Journalism students learn ‘breaking news’ in an immersive environment

Camp News mock breaking news situation

The College of Arts and Humanities takes pride in supporting the wide range of creative and academic endeavors of students and faculty — endeavors made possible through generous gifts made to the Dean’s Council Annual Fund. Over the 2018-2019 winter session, those funds helped seven Media, Communications and Journalism (MCJ) students experience a fantastic opportunity at “Camp News” in Calabasas, Calif.

“Camp News was an absolute blessing,” said Gina Avalos, student. “From the first day I got there I was enjoying every second of it.”

Camp News group photo
Camp News group photo

The mentor list looks like a who’s who of media from Fresno to San Diego. Over 100 of them descended on Camp Mt. Crags in the Malibu Canyon to teach about 40 students. Among the mentors were Fresno State MCJ faculty members Faith Sidlow and Kim Stevens. The camp is presented in English and Spanish, and students can then focus on television or radio reporting.

“I enjoyed getting to know the mentors and learning about their careers. A lot of them started where we are,” said Alodie Reséndiz, student.

“I love the interaction with the students and the other mentors,” said Faith Sidlow, Fresno State MCJ faculty, and Camp News mentor. “I do it because I love to give back. When I was a journalism student at San Diego State University, I benefited because of the professionals and educators who mentored me. Some of the mentors at this Camp News were actually my mentors when I was a student 35 years ago!”

Chelsea Chavira, Razmik Cañas, Gina Avalos, Faith Sidlow, Hal Eisner [Fox 11 LA reporter] (Behind Faith), Tony Salazar, Ishshah Padilla, Tori Lavon Custodio, Alodie Resendiz
Chelsea Chavira, Razmik Cañas, Gina Avalos, Faith Sidlow, Hal Eisner [Fox 11 LA reporter] (Behind Faith), Tony Salazar, Ishshah Padilla, Tori Lavon Custodio, Alodie Resendiz

What makes Camp News unique are the mock situations which present students with a practical look at breaking news reporting. These mock-ups include real-life emergency crews and law enforcement along with some dramatic acting. Students are broken up into news crews of two or three and each team has a group of professional mentors including a reporter, producer, photographer, editor and sometimes news manager. Those crews are then deployed to a “breaking news” situation and have to gather information to tell the story.

“It gives the students a fairly realistic idea of how best to cover breaking news,” said Sidlow.

Camp News studio
Camp News studio

When students are given the opportunity to be immersed in a situation in which they are forced to use what they have been taught, students gain a depth of experience that goes beyond classroom learning.

“The overall experience was like nothing I had ever been a part of before. Although it was a ‘fantasy camp’ everything that went on was so real,” said Alodie Reséndiz, student. “It was fast-paced, chaotic and a lot of hard work! It was really neat to be able to learn firsthand on how to approach a situation and report about it.”

One of the fundamental skills MCJ students learn throughout their education is how to tell a story. What is often difficult to teach is how to tell the story while it unfolds in front of them in a tumultuous environment. The Camp News students described learning how to take notes and then focus in on the information that’s most relevant.

“They throw all these pieces of the puzzle at you, and your job is to figure out how to put the story together. It is very interesting how it plays out at the end,” said Padilla.

Tony Salazar’s Camp News breaking news package

“My favorite memory of this trip was piecing together the breaking news story. We had to take good notes while also trying to figure out what was going on. Every time something would happen, I would get this adrenaline rush to be first at the scene,” said Tony Salazar, student.

At the end of the program, the students watched all of the stories each group produced.

“Seeing the talents that other students had was uplifting because it is like encouraging each other in a way and we are watching each other grow in this career,” said Padilla.

Gina Avalos’ breaking news package

With so many mentors involved in the program, the students had an unparalleled networking opportunity. For the mentors, they had the chance to use their years of experience to train the next generation of journalists. For the students, they got an inside look at what life in news is like.

“Having mentors that really wanted to help and teach us how to work in the media world really encourage me to keep going on this career path,” said Tori Lavon, student.

“I think it’s important for professionals and educators to participate in events that promote the journalism industry,” said Sidlow. “Journalists have been getting a bad rap for the past couple of years, and it’s events like this that help ensure the up-and-coming journalists understand the importance of accurate, ethical reporting.”

Armando Aparicio [Fox 11 LA Photojournalist, Unknown, Gina Avalos, Sid Garcia [ABC7 LA Reporter], Claire Flores [KEYT Santa Barbara Assignment Desk Manager], Kneeling in front of Clair is Alexandra Ali a student from New York.
Armando Aparicio [Fox 11 LA Photojournalist, Unknown, Gina Avalos, Sid Garcia [ABC7 LA Reporter], Claire Flores [KEYT Santa Barbara Assignment Desk Manager], Kneeling in front of Clair is Alexandra Ali a student from New York.

The Dean’s Council funds went a long way to help students attend Camp News. Several of the students express their gratitude.

“Thank you so much for being able to fund events like these for students. Camp News not only helps students learn more about their craft it also encourages students to work hard. If it wasn’t for your generosity most of us wouldn’t have had the funds to go,” said Avalos. “I am extremely grateful and hope one day I can repay by being successful myself and recognizing the people who helped along the way.”

“To the people that donate to this fund, I would say ‘thank you!’  This experience is a definite eye-opener of what this career is all about. This trip helps the students so much outside of a classroom, and I am very appreciative of this opportunity,” said Padilla.

“THANK YOU! If it weren’t for generous donors like you, then none of this would have been possible. Personally, when I first heard about the total price to attend this trip, I was pushed away, but as soon as we got approved funding for this trip it was a huge financial relief,” said Salazar.

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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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