In March, I applied to attend Newsroom by the Bay (NBTB) summer program at Stanford. Fortunately, I was one of 27 students accepted to the camp in June. This week-long journalism program was a life-changing experience. I honestly cannot say this about any other camp I've ever been to, but I can proclaim this with no doubt in my mind about NBTB.
Run by Urban School journalism teacher Beatrice Motamedi and Paly Voice advisor Paul Kandell, both award-winning published journalists, NBTB stresses journalism and digital media connections. Numerous guest speakers taught us reporting basics, stories of libel and ethics in journalism, how to create our own digital footprints, and about their own editorial experiences. Undoubtedly, our most distinctive speaker was 2013 Literary Fiction Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master's Son. We also attended presentations given by reps from Twitter, Storify, Flipboard, Policito.com and the San Francisco Chronicle op-ed editor.
Not only did I learn an incredible quantity of material from these remarkable presenters, but to say I went into Twitter HQ, the SF Chronicle newsroom, and various Silicon Valley companies' main offices?
And, of course, that I met a Pulitzer Prize winner at age 15? That is priceless. However, there was one great journalism experience that I'll truly remember forever.
I attended NBTB on the week of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruling. Living near San Francisco, this is a huge talking point for a fair percentage of Bay Area inhabitants. And, miraculously, the Year 1 students were already scheduled to take a field trip into San Francisco on the day of the DOMA ruling.
There were 60 students in the Year 1 program, and I was one of 17 in the Year 2 program. We decided to make this the ultimate newsroom experience that day. As 60 student journalists roamed the city on the day of the DOMA ruling, 17 of us acted as editors in a real-life newsroom. Just 12 hours before the news broke on Wednesday, we spent Tuesday night creating a website, appropriately titled 1 Day, 1 Story, using a Wordpress account.
We gave ourselves positions; I was the main photo editor. We had certain people going around Stanford campus to take video of DOMA ruling reactions, people writing stories, people patrolling Twitter and Facebook to get word out of our website. Being photo editor, I had 60 people texting, emailing, and Facebook messaging me photos taken in the city of the colorful celebrations and reactions. As one could guess, my phone was blowing up the entire day.
Our website attracted attention across the nation, even the globe. I'm not exaggerating one bit. According to the website's statistics, we had visitors from Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. I managed to get HuffPost Teen to retweet my link (thanks, guys!) and one of our counselors told us that a rep from CNN had seen the site and notified us.
We were in the big leagues now.
The next day, I was pulled out of our Stanford design school tour to be interviewed for the Palo Alto Weekly along with a few of my fellow editors. To be interviewed instead of doing the interviewing? That was pretty cool, to say the least.
Throughout the day of the DOMA ruling, there was one moment that will stick with me for as long as I live.Around 11 a.m., when we had already been working for around four hours straight, fueled by energy drinks and a newsroom high, someone put their iPod into a pair of speakers. The song? Macklemore's "Same Love," which was written to show his support for gay marriage.
Everyone became silent for a second, realizing that this was rather emblematic for our purpose today. A few people smiled; some went back to work. But I'd say in that moment, we were connected by something bigger than us, something going on right now that was huge. I'll never forget it.
Please visit 1day1story.newsroombythebay.com for everything we worked on that day.