The Future of safety: Current Solutions


When we began this project, we started by researching for a story about safety on and off campus in San Luis Obispo. I reached out to multiple students, professors and community members. And on social media, I posted on Reddit,  Facebook and Twitter.  I felt I had the most luck on Facebook, where I could fine-tune my questions toward specific demographics by posting them in specific Facebook groups, like SLO Solidarity and the Cal Poly Parents page. On Twitter I felt I didn’t have a great reach because of my history of inactivity on my Twitter account. As for Reddit, I was a new user and posted in the Cal Poly subreddit. I fount the results posted by users to be largely sophomoric and I got minimal feedback.

What we found was that this topic was broad. It was hard to nail down one angle we wanted to take, we had too many sources to keep track of and it was a lot to include in one piece. Unfortunately on my part, because we decided to change our angle, most of the preliminary research  became irrelevant.

But we met with our first source, the team behind Current Solutions. After a great interview, we decided that it was a better idea to focus the story completely on Current Solutions. In the end, I’m glad we changed the topic to present a more effective and focused story.

“When we first began this project, I wasn’t necessarily sure what direction we were taking, but as we began to interview our sources the story almost began to write itself.” – Alison Stauf

This was a student-founded Cal Poly group that aims to decrease sexual assault and violence against women. We decided we would talk to multiple members of the group, as well as those that may be affected by it. Alison Stauf said that our delay in focusing our story was frustrating at first, but then became easy once we talked with Current Solutions members.

“When we first began this project, I wasn’t necessarily sure what direction we were taking,” Stauf said. “But as we began to interview our sources the story almost began to write itself.”

Following up

Our next steps from here were delving deeper into Current Solutions. How do they work and where are they in their app development? We learned about how the team members met and that they were inspired to take action when they realized many of their female friends were scared to walk home at night. We met with cofounders Maxwell Fong and Elan Timmons who were shocked when they heard their friends’ stories.

“We actually started talking to our friends and we were like wait, ‘you’re scared when you walk home at night, what?” industrial technology senior Elan Timmons said.


“It was cool to see them in their own element, and see how many successful businesses can really start from a small office space above Ross.” – Monica Roos

We also interviewed other members of the team who helped work at the Hothouse as well as a Brand Ambassador for Current Solutions.  The app works by alerting others who have the app that someone you know is in danger. Along with that, you can enable the app to turn on your flashlight and video camera to alert others of your location/record any evidence.


Monica Roos said she was impressed with the members work morale and progress.

“It was cool to see them in their own element, and see how many successful businesses can really start from a small office space above Ross.”

The Background

The next component of this story that was important to include was some background on sexual assault and safety in general. This was particularly important for Monica’s part in multimedia as she wanted to find a way to visualize some of the statistics. We reached out to UPD and SLOPD for any possible affiliation with Current Solutions, as the app features an ability to alert the police. SLOPD wasn’t particularly helpful in that regard and weren’t very involved with Current Solutions and UPD told us they wouldn’t be able to meet with us during the first or second week, which was unfortunate.

The Human Aspect

Our last piece of the puzzle was finding the human component to give this story an emotional connection. We reached out to Megan Knudsen, a student who reached out to Current Solutions to tell her sexual assault story.


This was particularly eye-opening for us because of how brave Megan had to be to come to Current Solutions with her story. Savannah Sperry said she was inspired by Megan’s story.

“I was impressed with the maturity she had and how she spoke about her story,” Sperry said. “She was very friendly and open to answering any questions, even if they were difficult to discuss.”


With this information, we were able to tell the story of Current Solutions and those who have become involved with it. Doing this story was a new experience and exciting to see how a student group followed a cause and succeeded in taking action.

Beneath the Sun: What you need to know about skin cancer in SLO

Journalism student Clara Knapp enjoying the sunny SLO outdoors
Journalism student Clara Knapp enjoying the sunny SLO outdoors

It has been raining more than usual lately in San Luis Obispo, so when a few days of sunshine finally came around, my senior project team was only thinking about one thing: tanning.  It’s a favorite Cal Poly           student pastime, and why shouldn’t it be? Cal Poly has an outdoorsy culture that encourages people to have a “healthy” tan, and spending time hanging out in the sunshine at the pool or beach with friends is easy at our campus.

But what about all the things people don’t like to think about when it comes to fun in the sun? Things like skin cancer, wrinkles, sun spots and aging. And, of course, putting on sunscreen. As college students, even though we know the risks of sun exposure, we think sunscreen makes tanning impossible, we forget to put it on… or we’re simply too lazy. Realizing that this could potentially have far-reaching effects on skin gave birth to the concept behind our story: discovering the true risks of sun exposure for people our age, and the effects it may have later on in life.

