Anushka De Named California Journalist of the Year

Featuring El Estoque co-editor-in-chief Anushka De’s journey from her first year on staff to being named the California Journalist of the Year


Julia Satterthwaite | Used with permission

Anushka De (right) holds her California Journalist of the Year certificate with JEA President Sarah Nichols.

Sonia Verma, Staff Writer

*Update: Anushka De won the national JEA Journalist of the Year competition as well. Read more about it here.


EE: Anushka De, co-editor-in-chief for El Estoque, won the 2022 California Journalist of the Year award, making her the first student from MVHS to do so. She now stands as the California candidate for the national JEA Journalist of the Year award.

AD: I think it means that I’ve put together a compelling portfolio. I haven’t really thought of it honestly. I think it’s a cool way to validate some of my hard work.

EE: Although De has covered many topics throughout her time on staff, she gravitates toward covering women’s issues as well as Indian culture since she feels that both topics reflect her own demographic.

AD: I have a very strong inclination to write about Indian people because I’m an Indian person and I think it’s important that we get coverage as a community. Being first-generation Indian specifically in Monta Vista, like that bubble, where you don’t feel ostracized, you don’t feel like a minority, but there’s still tremendous cultural pressure is important to talk about and think about. 

AD: And I feel very strongly about writing about women because I am one and I feel like it’s important in a similar way to have that space.

EE: Satterthwaite has noticed Anushka’s affinity for writing about underrepresented communities. 

JS: I love her approach to shining the light in areas where people might not be looking. She does a great job of covering underrepresented communities, she does an excellent job of pushing her feminist agenda – she’s the reporter that we all hope to encounter as journalism advisors.

EE: De’s first exposure to Journalism was through J-Camp, an intensive 3-day summer camp FUHSD school publications host to train new staff members as well as get content on their website before school starts. Unlike many Journalism applicants, De did not take Writing for Publication, the recommended pre-requisite for a prospective staff member. 

EE: Satterthwaite recalls meeting De in her freshman year while staff members interviewed El Estoque applicants, but got to really start to know her when she was accepted onto Multimedia Design in her sophomore year. Despite De’s lack of experience, Satterthwaite notes that she learned quickly and proved herself in a short period of time to be an excellent reporter. 

JS: And so after that first cycle, when we were hiring a few editors, she applied to be the news editor and was given that position and she knocked it out of the park. So in her first year on staff with no prior journalism experience. She was the news editor and people were all kind of dying to join that section because she and her co-editor were so phenomenal.

EE: De, however, recalls that she was thrust into a new environment with the added pressure of being the only sophomore editor during the first year on staff.

AD: I was here in class and I really wanted to quit. I really did not like it for definitely the first cycle. It was a lot of work, but I just stayed up and I read people’s articles from before and I tried my best. I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of authority or agency over what we did as a section sometimes. Especially news, which is a section that I think I wasn’t mature enough for. I didn’t really appreciate it very much at all. I didn’t understand the power of local journalism when I was a sophomore. So we would often go in directions that maybe I wasn’t super passionate about.

EE: But she recalls that the seniors on staff that year really inspired her, especially Shuvi Jha, a managing editor at the time.

AD: No, I think, group of people in my entire life has inspired me as much as all of them did. I remember these conversations with Shuvi who is who was a managing editor at the time – now she goes to Stanford. She just taught me so much, like, every single time she opened her mouth, every single time she presented something, I was just, like, so floored by what she said. She just made me want to be better. 

AD: What she said to me, what she said to all of us on the first day of J camp was: ‘What can you write that the New York Times can’t?’ And I think I’ve repeated that to myself and to people like so many times. She really understood the power of local journalism from a really young age and like she was just super mature – beyond her years.

EE: De became a features editor during her junior year. This year provided new challenges since school was online. 

AD: And then in junior year, we were just in quarantine and I felt really helpless. Like I didn’t have any way to make any change. So that was something that I just I struggled with. And I wanted people to understand and like enjoy journalism as much as I did, but it was tough to do when you’re behind a zoom screen. And then in junior year, Iman, who was my co-editor – I just, I loved her. Like, she was just the best. She was so funny and everything that she did was just so incredible. She just did her work so well and somehow, she took on so much while applying to college which is not an easy thing to do.

EE: Satterthwaite commends De’s resilience during the pandemic for leading her section through a year of remote learning. 

JS: She was a co-editor of features during COVID. And somehow they put together some of the best content I’ve ever seen any features editors put together with their team. And so I think Anushka was a huge part of that success.

EE: Being a co-editor-in-chief has brought its own responsibilities and challenges. De, however, had envisioned herself in this position since the beginning of her time on EE and was prepared for what the role would entail. 

EE: Being an EIC, to De, is equal parts leadership, writing, and business, as EICs lead the publication as well as edit stories, and on top of that, take care of things like putting the magazine together and allocating appropriate funds for printing the magazine.

