An inside look at Cal Poly’s student activism

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of reporting and scrambling for sources; but already, our group’s dynamic and reporting abilities have strengthened tremendously.

Our group decided to cover Cal Poly’s student activism for our first project; specifically, we wanted to investigate whether or not student activism has increased within the past year. When reaching out to the community, other students, like ourselves, noticed an increase in protests on campus.

“The political climate on campus has changed so much. When I was freshman, I don’t think I ever saw a student protest,” political science senior Hannah Quitugua said. “I feel like everything has really just kind of erupted and people are protesting and becoming a lot more active in that way, which I definitely think is reminiscent to the ‘60s.”

Our group member, Laura Hoover, discussing her broadcast storyboard ideas.
Our group member, Laura Hoover, discussing her broadcast storyboard ideas.

Ideally, we wanted to interview as many student activist groups as possible– like Students for Quality Education (SQE) and Queer Student Union (QSU– along with an administrator, a Women’s & Gender Studies professor, and several student activists.  We began by engaging with these communities via Reddit, Facebook and in person.

We quickly realized however that our story reporting would not go as smoothly as we had thought (but honestly, when is it ever 100% problem-free). Many of the activists groups we wanted to feature in our article did not want to talk to us. They did not like the way Mustang News had covered them in articles in the past, and because of this unexpected obstacle, finding activists that would participate was extremely difficult.

“We had a lot of difficulty with finding sources that were willing to talk to us in the beginning. Although we found an administrator and students to talk to right away, student activists were either unwilling or unresponsive,” Sophia Levin, our multimedia group member said. “In the last few days, we were able to find student activist sources who were willing to do interviews, but it made our story a little more rushed than we might have liked it to be.”

Additionally, the Mustang News article published in Monday’s edition complicated things quite a bit; it ended any hope that the unresponsive student activists groups would contact us. By Wednesday however, we were able to interview both a student activist and the president of Cal Poly Democrats.

President of Cal Poly Democrats Club, senior Liana Riley, presents at their meeting Tuesday morning.
President of Cal Poly Democrats Club, senior Liana Riley, presents at their meeting Tuesday morning.

“Despite difficulty getting in contact with a willing source, my interview with the president of Cal Poly Democrats, Liana Riley, produced the responses I had hoped for,” Laura Hoover, our group member covering the broadcast portion of this project, said. “My video successfully connects Liana’s thoughts on activism, the rise in campus protests in the past year, and footage of recent activist events on and off campus.”

After pushing past these obstacles, our group learned how to handle reporting on sensitive topics, like social justice and student activism. We did not anticipate the topic being as sensitive as it proved to be, but we adjusted to this along the way.

“This story brings up a lot of political and social opinions, which makes things sensitive, especially for interviews. When this is the case, I believe, as a writer, asking the sources general questions helps to avoid feeding into possible biases and feelings,” James Tweet, our group’s editorial reporter, said. “Along with that, I find it key to ask these same general questions to all the sources so that they can all chime in and give different perspectives on one question. By asking these same questions, the themes tend to organically come out of the sources themselves.”

Three weeks into the quarter, we are already becoming better journalists, and we are excited for our next challenge ahead.

Group members, Sophia Levin and James Tweet, working hard to meet our story deadline.
Group members, Sophia Levin and James Tweet, working hard to meet our story deadline.

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