Getting Started

Our senior project team of four worked to bring all the pieces together: Maggie Hitchings working on the print version, Allison Royal covering multimedia, Barbara Levin featuring a Cal Poly student with skin cancer in a broadcast piece, and myself (Clara Knapp) coordinating the project in a PR role.

I thought this was a tough yet exciting topic to cover. It was a tough topic to cover because everyone knows that it’s bad to not wear sunscreen, but everyone ignores it. Finding a different and intriguing angle was the first challenge but once we gathered our sources we were able to tackle the topic.                    – Barbara Levin

Day one of the project, I posted on social media to get some opinions from the community on what exactly they would like to learn from a story on this topic. I posted on my personal Facebook page, a Cal Poly Facebook page and on Twitter, and was excited to receive feedback from a wide range of people, and even the Olay Skin company! I also posted on Instagram, and received helpful questions from students at Cal Poly – this was a great way to engage with potential readers.

Posting on Instagram helped engage Cal Poly students in the reporting process.

These social media responses were able to give us some direction once we contacted our sources and had all the interviews lined up.

Finding the Facts

As a team, were able to talk to a wide range of people with knowledge about sun exposure, skin cancer and skincare. Our sources included a tanning salon employee, a microbiologist who does research on UVA and UVB rays, and a Cal Poly student who struggles with skin cancer.

Going into our story I was a little lost on what the angle was going to be. I was getting stressed out that our story wasn’t going to be interesting enough or informative past what people already know about sun protection. However, after attending the interviews I gained so much insight on both the scientific side, from Dr. Fidopiastis, and emotional side, from Monica, about skin cancer. The story really came together and I think it will be informative for students and hopefully scare some people into wearing sunscreen and protecting themselves!           – Maggie Hitchings

Casey Handcock, employee at Planet Beach Tanning & Spa
Casey Handcock, employee at Planet Beach Tanning & Spa

Attending these interviews taught me things about sun and UV exposure that surprised me. Casey Handcock, a Cal Poly civil engineering major and tanning salon employee, told me that some of her clients have been prescribed tanning by doctors in order to treat spider veins, Vitamin D deficiency,  and other skin conditions such as acne.

Allison Royal Interviewing Planet Beach employee Casey Handcock
Allison Royal Interviewing Planet Beach employee Casey Handcock
I was surprised to hear that doctors prescribe tanning to patients because of controversy about the health and safety of tanning beds, but apparently this practice is widespread enough that it has gotten the attention of the media.

“My favorite part of the project was interviewing Casey. She explained tanning like donuts – if you have a donut here and there in moderation, you’re okay. If you have 20 donuts and eat them everyday, that’s unhealthy.”
– Allison Royal

However, other sources we talked to warned against intentionally exposing yourself to UV rays.
According to Cal Poly Biology professor Dr. Pat Fidopiastis, being exposed to the sun without protection is never safe. He suggested using sunscreen and wearing tightly woven clothing, even when it is cloudy. This is because some sun rays, especially UVA, are highly penetrating, can pass through clothing and cause skin damage below the surface. These rays are largely responsible for cancer deep in the skin that can spread to other areas of the body. Conversely, UVB rays are largely associated with tanning, skin again and wrinkles.

Gaining a New Perspective

Interviewing Cal Poly Journalism major Monica Roos helped us understand the gravity of skin cancer, and that it doesn’t just affect older people. Skin cancer is scary and can dramatically affect your lifestyle.

People need to realize that it isn’t always “just a mole” and there really is no such thing as “a healthy tan.” The research shows that skin cancer is extremely common and can be devastating, even for people in college.

Through the process of completing this story, my senior project team learned the facts about skin cancer and the risk it poses for college students, but we also gained a new perspective on the care we should be taking  to preserve our own bodies and keep them healthy for decades to come. We’re all guilty of spending time in the San Luis Obispo sun without protection, but it’s time to wake up and think about the consequences.

This topic was a reminder that there are lasting impacts to such decision and we were lucky enough to gather valuable sources such as Monica Roos who have a first-hand experience on the damages that the sun can do to you. I really learned about the consequences that just a few sunburns can do to you and think this will impact my decisions of being outside and protecting myself everyday. – Barbara Levin

The CDC provides tips for how you can protect yourself from harmful rays while still enjoying the San Luis Obispo sun. Needless to say, the first thing on my shopping list this week is a big bottle of good, full-coverage sunscreen.

