professional journalists, student volunteers, and high school program advisers. The 27th annual event — co-hosted by the Los Angeles Times High School Insider program, CSUN’s Journalism department, Southern California Journalism Education Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, LA — included a half day of writing competitions and workshops for students, plus professional development and networking opportunities for their advisers.
“It was simply extraordinary to see so many students from across Southern California thrilled about getting into journalism at a time like this,” said Journalism school director Linda Bowen. “We need their voices now more than ever, and this conference connected them with networks of professional journalists and strengthened their programs in their high schools.”
For the students one of the best parts was making connections with other kids who share their passion. “I’m most excited to see people today, outside of my little group of newspaper kids at school,” said San Gabriel High School senior Kimberly Quiocho. “We all just talk about politics and news and the world. But it’s just the journalism and yearbook kids. So I’m excited to meet new people today because not a lot of people at my school are into journalism.”
Quiocho, who edits her school paper, sat on the steps of the second floor of Manzanita Hall comparing Instagram posts with Elyssa Phan from Fountain Valley High School and Carson Academy of Medical Arts senior Ashleigh Almodiel after finishing a social media competition.
“I just met these two,” said Almodiel. “I’m really excited to meet more people.”
A focus of the event was digital and community engagement in news coverage, reflecting the journalism department’s updated curriculum. Saba Hamedy, a Huffington Post news editor and formerly of CNN Politics, who moderated the social media competition, said high school students play a key role in the future of journalism.
“I think students, especially high schoolers, don’t realize that you can use the platforms that you’re natives to, to tell good stories,” said Hamedy. “News reporting is fundamental, and you need to know how to do that. But there’s so much in journalism today that you could do that you may not realize. You could get a job making Instagram Stories. There’s an audience engagement team at almost every publication now.”
In addition to competitions, the event brought in high school advisors and professional journalists from the Los Angeles Times. Advisers at J-Day learn tips from one another, for example new digital media tools that teachers and students can use to augment their websites to make them more interactive. “I love this conference because journalism students and advisers from across the Los Angeles area gather and show support for one another,” said Adriana Chavira, an organizer of the event and newspaper adviser at Daniel Pearl High School. “Often, students come and see what other journalism programs are doing at their schools and they let their administrators know. So the knowledge they gain at this workshop helps bolster their programs at their schools.”
Molly Heber, who is the project lead for High School Insider, said that the professional journalists also gain critical connections to future audiences, and hopefully journalists.
- “Uplifting Youth Voice in Education Coverage,” Los Angeles Times education reporters Howard Blume, Stephanie Chavez, and Sonali Kohli
- “Covering Diverse Communities with Nuance,” Los Angeles Times Latino Affairs reporter Esmeralda Bermudez
- “How the Times Covers High School Sports,” Los Angeles Times High School Sports reporter Eric Sondheimer
- “On the Ground: How to Cover your Community,” Glendale News Press and Burbank Leader reporters Andrew Campa and Andy Nguyen and La Canada Valley Sun reporter Sara Cardine.
Following a panel of professional journalists sharing their trajectory to the frontlines of Los Angeles news, the event concluded with the recognition of its competition winners.
“One big takeaway was that my identity is important to the stories that I’m telling,” said Macy Kwon, a junior at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda.
“I was impressed with how many different voices were represented,” said Edgar Munoz, a journalism adviser from John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley. “It was cool to see so many different perspectives from the community.”
By Angela Vega
News Writing Competition winners
First Place: Mhar Tenori, Van Nuys High School
Second Place: Itzel Luna, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School
Third Place: Adler Striegel, Foothill Technology High School
Feature Writing Competition winners
First Place: Emma Newman, Beverly Hills High School
Second Place: Macy Kwon, Cleveland Charter High School
Third Place: Elise Tran, Fountain Valley High School
Opinion Writing Competition winners
First Place: Dveen Hagopian, Granada Hills Charter High School
Second Place: Tuan Nguyen, Temple City High School
Third Place: Anthony Winslow, Don Antonio Lugo High School
Sports Writing Competition winners
First Place: Andre Roads, Van Nuys High School
Second Place: Cierra Marienthal, Foothill Technology High School / Steven Salas, Temple City High School
Third Place: Max Wang, Temple City High School
Photojournalism Competition winners
First Place: Zoe Hsu, Temple City High School
Second Place: Katy (Han) Nguyen, Fountain Valley High School
Third Place: Ivan Delgado, Van Nuys High School
Social Media Writing Competition winners
First Place: Kimberly Quiocho, San Gabriel High School
Second Place: Elyssa Phan, Fountain Valley High School
Third Place: Aaron Mejia, Van Nuys High School