Journalism Education Association NorCal Media Day 2019

El Estoque gains exposure to other publications and professionals at annual journalism conference


Brian Xu

Students practice writing personality profiles in a NorCal Media Day session.

Brian Xu

El Estoque, El Valedor and Writing for Publication students united with hundreds of students from across the Bay Area at the Journalism Education Assocation’s (JEA) NorCal Media Day on Sept. 28 at Palo Alto HS. The journalism conference featured over 50 informative sessions, covering topics ranging from photography and writing skills to leadership and management.

The day began at 9:45 a.m. with a ceremony introducing the event, and was split into four 45-minute time slots for sessions with a 45-minute lunch break at 11:45 a.m. Among the dozens of sessions available, El Estoque staff found a few sessions particularly memorable. Junior features editor Tyler Cho shares that he was inspired by a photography session led by Blue Valley Northwest High School Journalism adviser Jim McCrossen.

“I’ve always been interested in photography … it’s something that I definitely want to improve [on],” Cho said. “And just listening to him talk about the effectiveness of photos in journalism, even when your main focus isn’t around photos themselves, and how impactful a story that’s told through photos can be — it was really inspiring.”

Specifically, Cho gleaned the value of timing a shot in photography from McCrossen’s session. Cho recounts one of McCrossen’s experiences when his journalism students were covering a girls’ soccer game: one player was dribbling the soccer ball when a member of the opposing team ended up punching her in the face, knocking her out. The following day, one of McCrossen’s photographers showed McCrossen pictures they had taken, which captured the action precisely in the moment.

“He used [that photo] as an example of why timeliness or timing in photos is so important,” Cho said. “Because a fraction of a second earlier, you wouldn’t have gotten a good photo because you wouldn’t have seen what the hands were doing, [but] a fraction of a second later, you would have missed the action.”

Similarly to Cho, junior staff writer Anjali Singh was drawn to a session led by Palo Alto HS students demonstrating portrait photography techniques. She learned about details to look for in regards to lighting in portrait shots and gained hands-on experience using a white sheet of paper to reflect light in different ways for a photo. Even when surroundings for a shot weren’t unique, Singh found that it was possible to manipulate the environment to make a subject stand out.

Brian Xu
Volunteers managed registration tables and a publication exchange table.

On the other side of these sessions, teachers and student leaders presented and guided students through presentations which are often prepared for well in advance. MVHS journalism adviser Julia Satterthwaite presented three sessions at NorCal Media Day, spending around eight hours to create each presentation. Having already presented numerous sessions at fall journalism workshops in Michigan and summer workshops, Satterthwaite is not new to teaching sessions.

“In terms of preparation for [sessions], it’s not too challenging because it’s basically what I do every day from my job,” Satterthwaite said. “The only thing that’s more difficult about it is preparing a lesson that you think is going to benefit all [of the] kids. So I tried to think broadly of the issues that the students of all three of the publications courses that I teach might want to learn about.”

Satterthwaite’s first workshop taught profile writing to students in all journalistic backgrounds, ranging from newspaper and website to yearbook publications. Her next session focused on leadership training, something she believes is essential for every publication to function. Satterthwaite’s final workshop was geared towards advisers, teaching them a variety of basic skills in one session. One of the largest challenges Satterthwaite faces when teaching at NorCal Media Day is the range of experience levels of students in attendance.

“In the profiling session, for example, when I had students do a mini profile in 20 minutes, there were students who didn’t know they had to write down direct quotes,” Satterthwaite said. “So you don’t really know what kids don’t know. And then as you’re doing it, you have to be aware. I think part of that is just a learning curve.”

Brian Xu
Journalism adviser Julia Satterthwaite leads a session on writing personality profiles.

Satterthwaite and other NorCal Media Day organizers have discussed the option of creating a separate track for more advanced journalism students, but they are wary about a factor of prestige which may negatively impact students’ perceptions of the event.

As NorCal Media Day approached an end at 2:15 p.m., students had the option to attend onsite contests they had registered for in advance. With eight categories ranging from writing and photography to social media coverage to videography, students had the opportunity to demonstrate and hone their journalistic skills.

Junior arts and entertainment editor Ayah Ali-Ahmad participated in the On-site Video contest, spending the majority of the day filming background footage at a variety of sessions and conducting interviews with media professionals for her video.

“The reason I joined Multimedia Design for El Estoque was because I really liked videography,” Ali-Ahmad said. “I got to try [it] out during our documentary project in Writing for Publications, and then also in my middle school’s podcast. So I wanted to further expand my videography skills by doing the contest.“

Each participant in the onsite contests received individual feedback from a judge, which Ali-Ahmad and Cho found personally helpful for future improvement. El Estoque and El Valedor staff members earned awards in many of their contests: Ali-Ahmad received second place in On-site Video, junior features editor Brian Xu received first place in Features Writing, junior El Valedor staff member Annie Lo received second place in Live Social Media Reporting and junior sports editor Justine Ha and junior El Valedor staff member Sue Kim received first place in On-site Video. Full results can be found here.

Brian Xu
Berkeley High School Newspaper adviser Peter Rodriguez leads a session providing students with tools for datajournalism and news literacy.

Each year, NorCal Media Day provides a unique opportunity for students to share their knowledge and push each other to succeed, according to Satterthwaite. In some ways, there are advantages to having a local conference tailored specifically toward Bay Area student journalism programs.

“All the students have the same press rights because we’re all from the same region,” Satterthwaite said. “Here [we] have really excellent student press protections. But if you go to a JEA/NSPA (National Scholastic Press Association) conference, you’re going to have run the gamut with kids all over the country who deal with prior review, censorship [and] prior restraint. And I think that the area like the Bay Area is a pretty impressive place to be a high school student. I think the kids here are really highly motivated. So I can see the way that students interact with kids from other — really big programs and are pushing each other to do better.”

Singh shares a similar sentiment, believing that NorCal Media Day is a valuable experience to any journalism student. She enjoyed learning a variety of skills within four sessions, and looks forward to the event in the future.

“It’s really helpful for people who are just starting off, but also for people who already know what they’re doing because they want to [improve] their production,” Singh said. “So I think even if you’re in Writing for Publications, or even if you’re in Yearbook … if you just want to do better photography, or you want to make your writing stand out more, I think NorCal Media Day will really help with that.”