Beyond the Byline: The Game of Instafame

The Student-Journalist Dichotomy

Our public relations specialist, @valleyally , searching instagram for #instafamous students
Our public relations specialist, @valleyally , searching instagram for #instafamous students

Being a student-journalist is a fascinating dichotomy. You are essentially reporting on yourself. You both report on the news and are an integral part of making it.

For example, tuition at Cal Poly is approximately $3,000 per quarter. We uncovered that some fellow students receive $3,000 every time they post a shoutout on Instagram. We could not help but relate to our interviewees, our fellow students, our peers here – as some of us work side jobs and take out loans to finance our education, and our subjects pay for similar lives with a single Instagram post. Forget reporting on these people – a part of us wishes we were these people.


Our Interviewee, @itsmandarinn

The Instagram Inspiration

Our multimedia specialist, Maggie Hitchings, completed a project on instafame back in the day that left her with remaining unanswered questions. There was more to the tech-savvy story, and it was time for us to dig deeper and see how instafame and Cal Poly fit together.

“I had a good amount of knowledge about the concept of making money off your Instagram after doing that story, but I was surprised how easy it was to find sources for this topic!” said Hitchings.  “I’m sure there are countless more people who have established instagram fame at Cal Poly that we still don’t know of.”

Barbara Levin, our editorial specialist, is from Denmark, and has seen the popularity of Instagram increase both in Europe and the United States as time progresses.

@valleyally researching and reaching out to various sources in the community
@valleyally researching and reaching out to various sources in the community

“Our group got inspired by the rise in popularity of Instagram and how personal account are turning them into a business and making a profit from their interest or passion such as modeling or living healthy,” said Levin.

Coverage: The Right Angle

After doing a preliminary engagement report, I soon realized that our topic was multifaceted and that we could probably do an hour-long documentary with a lengthy ten page spread on Instafame if we so pleased. As enticing as that sounds, we agreed as a team to narrow the scope to the business aspect of instafame, something we could notshake and knew Cal Poly readers would drool over and likely implicate in their lives.

“I had challenges with choosing what style of writing I wanted the editorial part of the story to be. There are many angles that I could’ve taken but I wanted to cover the general idea of what Instafamous is and how much work people put into it. Specifically, Cal Poly students,” said Levin.

Hitchings consistently kept the readers’ interests in mind.

Our broadcast reporter, Clara Knapp, and our Public Relations Specialist, Allison Royal, were interviewed by Peter Gonzalez and Megan Schelling (pictured) on 91.3 KCPR about their project.
Our broadcast reporter, Clara Knapp, and our Public Relations Specialist, Allison Royal, were interviewed by Peter Gonzalez and Megan Schelling (pictured) on 91.3 KCPR about their project.

“I am glad we took the angle of making money off your instagram, as I find this is what students will find the most interesting and be most curious about. A lot of people don’t care about instagram fame, and may even be annoyed about the whole concept, so taking the angle of how college students can make money off of their instagram accounts was a smart move by us,” said Hitchings.

Our broadcast reporter, Clara Knapp, captured the economic empathy associated with the story in her creative interview.

“I think that this project was a super cool idea because everyone is looking for ways to make money while in school, and it is such a simple and easy way to do it – it definitely breaks the confines of what you would normally expect from a part-time job” said Knapp.

Fresh Findings

We searched all corners of the internet and campus for a variety of instafamous students. We wanted people that were instafamous for different reasons – whether it be for the tofu-happy vegan food blogger or an Instagram worth double-tapping for the pictures of the girl drinking a margarita on the beach in a designer bikini. As the project’s public relations chair, if you go to Cal Poly and are even remotely instafamous, trust me, I found you, messaged you, sent a carrier pigeon to your house, etc.

Our group met up for editorial meetings at Scout Coffee, where Barbara Levin ironically instagrammed the meeting.
Our group met up for editorial meetings at Scout Coffee, where Barbara Levin ironically instagrammed the meeting.

“I liked the similarities and differences that each interviewee had to say,” said Levin. “They all talked about personal branding but their views of themselves and their brands all differed which was really cool to see. It showed that there isn’t just one path to becoming instafamous and that everyone takes their own route according to their own brand.”

Final Thoughts

In the end, we found the underlying commonalities and differences between all these instafamous peers of ours. We captured these local media moguls and humanized them so that readers relate to them as fellow Cal Poly students. Additionally, our piece provides applicable information as to how to brand yourself on social media and profit from it. One big takeaway is that instafame is not effortlessly achieved through a single sunset photo on Instagram. As most rewarding aspects of life do, it takes dedication.

One of our interviewees, Katie Postl, a recent Animal Science graduate, receives from double-taps on her Instagram posts than most of us ever will, but it isn’t exactly easy money.

