Senior Seminar Reflection—What I’ve Learned

My senior project showed me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing and reporting. For my project, I chose to write a combination of two hard news articles and two features articles. I chose this topic not only because of my love of writing and storytelling, but also because I love the processes of reporting and interviewing—which this project allowed me to do. This project required me to work the entire semester beginning with choosing what I wanted to write about and what angles I wanted to tell the stories from. I began my project by doing some research on topics I was interested—which proved to be a more difficult part of the project. I’ve always struggled with coming up with story ideas and topics to write about from a news or features angle, so solidifying what I wanted to write about was a bit difficult. The ultimate goal of this project was to produce four quality newspaper-style articles that would prepare me for a career in reporting and/or journalism. Before starting this project, I set a goal of going out of my comfort zone—something that I did by interviewing and choosing topics that were outside of what I typically write about. Some more general goals of the project were to learn how to write following AP style guidelines and learning how to write in a more traditional newspaper-article format.

Now that I’ve completed the project, I can confidently say my senior project was so much more than simply writing. I learned how to write in a way that appeals to readers of news and report in an unbiased manner that focuses on solely reporting the truth. I learned how interview professionals both in and outside of Sonoma State University—something I did not have experience in prior to the project. Even though some of the interviews were purely information and I didn’t use all the quotes from each person I met with, each interview was still valuable to how I told my stories.

This project forced me to go out of my comfort zone by researching and reporting on things outside of my university and in my local community, something that was truly enjoyable and a valuable learning experience. I learned how write on sensitive topics and topics that affected a large scale of people, not just Sonoma State students. I learned how prepare for interviews with professionals as well as students and ask the right questions that would help me write factual, compelling articles.

Another aspect of my project in addition to writing news/features articles was creating an online website or portfolio where I could showcase articles I’ve written for the Sonoma State Star student-newspaper and in internships outside of Sonoma State. Creating a website showed me the importance of technology in preparing for the professional world. Prior to creating the website, I had little to no knowledge of web design—which made the process initially very difficult. To create the website, I used WordPress and over the course of five months I developed the website and uploaded every article I’ve written onto the website, which was very tedious.

Creating an online portfolio allowed me to reflect on what I’ve learned in and outside of the classroom while in college. I was able to see how I’ve improved in my writing over the past 4 years and what I still need to improve upon. As I created my website, I looked for inspiration in how other young people designed their professional website and how other journalists and media professionals designed theirs. That proved to be very helpful because I was able to design my online portfolio in a unique but professional way. Creating a website ultimately showed me the importance of having an online presence in the professional world and I was also able to learn how to use WordPress and other software programs.

This project allowed me to show creativity in what I wrote about and how I wrote my articles—and that was the main part of my creative process of the project. I was able tell the stories in a way that allowed me to express my creativity while staying true to the article’s focus and the truth. I chose to write four articles ultimately because of my interest and passion for writing and because of past classes I’ve taken that helped me develop the goal of being a journalist and writer. Some roadblocks and weaknesses I experienced in the project began when I tried to come up with topics to write about. Coming up with things to write about that are both interesting and relevant has always been a struggle of mine, so I was able to overcome that in this project. Once I had concrete topics to write about, I began the research and interviewing process—which I’ve always considered strengths of mine. Once I had all my information and interview transcripts, I wrote my articles, which was definitely the easiest part of the project. Writing has always come easy to me and so the actual writing process was simple and the least time consuming aspect of my senior project.

As far as the target audiences of my senior project, I would say my audiences include college students, young people and all people in general. Though some of the topics of my articles concern college students—I believe they are still of interest of the general public. I planned to have my project be successful by writing in a way that not only interests readers, but encourages them to do something positive or make a change after reading my stories. As I completed this project, I tried to keep my target audiences in mind, so I could successfully produce quality news and features articles.

Ultimately I consider this project something I can use when searching for employment because each article I wrote shows my strengths and weakness. The articles I’ve wrote are a representation of what I’ve learned in college. I’ve spent the last two years learning and developing my skills in AP style, newswriting and how to write in a compelling, unbiased way—which can be seen in my articles. I believe the online portfolio/professional website I created as part of this project will be extremely helpful when looking for a job because it shows all my experience and published work in one place. This project served as an opportunity to learn what I am good at and what I need to improve upon. Throughout the semester working on this project, I was able to solidify what I want to do in life—writing, whether for print, digital or broadcast media, I know I want to write in a career. This project helped me form goals after college, which is invaluable as a college senior preparing to graduate.