EE: Satterthwaite believes that De is a versatile writer, with her content covering a variety of different topics, from game reviews to social commentary to breaking news stories. For the California Journalist of the Year submission, De had to revamp her portfolio, a website in which each El Estoque staff member compiles all of their work, which she had been consistently adding to over the years. 

EE: When Satterthwaite reached out to her about being the MVHS representative in the competition, De grasped the opportunity. The week leading up to the submission, Satterthwaite recounts De working “pretty much non-stop” on improving her portfolio. 

JS: Part of creating this portfolio is putting it together in an aesthetically pleasing way. And that strangely factors pretty significantly, I think, into judges’ perception of the student. And so because Anushka is an excellent designer and excellent illustrator, she was able to create a really well-designed Journalist of the Year portfolio, which I think goes a long way. Even though the portfolio is supposed to be evaluated just on the content of what’s in it. I think there are probably some inherent biases about what it looks like.

EE: To decide the California Journalist of the Year award winner, three out-of-state judges judge the California entries and assign points for each portfolio based on a rubric. JEA California State Director Mitch Ziegler says that all three judges placed De first. 

MZ: So the three of them had her in first place – and in a very close competition. The fact is that California produces some really wonderful journalists. I mean, the competition is really fierce, right? When you look at the programs at schools like Paly (Palo Alto High School) and Harker.

EE: After De was named the California Journalist of the Year, she, Satterthwaite and Ziegler met over zoom to discuss De’s portfolio. Ziegler noted that he didn’t have very many improvements for De and that her portfolio contained “excellent writing” and “well-rounded coverage.” 

MZ: So I know she is extremely competitive. If I were to predict she’ll, at worst be a finalist. She’s one of those students where I suggested something – I made a suggestion and she immediately knew exactly what I meant and what to do.

EE: Before Ziegler met De over zoom, he had gone through her portfolio to take a look at her work. 

MZ: There’s also a very intuitive side for me, besides a lot of objective, you know – there’s a rubric that has pretty clearly defined criteria. But there’s also the sense in which you want to just like the person at the end. You know, you’re looking for a winner who’s going to kind of – kill herself to get a story to do the best job possible. You know, that type of feeling like ‘if I only had this student, my job would have been so much easier when I was advisor’.

EE: Satterthwaite also shares a similar sentiment on De’s chances at placing in the national competition. She believes that De’s bold, diverse coverage showcased in her portfolio says a lot about what kind of person De is. 

JS: I think Anushka’s brave in a way that not a lot of Monta Vista students are. She tackles topics that are big and hard. She tackles topics that are awkward. I mean, I don’t know very many students who would be willing to write about how our sex-ed curriculum needs to include female masturbation, but Anushka is one of those kids who did that right? So I just think that bravery is unique to her and is something that has obviously been a huge part of shaping her as a reporter.

EE: Satterthwaite states that De is the kind of person who inspires the people around her to be better, herself included. Although De cites Satterthwaite as someone to who she owes a lot of her success, Satterthwaite feels that she draws her own motivation and inspiration from De as well. 

EE: In the same vein, Ziegler lauds De for her intelligence. 

MZ: But I look at the – you know, I look at Anushka’s things and be like ‘Oh, my God!’ And I’ll bet Ms. Satterthwaite has the same feeling sometimes, who again, is just a remarkable advisor. But we get these students and we kind of go ‘Oh, my God,’ and they will be incredibly formidable.

EE: Overall, De doesn’t think winning the California Journalist of the Year award is a huge accomplishment, but she does believe that she would not have been able to lead El Estoque effectively or accomplish as much as she did without the support of her co-editors-in-chief Jayanti Jha and Michelle Chen, as well as the rest of the heads team. For her, room A111 is a place where the pressures of school disappear and she and the rest of the staff work towards a goal not because they have to, but because they want to. 

AD: This is like a microcosm of people doing something because they want to do it. Amongst other clubs where it’s constant tournaments and you’re just doing stuff for awards, like – we don’t do stuff for awards and we still win so many awards. But the reason that it’s so valuable to be here is because that’s not why we do it. We do it for a different purpose. 

AD: And that means that like, even if you don’t win something, it doesn’t invalidate what you did. You still made something, and you produced it – who cares if you win Best of SNO after that?  Your story is freakin awesome! People clicked on it! They cared you know, they interacted with the post, and that’s what matters so much more than if some random dude on the Scholastic journalism board thought that you wrote something good.

JS: I think Anushka has developed a stronger sense of herself in her time on El Estoque and just through high school in general – she is more confident. I still see her second-guessing herself every once in a while and just want to shake her and be like, ‘Anushka you got this – be confident because you’re awesome.’ 

JS: Personally, I’m just really proud of El Estoque in general, and Anushka specifically for the way that she has handled, you know, really intense, insurmountable challenges with COVID and remote learning, and still been able to help carry our publication and be able to create exceptional content that sort of keeps our community connected and engaged. I think that speaks volumes to Anushka’s tenacity, and her spirit, and her spunk and her willingness to just really put herself out there to do an exceptional job covering our community for our readers, and I’m really gonna miss her. I always want to keep – I always want to keep them forever.


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