@katiepostl one of our interviewees
@katiepostl one of our interviewees

“I don’t think people realize that me posting one picture is not like I’m quickly selecting one photo and caption.  I have a list of captions that I wrote down months ago that I haven’t used,” Postl said. “I have to send my edited pictures to so many people before I post it and I have to get captions approved by the company before I post the photo. It’s a lot of work to post a single picture.”

“I think that this project definitely showed a fun and interesting side of social media that many people don’t really think about or notice, even though it is all around them. Hopefully people can use some of the tips and tricks in our story to build their own social media platform and make some mula,” said Knapp.

Blog Post by Allison Royal.

Behind the Story: How the Issue of Disability on Campus Transpired


signlanguageeditWhen finding a good story to write about, a reporter who chooses to have a voice for those who need to be heard has the ability to make people think about what they’ve read. In order to ignite some kind of change, whether through action or just by making the reader think about the issue at hand, good reporting and representation across different journalistic platforms can only enhance the story and truly engage the audience.

How the Project Started

As print team member Olivia Doty sat in class with her colleagues, she mentioned an idea that everyone thought was worth investigating.

The idea had been mentioned to her editor over at Mustang News and they thought it was a good one: this project had the potential to be published in the campus newspaper about a pressing issue that is affecting a group of people everyday. Olivia set up interviews with students and the DRC, and began piecing together a piece of work that would hopefully inspire the campus to be more inclusive of different students.

In her experience reporting, Olivia says:

“Disabilities are just different abilities. No dis. We all have different experiences and perspectives and they all matter. Interviewing a deaf student who was such a driven and happy-go-lucky person really highlighted that for me and I hope to spread that ideal everywhere I go.” 

Gathering Data

How did the issue come about? The need to investigate and report on this story primarily encompassed the fact that little to no information is really known about what it’s like to be a student with a disability. In 2011, it was reported that 11.1 percent of college students have a disability . The majority of the student body is not aware of the additional hardships disabled students must endure when pursuing a higher education.

Multimedia team member Julia Morris worked on a visual representation of just how many campuses actually taught ASL, or American Sign Language Classes. Cal Poly is not one of them.


“After talking to Arielle and doing research on the CSU system, I found that Cal Poly is one of the few CSU campuses that doesn’t offer ASL classes and I think we should. ASL is a real language and if more people were familiar with it, I think we could be more inclusive to the deaf community”, said Julia. 

Finding Sources

The difficulty with writing stories about people who are a minority, a reason why they need to be written about the most, is finding the sources who are willing to speak up and be personal about the issue at hand.

Along with students not being aware or understanding how to be supportive, students with disabilities, and often hidden disabilities like dyslexia or deafness – choose not to disclose their disability.

When interviewing Arielle Dubowe, a senior studying agricultural communications, her kindness and positive attitude offered insight into how being hard of hearing has not brought her down but has made her a stronger individual.


Julia recalls:

“I was pleasantly surprised that Arielle was so open about her experience and didn’t view her deafness as hindering her from doing anything hearing people can do.” 

ASL is a real language a real culture

What Can We Do?

In an article titled ““Taking Nothing for Granted” , 3 students with physical disabilities are chronicled and give insight into their experience in college – especially with their campuses and ways they can improve to make it a more accommodating and inclusive place.

Interviewing Arielle helped us understand that it is not a disability – it is part of her and makes her who she is.

“There’s nothing different about us. We’re just like you.” 

Volunteer services and support are offered at Cal Poly’s Students Supporting People with Disabilities Program.  This is just one of the efforts we can put forth on our campus to make it a more inclusive community.

“Disabilities are just different abilities. No dis. We all have different experiences and perspectives and they all matter. Interviewing a deaf student who was such a driven and happy-go-lucky person really highlighted that for me and I hope to spread that ideal everywhere I go”, Olivia said.

Behind the Story: How Student-Parents Do it All

As soon as Olivia Proffit suggested covering a story about college students raising kids, the energy in the room started buzzing.

“Good,” I thought as our group of reporters began assessing how to break down such an expansive topic. “This is the kind of story that needs to be told.” Proffit and I, along with our group members Peter Gonzalez and Madison Agatha-Mancebo, knew we had touched upon a subject we could delve deep into.

Cal Poly students who are also parents are hardly discussed within the context of the student body (they’re not mentioned on the diversity homepage). Though there aren’t many, they are here, and they’re working twice as hard for twice as much – not just a degree, but a degree to support a family with. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, over a quarter of the nation’s undergraduate students are raising children.