This project showed me what I want to do in life and whether I have what it takes to have successful career in media, journalism, communications, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed completing this project because of what I was able learn and discover about my profession goals and hopes for the future.



Commentary: Traditional journalism still matters—and here’s why

The Internet is filled with endless amounts of media—media that’s quickly taking the place of traditional journalism of decades past. Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram dominate the lives of college students and according to a recent Pew Research study, 61 percent of the millennial generation receive news from Facebook compared to 39 percent of the baby boomer generation. In the digital age where young people are glued to their cell phones and Twitter feeds, is investigative reporting and journalism that tells a story still relevant? The answer is yes.

The film “Spotlight”, released nationwide on Nov. 20, depicts a different media world before Twitter or Facebook—a world where value was placed on investigative reporting and old-fashioned journalism. The film tells the story of a team of reporters at the Boston Globe who investigated the Catholic Church and allegations of child abuse. The movie, based on a real-life group of reporters on the newspaper’s Spotlight Team, showcases the impact of journalism and the influence it’s meant to have— to find the faults in society and address them, something that many media organizations today lack.

“I feel that journalism is extremely underrated. How else would we learn about the world around us?” said Ashley Martin, sophomore at Sonoma State University. “Journalism can’t die, because with that, comes the birth of ignorance.”

Journalism today is made to appeal to younger generations by creating bullet-point or list style articles that are easy to read and will generate the most page-views and revenue. This devalues traditional journalism by placing the priority on profit rather than honest reporting.

“I feel as though college students rely on social media websites far too often for news,” said Martin. “It might be due to our decreasing attention span. We might be interested in news, but we want the quick, bare minimum facts.”

Is the way millennials consume news changing simply because of the increasing prevalence of social media, or is the world amid a drastic shift in journalism—one that doesn’t support the efforts of reporters in search of the next compelling, earth-shattering story?

“People are too obsessed with social media and I think there’s an issue with how everyone uses it so excessively,” said Kyler Khan, senior at Sonoma State University. “I think traditional journalism is [necessary] because it’s hands-on. A newspaper or magazine takes you away from the screens and social media, which is important.”

The press, in all forms, is widely considered the watchdog of government and public institutions—something that’s deeply rooted in American society and necessary to sustain democracy. Is the role of the press disappearing with the rise of social media as American’s primary news source? News is meant to inform and educate in its true form and social media undermines that role.

“My biggest concern is that if the Watergate break-in were to occur today, no reporters would be able to cover it because they’re too busy meeting their daily quotas of briefs, blogs and tweets and fretting about search engine optimization,” said Paul Gullixson, professor of communications and media studies at Sonoma State University. “And the American public wouldn’t care anyway because they’re too busy watching cat videos.”

Traditional journalism may be disappearing, though the value of reporting and investigative journalism still plays a role in the society—a role that can’t be replaced with a list or tweet.

Sexual assault remains a national issue

One in five college women in the United States will be victims of sexual assault and an estimated 12 percent of those victims will go on to report their attack to authorities according to the United States Department of Justice.

Sexual assault on college campuses has been at the forefront of many media outlets in the U.S. in recent weeks, including a case concerning a former Stanford University student.

Last week, it was announced a 19-year-old student would be charged with rape of an unconscious woman occurring on university grounds.

This example of sexual assault on a college campus is one of many that occur each year.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown enacted the “Yes Means Yes” bill, which is intended to change the way college campuses in California address sexual assault as well as the victims.

The bill requires California colleges, when investigating occurrences of sexual assault, to not accept intoxication, silence or lack of resistance as a form of “yes”.  Though this bill has received both positive and negative critique, the issue of how few sexual assaults are reported to authorities on college campuses still remains.

“Sexual assaults are underreported everywhere. That is the reality of what we’re dealing with in life,” said Christine Castillo, executive director for Verity, an advocate and crisis line for victims of sexual assault based in Santa Rosa. “There is a stigma associated with reporting [sexual assault] because people tend to judge victims, especially on a college campus.”

