Reading the news is about more than knowing what happened in the last 24 hours — it’s about constantly obtaining new information to update our understanding of the world, politics, economics, society and ourselves. From opting to forgo romaine salad to voting for elected representatives, knowing the facts shapes the way we think, speak and act. In both the capacities of a journalist and an editor-in-chief, my ability to stay up-to-date with community issues is paramount. From sitting in on city council and school board meetings to subscribing to daily email briefings, I look for scoops before they appeared on other publications’ headlines. It takes sleuthing and striving to provide our audience with fresh information — which is why newsgathering is the cornerstone of our production cycle.
In-class News Discussions
As a former news editor, one of my chief responsibilities was leading class news discussions with an eye on story idea generation. To make these traditionally sluggish conversations more efficient, I launched a new brainstorming system based around Padlet, an interactive bulletin board creator (shown below). A few days before our news discussions, I'd share the Padlets with the staff over Slack. Under this new system, writers began jotting their ideas down before we met in class, granting us extra in-class time to discuss the timeliness, local relevance and angles for each news pitch. Though I've long since passed the baton of news editor, it's gratifying to see my successors still using this system and to know I've left behind a lasting bit of infrastructure.
The News Section
Unlike other sections in the magazine, our news editor bears a unique degree of responsibility and autonomy. Not only did I guide writers through the reporting process, I also curated which newsworthy subjects to feature, edited each news story at least five times (or more) until they were sleekly polished, handled the headlines and wrangled the entirety of the section in InDesign. Slide or click through the gallery below to view the final results of the work I've done editing, curating and designing stories as a former news editor for Verde.
Back to the Basics
During my first journalism class, my adviser bequeathed me a "professional" reporter's notebook. Though I've since developed a fondness for digital notetaking, my notebook still remains a faithful interview companion.
Before each interview, I spend upwards of an hour researching my article's subject matter, then my source's background in relation to the topic. Building off contextual data, I'm able to craft questions that are more precise and yield more piquant quotes. Come interview time, I scan through my laundry list of questions, jot the most salient ones down on my notebook, then set my list and laptop aside.
Ultimately, my notes are meant to inform me not confine me and serve as a framework rather than a script. This mentality is what keeps my trusty memo pad from obsoletion. Free from the physical obstruction of a computer and the rigidity of a structured list, my conversations with sources feel more organic, and their soundbites are even juicier as a result.
LEFT — click through the slideshow to preview the interview notes in my earliest reporter's notebook.
CENTER — preliminary interview questions from my summer internship with the Stanford Daily newspaper. This exhaustive list is based on my background research about the Stanford Open Policing Project (read more about it in the "writing" category).
RIGHT — handwritten notes in my notebook showing the truncated questions I actually asked during the interview.
From the Experts
During my internship with the Stanford Daily, one of my beats was covering recent research releases. Rather than merely synthesizing the official report about Stanford's Open Policing Project, I sought out its main researchers and advising professors to hear directly from these expert sources. In doing so, not only was I better able to understand the three different statistical tests they used to assess for discrimination in police traffic stops, I was also able to augment the story by incorporating quotes about their mission of making data accessible to the public. Read my piece here.
Shown to the right is the text of the article; expert attributions are highlighted in teal and salient quotes in yellow.
Alum recounts reporting from the eye of Hurricane Harvey
Weeks after Hurricane Harvey, Palo Alto High School alum and broadcast journalist Wes Rapaport returned to his alma mater to recount what it was like to report from the eye of a storm. I sat in on the talk, followed up with Rapaport afterward to ask additional questions and even secured an on-the-go interview with Wes's father, a Paly history teacher, as he power-walked between classes. To add dimension to the news piece, I asked them about Wes's growth as a Paly student journalist, how the lessons he learned here aided him years later in disaster reporting and what it was like for Wes's father when his son was unreachable for nine hours during the storm. I had the story published within a day accompanied by a Facebook live stream of the talk. Read it here.
Paly alum and professional reporter Wes Rapaport narrates his journey in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. "Not every story is going to be fun, but understand what you’re doing and make a difference,” Rapaport said.
Local and National Daily Briefings
While they're no substitute for an ear to the ground, email briefings send valuable syntheses of current local and global affairs directly to my email inbox. Whether it's the City of Palo Alto Weekly Bulletin, Stanford Daily updates, the Mercury News Morning Report, NYT daily headlines, The Economist's Daily Dispatch or other newsletters, these bite-sized updates keep me in sync with the world around me.