To start tackling this project, I first reached out to different members of the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo communities. I wanted to hear their opinions, their expertise and their questions on the subject before we dove into our reporting.

For the most part, nobody that I talked to came into much contact with student parents. I spoke with three freshmen who had never thought once thought about there being students on campus who are also parents. When I asked a few San Luis Obispo residents if they knew much about students being parents, they didn’t have much to offer, either, and the professor that I spoke with had never taught a student-parent before.

These sources did, however, give us some direction for our reporting: they wanted to know how these student-parents balance their time, how they manage to do in school, how many of them are at Cal Poly. With a better sense of guidance for the story, we got to work finding sources.

There are different types of student-parents. There are those who are returning students, well into their twenties or thirties, who’ve been raising their families for a few years. There are also those who entered college without kids but became parents along the way. Each has a different story to tell.

“It’s important for the story to be shared, and for campuses like Cal Poly to recognize the population of their student body who are parents.” – Melinda Radsliff, psychology student and single mom

Our first interview was with Melinda Radsliff, a transfer student in her second year studying child development. She’s a 32-year old returning student and a single mom. She explained how she balances taking care of her three-year-old daughter, Evelyn, with going to school, and how she pays for it all (mostly through student loans).Melinda edited-11

“The support for students with children who want to finish an upper level college degree is severely lacking,” Radsliff told us. “So it’s important for the story to be shared, and for campuses like Cal Poly to recognize the population of their student body who are parents.”

Radsliff was the subject for Gonzalez’s video, in which he filmed an interview with and then her dropping Evelyn off at the ASI Children’s Center.

“I think that the initial storyboarding gave me a foundation for creating the video,” Gonzalez said. “Having footage from the sit-down interview and the morning with Melinda helped create a fuller story.”


We then talked to Elizabeth Barrett, a psychology professor, to gain a better understanding of the stressors that are involved with parenting and going to school at the same time. She said that trying to meet the physical and emotional demands of a child while trying to stay on top of school work can often lead to problems, especially if with single parents.

Parents are often so focused on trying to create a better life for their child in the future, she said, without realizing that they’re missing out on the present. That can lead to loneliness and behavioral disorders in children.
For the most part, the parents we talked to have gotten a good grasp on balancing school and family, but not without rigorous scheduling. Hallelujah Adams, a married mother of two and psychology student, said that 70% of her time is dedicated to school – the rest is divvied up for family time and sleep.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 10.43.49 PM
Radsliff reads to Evelyn at the ASI Children’s Center before dropping her off for the day.

“School for me is my thing and that takes so much time already that all the other stuff just [doesn’t take priority],” said Adams.

Our multimedia reporter, Agatha-Mancebo, asked all her sources about how they split their time between work, school, family and other functions of life. Her graphic displays how a typical Cal Poly student with a job versus Cal Poly student-parent split up their time every day.

“I was shocked and inspired by our interviews with the different parents,” she said. “I didn’t necessarily have any predisposed opinions, but when I got to meet both mothers I felt so inspired by what they have accomplished all while raising children.”

Proffit also spoke with a student who got pregnant as a Cal Poly freshman, who became the main source for the story. She had the most interesting and unique perspective of the parents we talked to.  But when Proffit talked to the director of the ASI Children’s Center, she couldn’t quite get the data on student-parents she was looking for.

“I had to learn to be flexible when my story idea didn’t quite pan out how I thought it would,” Proffit said. “I struggled to find interesting sources and solid data.”

Despite the few twists and turns in the reporting process, we got a good glimpse into the day-to-day life of a parent who is also going to school, and overall, it’s important that those stories are told.

Behind Meeting SLO City Councilman, Aaron Gomez

Our Last Topic

Out of all the groups, ours has always had the most difficulty coming up with story ideas. We decided to fall back on to something that we were familiar with: local politics. After covering the San Luis Obispo Mayoral race we all had a newfound interest in the politics of our college town. This time we focused on Aaron Gomez, SLO’s young, new and cute City Councilman.



Luck for us we easily contacted Aaron’s campaign event coordinator, Tyson Maulhardt, after getting his phone number from our instructor. I called Tyson and we set up an interview with him and Aaron for Friday morning at the coffee shop Kreuzbergs downtown.

We interviewed Tyson first while we waited for Aaron to arrive from a meeting. He was young, energetic and excited for the interview. Dani started off by asking him about why Aaron got involved in local politics and their campaign. Then Caitlyn asked about what events they did for the campaign and what events they are planning for while Aaron is in office. Tyson left for another meeting when Aaron arrived. Maddie set him up with a lav mic and we hit the ground running with all of us asking questions. It felt more like a conversation than an interview.


img_9346Aaron was nothing like I expected. Being under forty and already getting a jump on his political career I expected him to be outgoing and overly ambitious, trying to prove himself. Instead he was calm and quiet. He listened intently to our questions and never interrupted us. When he answered his answers we long and elegant.