Laura Williams, director of clinical services and licensed psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Services at Sonoma State University, believes society should have respect for victims of sexual assault and their experience, rather than making judgment.

“We need to listen to victim’s stories, have respect for their experiences, learn about their suffering and support their healing,” said Williams.

Castillo believes sexual assault has a stigma in society and in turn creates one that is judgmental of victims rather than the attacker.

“People judge victims and they have no right to do so. Society needs to change,” said Castillo. “We are fighting to further a better understanding of what constitutes sexual assault and violence, the impact on victims, the impact on society on victims and why they don’t want to come forward.”

On Aug. 25, a Sonoma State University student was assaulted while jogging along the Copeland Creek Trail in Rohnert Park. The attacker Nicholas Sterba, a 19-year-old male, will be sentenced later this month and is pleading no contest in the charges of attempted kidnap.

The attacker’s lawyer, Ande Thomas, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat last month, Sterba had no intent to sexually assault the student. Sterba is facing four years in state prison.

Sonoma State’s Police Services advises students to take certain precautions to prevent sexual assault such as awareness when attending social gatherings, trust in instincts and avoidance of isolation.

Police Services also advises students to never leave beverages unattended to avoid drugging.

Williams believes the cultural norms and stereotypes associated with sexual assault contribute to the problem of sexual violence on college campuses.

“Oftentimes, students tell me that they are afraid there will be conflict or other unwanted consequences if their friends, significant others or family find out about an assault,” said Williams. “Misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about laws and policies and distrust of authority are also factors [in not reporting sexual assault].”

Williams hopes students and society will look out for each other when it comes to incidents of sexual assault, rather than making judgments and generalizations.

She also hopes students will intervene in potentially dangerous situations rather than simply standing by.

“I would urge students to find confidential support through CAPS, Verity or another mental health provider if they are unsure about reporting,” said Williams.

For more information on sexual assault and the resources available to victims of sexual assault, students are encouraged to visit Counseling and Psychological Services in Stevenson 1088, contact Verity at 707-545-7270 or Police Services at 707-664-4444.

“Nobody wants to believe sexual assault is happening. Nobody wants to believe it is happening in their college dorm, workplace and in society,” said Castillo.

Vegetarian fast food restaurant offers students a healthy alternative

Nub Culture: Vegetarian fast food restaurant offers students a healthy alternative

Amy’s Drive Thru features a living roof (pictured above) that grows native, drought resilient plants lowering the energy needs of the restaurant.

Students at Sonoma State University are trading their Big Macs for vegan pizzas with the opening of vegetarian fast food restaurant Amy’s Drive Thru in Rohnert Park, Calif., just north of San Francisco. The opening of the restaurant in July coincides with a decline in sales at fast food chain McDonalds over the summer, reflecting a change in millennial eating habits. 

The drive through restaurant, part of the successful frozen food brand Amy’s Kitchen, is the first of its kind serving entirely organic, gluten-free and vegan food. The restaurant is expected to be a popular spot for college students at nearby Sonoma State.

Jenna Fischer, a sophomore at Sonoma State, sees Amy’s Drive Thru as a great addition to the community because of the quality of the food and its accessibility to college students.

“Sonoma County has some of the best food in California, but it’s not always accessible due to the luxury pricing,” said Fischer. “Since Amy’s started as a local business, it’s only natural that they would bring a better option to the fast food industry.”

Founded in 1987 in Petaluma, Calif., Amy’s Kitchen is the nation’s leading frozen food brand and has most recently expanded by opening its first drive through restaurant in Rohnert Park on July 20.

The brand is widely known for its organic and sustainable food options and for producing food free of genetically modified ingredients. Upholding the brand’s eco-friendly reputation, Amy’s Drive Thru also incorporates locally grown products from Sonoma County and utilizes sustainable technology in how the restaurant operates.

Rachel Keigley, a recent graduate of Sonoma State, sees Amy’s Drive Thru as a restaurant that reinforces healthy eating habits and reflects what college students are looking for in their diets.

“I think society has a long way to go with eating habits but Amy’s is getting such wonderful exposure and attention, I hope it will make people think about what they’re eating,” said Keigley.