The best way to explain his views is that he looks at everything as a big picture. He doesn’t get hung up on little problems, instead he sees how everything is connected. A great example of this is when we asked him about the SLO housing crisis and his thoughts about the push for more on campus housing.

“It’s not that students are the issue — it’s the fact that we ourselves, as a city, have not grown either. We’re trying to put more and more people into the same areas. It will help having more on-campus housing, but Cal Poly isn’t the problem. Everybody has grown and we haven’t built housing to accommodate that growth on any standpoint,” Aaron said.

This is such a different approach to the housing crisis than Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx gave us. They told us they want to work with Cal Poly to build more on campus housing and put students on campus. Aaron takes a different stance seeing that the student population isn’t the only problem.

After the interview Caitlyn, Dani, Maddie, and I walked down to Aaron’s small jewelry store The Golden Concept to see his business. We met his brother who was working on jewelry and talk to the sales associate about Aaron’s dad founding the store and coming up with the name.

Bump in the Road

The only problem we experienced was when Maddie discovered on Monday that her SD card broke and she lost all of her footage from the interview. I quickly texted Aaron and explained the situation and he was happy to sit for another interview. Because Maddie only need to make a couple minute video we didn’t need to keep him for long. They met again at Kreuzbergs for 15 minutes and the problem was solved.


“I really loved meeting Aaron and getting to hear his views on everything from the housing crisis to sustainability. He is a very interesting person and I felt like I could keep talking to him and asking questions for hours. The fact that he has grown up here and seen the city change is really beneficial and made him knowledgeable about SLO in a way that someone who hasn’t lived here their whole life can never be.” -Katie Stark

“I have never used or even heard of Thinglink before this quarter, so it was cool to learn how to use it and apply it to multimedia journalism. It was a fun component to create for this story because I got to talk to a lot of people in SLO who work for small businesses and hear what they think of Aaron Gomez. It was also really great talking to Aaron because he cares so much about SLO and he is very genuine. I know he will do great things for the city!” -Caitlyn Clausen

“I’m really happy our group chose to report on our local government this quarter. It was a great experience meeting and learning from various candidates– even voting in SLO’s election. I feel closer to my community!” -Dani Orlandi

“I definitely have the least amount of experience in broadcast so I struggled with this section the most. I also had some really bad luck with my SD card. We had a great interview with Aaron Friday after being assigned the story and when I went to go edit it on Monday I found out the microSd card was snapped in half and all of my video was deleted. Luckily I was able to reschedule a reshoot but it was hard because Aaron would give me incomplete answers to my questions since he had already answered them before.” -Maddie Reid

Behind the Scenes: Cambria Christmas Market

            There are many holiday events that go on in San Luis Obispo and surrounding areas. One such event is the Cambria Christmas Market. It is styled after the infamous European style markets. A local Cambria business owner, Dirk Winter, loved the German and Austrian style of the markets so much that he thought something

Market Coordinator, George Marshall talks about what the market has done for Cambria
Market Coordinator, George Marschall, talks about what the market has done for Cambria

like them would do well in Cambria.

            George Marschall, one of the market coordinators, also added “Our town is very quiet  from Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. So we wanted to bring more tourism here. And one thing Americans like is Christmas lights.”

            For Journalism 462, Team One and Done decided to learn more about the market and spread the word about it to the Cal Poly community. It is an event that the entire group had either been to already or was planning to visit this year. Originally, we wanted to do the project on more than one event going on for the holidays, but with a looming deadline, it seemed like it would be a better and more efficient story to just focus on one event and cover it really well. We settled on the Cambria Christmas Market.

The group talks about which topic they would like to cover
The group talks about which topic they would like to cover

Immediately, we began reaching out to people that worked at the market. For myself, as the public relations group member, I had the most work in the first few days of the project. I began posting on social media to see what the Cal Poly community would be most interested in. I then reached out to Mike Arnold, one of the market coordinators. He and the other coordinator, George Marschall, were extremely helpful in setting up interviews, as well as giving the group a lot of details about the market.

The entire group found this to be a rewarding topic to work on, as well as a fun ending to the class.

“I had a lot of fun on this last project. I had never been to the Cambria Christmas Market before and it was really cool. The workers and owner were really nice and talkative, so it made writing the story more enjoyable and a lot easier,” said Rachel Furtado, the group member that worked on the print portion of the project.

The group made the trip out to Cambria to visit the market first hand and were able to see the millions of lights they have on display, as well as sample some of the traditional market goods, such as brats and gluhwein (hot spiced wine).  At the market, the team was also able to speak with the people who work there and run it.


“I loved doing the broadcast portion of this project. My specialty is video, so it was a great opportunity. I found no challenges to the process. It was extremely rewarding interviewing different people about their part in the Christmas Market, because they were beaming with satisfaction. I wouldn’t have done anything different and loved every step of the process,” said Demi Castanon, the broadcast member of the group.

Trevor Melody, the second print team member, even described the market as a miracle, as he was able to save his story and interview the founder of the event at the market.

“I struggled with this story all week. My sources fell through when I emailed them and so I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do the profile on Dirk. I then was going to switch to doing a story about more of a student perspective of the Cambria Christmas Market, but a Christmas miracle happened and Dirk and his daughter finally got back to me,” said Melody.

This story will definitely translate beautifully through all of the platforms as the print will be full of great information given to the team by talkative and charismatic sources and the broadcast and multimedia portions are bound to be stunning with images of the beautiful lights.

“I really enjoyed doing the multimedia portion of this story, because I was able to tell a story visually. I had a lot of fun working with my team,” said Amanda Fridley, the multimedia member of the group.

This project was a great ending to our work as a team and we all believe it will turn out beautifully. We were able to capture some great images and talk to some wonderful people. It was a rewarding topic and was also a fun one to cover as well.

Highlighting a Campus Gem – The Poly Plant Shop

The first three stories that my group did were feel-good stories. We started with the transition of alcohol being allowed on campus, then second, covered how Cal Poly grads are affecting the local community, and our last story covered a student who runs a local phone repair business. We stuck to a rule set early on that we wanted to do stories that highlight positive events. We believe we continued that trend with our final story, covering Cal Poly’s Poly Plant Shop.

Katlyn capturing students putting together bouquets in the shop.
Katelyn capturing students putting together bouquets in the shop.

The idea came about after we spent a day in class brainstorming. We knew we didn’t really want to do a story having to do with campus administration, because that was similar to our Mustang Station story. This knocked off our idea of going behind the scenes into the food trucks on campus. After brainstorming further, we agreed that we all liked the idea of covering the Poly Plant Shop. It was current, because they were getting ready for their Christmas sale, and it seemed interesting to all of us. Most of all, none of us really knew about it ourselves, and we were eager to learn more.

“I didn’t know about this gem on campus, and it was really cool to learn more about the Poly Plant shop and the variety of things it has to offer for students and community members.”

– Arinee Rahman

To attempt to get in touch with the owners, I first took a look at the Poly Plant Shop website.  This got me in touch with  Melinda Lynch, who informed me that the shop is run by herself, along with Alleen Texeira and Chris Wassenberg, who are faculty and staff in the Horticulture and Crop Science department. We set up a time for our whole team to meet with Melinda later that week. Our group also met with Professor Virginia Walter, who has a ton of experience in flower design and horticulture.

“I have over 40 years of experience in this operation, providing fresh flowers and plants for sales there.”

-Virginia Walter

 Going to the Plant Shop for the first time to meet with Melinda was a very interesting experience.

The shop lies at the end of Via Carta road, where we had all been before. However, none of us realized that there was a plant shop there.

Map to the Poly Plant Shop, provided by the shop's website.
Map to the Poly Plant Shop, provided by the shop’s website.

We got to the shop a bit early, so had some time to explore the grounds and what the shop has to offer. I, along with the rest of my team members we very impressed with the wide array of flowers and plants that the shop offers, as well as how festive it looks. It immediately got us more excited to do the story and learn more.

“I had never actually been to the plant shop before, but had heard of it. After my first visit, I just wanted to keep coming back.”

– Katelyn Piziali

Melinda  proceeded to show us around the shop, and then took us back where they grow all of the plants, which none of us expected would be so elaborate.

Melinda describes to the gorup what happens in the foliage production house.
Melinda describing to the group what happens in the foliage production house.

What we found that makes this story current is that the shop was getting ready for their big Christmas sale which would be in a couple days. The shop sells poinsettias of all colors during the holidays, and the store is jammed during the opening Friday of the sale. Since not many students really know about the shop from what we gathered, the sale is mostly catered to community members who have been coming to the shop for years.

Preparing for the holiday sale!
Preparing for the holiday sale!

What Melinda really stressed to us is that the purpose of the shop isn’t to undermine other flower and plant shops in the community. But rather, it is a means for students who work there to gain experience in the field. I almost thought that it would be cool to work there myself. Spending your days surrounded by flowers and holiday cheer doesn’t sound too bad. But Melinda described further the process of apply to work there, which is actually quite lengthy. But when they do get the job, students gain great experience in horticulture, flower design, among other skills.