As a vegetarian, Keigley takes pride in what she eats and hopes Amy’s Drive Thru will inspire others to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“Amy’s Kitchen gives me hope for the future,” said Keigley. “Not only for the well being of animals but for our health as human beings.”

According to a spokesperson of Amy’s Kitchen, the drive through restaurant sources as many ingredients as possible from the local community. The restaurant serves coffee from Coast Roast Coffee based in Tomales, Calif. as well as pickles from Sonoma Brinery.

Amy’s Kitchen is also equipped with a living roof populated by native, drought resilient plants that reduce heating and cooling needs of the restaurant.  To sustain the roof and other plants on the property, the restaurant has a water tower that collects rain water.

According to the Raw Food World, roughly 16 million Americans consider themselves vegetarian as of 2015, a figure that has more than doubled in the last seven years. With an increased interest in vegetarianism in recent years, Amy’s Drive Thru is expected to be the first of many locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, according to ABC 7 News.

Other aspects of Amy’s Drive Thru that appeal to college students are the convenience and proximity to Sonoma State as well as the affordability of the food. With prices ranging from $2 to $8, the restaurant offers many options that fit college students’ budgets and diets.

“Amy’s Drive Thru will make fast food for our community less of a guilty option, and give a good meal to those with busy lives and smaller budgets,” said Fischer.

By combining cheap and convenient prices with fresh and organic ingredients, McDonalds may have found a new competitor in the world of fast food with the opening of Amy’s Drive Thru.


Gun violence becoming a commonplace in American society


President Barack Obama has taken the podium in the White House’ Brady Press Briefing Room 11 times during his presidency to address gun violence in aftermath of mass shootings in the U.S. According to the Washington Post, 17 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S this year, a number that has steadily risen during Obama’s presidency, with the most recent occurring at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oreg. on Oct. 1.

As Obama addressed the nation amid the tragedy in early October, it was evident to many that the president was angrier and more forceful in his speech compared to other addresses after mass shootings. Gun violence is now considered a commonplace in American society, prompting a desperate need for social and political change. According to a recent Gallup poll, 47 percent of Americans do not support stricter gun laws, a statistic that may be reflective of American ideals and freedoms.

“Somehow this has become routine,” said Obama following the shooting at the Oregon college. “The reporting has become routine. My response here, from this podium, has become routine.”

A turning point in Obama’s presidency came following the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 students and six teachers lost their lives at the hands of a gunman. Obama took executive action and created a commission aimed at tackling the issue of gun violence once and for all. Without backing from Congress, the commission failed to complete its goal of strengthening gun laws and background check regulations.

The United States is becoming a hub for violence and a study released by the FBI last year supports that with results showing the average number of mass shootings per year being 16.4 since 2007 compared to 6.4 from 2000 to 2006. According the BBC, 60 percent of murders in the U.S are in result of gun violence compared to 10 percent in the United Kingdom.  Many Americans wonder why gun violence is becoming such a common occurrence in schools and places of learning. The root of mass shootings in the U.S is different for many with the primary debate being between those who advocate for stricter gun regulations and those who fight for more support for the mentally ill.

Following the shooting in Roseburg, Oreg. last month, Mother Jones criticized the National Rifle Association for its lack of response to the tragedy. The question of whether a gun or an individual’s mental state is the primary cause of mass shootings in the U.S. remains, though in recent years, the NRA has continued to defend its cause and stand by the freedoms the Second Amendment allows to gun owners.

“Mental health is not the issue here and thoughts and prayers won’t fix the issue of gun violence,” said Edward Goquincgo, a political science major at Sonoma State University.

Goquincgo shares the opinion of many—one that places the blame on gun laws, not the healthcare system in the U.S for the repeated attacks involving gun violence.

“The U.S. needs to expand background checks. I believe increased regulation would help [gun violence], though it wouldn’t stop it entirely,” said Goquincgo. “Criminals don’t always go through legal ways to get guns. They’ll always find a way.”

Recently, news organizations including the New York Times and New York Daily News, have made national statements calling for change in how the U.S. government handles gun violence.

As a college student, Goquincgo often thinks about the risk of gun violence when he’s in public places or on his college campuses—something that has become routine for students across the nation.

“I always scan out places before I enter,” said Goquincgo. “It’s sad that this is how living in America is today.”