“It was interesting hearing about how the Plant Shop has been a way for students of all fields of study, not just Horticulture students, to apply what they learn in class into real world skills.”

– Avrah Baum

While the shop is run very efficiently and looks great, the only recommendation our group could provide would be to upgrade their social media a bit. It seems a little dated, and in this age social media is a key component to running an affective business plan. At the end of the day, we were all very happy to have landed on this topic for our final project. Some of us even learned some new skills ourselves!

“It was my first time working with a GoPro, which was a fun experience.”

-Brittany Tesmer

Behind the Scenes: Organic vs. Conventional Food

How the Idea Came to Be

Once again, our group had some trouble thinking of a story topic. The first idea we pondered on for awhile was a feature on Heart Castle. However, we came to the conclusion that there is no newsworthy aspect to this story idea, nor could we relate it to Cal Poly in any way. Not only that, but it would have been nearly impossible to talk to someone in the Hearst family.

So, we ditched that idea.

As the end of our class period was fast approaching, we came up with the idea of organic versus conventional food. Neither Katie, Maddie, Dani, nor myself really knew much about organic food. Our main question was this: 

Is organic food really better than conventional food?

We did not know the answer and we figured a lot of the student community probably does not either. With that, our story was born. By the end of class, Maddie’s print article, Dani’s multimedia piece, and Katie’s video all had a general direction that they were headed in.

Getting the Details

As soon as we figured out what story idea we were going to roll with, we instantly knew what sources we wanted to track down. We thought of students, faculty, and community members that would able to give us the answers we were looking for. We ultimately decided on: Megan Coats, Registered Dietitian for Campus Dining; Dr. J. Scott Vernon, agricultural communications professor; and Rachel Del Toro-Gipson, senior nutrition major.

Maddie, Dani, and I met with Rachel early Friday morning in the UU to talk organic and healthy food.

Our student source, Rachel, has a food blog called Viva La Veganista, which is dedicated to her vegan and healthy lifestyle. Being the first person we interviewed, she was able to give us many details about organic and healthy food that we did not know before. As a result, she also set the stage for what direction Maddie wanted to go in for her print piece and what questions she would ask Dr. Vernon and Megan.

Next was Megan. It was a bit touch and go when it came to scheduling an interview. She is a key part of our story and it would have been difficult without her. In the end, it was smooth sailing once I finally got a definitive answer that the interview was on for Monday afternoon.

Megan’s basket of stress balls and trinkets from conventions in her office.
Katie and Megan discussing how organic food compares to conventional food.

We all met in her office and sat down at a round table in her office. Katie was first to interview Megan, so she started setting up her camera equipment right away. Once it was all set up, Katie realized the camera and the microphone were not picking up sounds. Luckily, Dani had a camera of her own and was able to save the day. With that, we jumped right into the interview.

As soon as Katie finished up her questions, Maddie smoothly transitioned into her own questions. Dani was also able to use some information from Megan for her multimedia piece about the pros and cons of organic food.

Megan offered us many fun facts about organic food and debunked the major misconception that organic food is better for you.

“Research is slowly finding that there are some foods that are better for you, healthwise, organic and that’s really because of the pesticide residue. It’s not because they’re healthier, usually they’re not necessarily healthier by any sense, but they do have less pesticide residue,” Megan said.

Finally, we interviewed Dr. Vernon early Tuesday morning. We were curious about organic practices on Cal Poly’s campus and, of course, what his take on organic food is. Like our other two sources, he provided great insight and was able to tie the whole story together just in time.

That’s a Wrap

This story came together just as we hoped with few bumps in the road. We learned a lot of valuable information and we are happy to be able to share it with the Cal Poly community.

Dani Orlandi, Multimedia

“I label myself as a serious foodie, so reporting on this topic was both eye-opening and a lot of fun. I tend to pay more for organic fruits and vegetables because I’ve always believed they were somehow ‘healthier.’ After talking with various Cal Poly professionals involved in agriculture, their opinions have changed my perception on how I look at food – there’s really no science that proves organic is better for you than conventional.”

Katie Stark, Video

“Going into this topic I didn’t really know what organic meant and just assumed that organic food is better. After this I won’t put so much emphasis on buy organic products. I think it is important we educate students about this so they aren’t spending their money on something they don’t necessarily need. ”

Maddie Reid, Text

“I’ve always eaten organic because I thought it was healthier and more nutritious, but never actually knew what “organic” meant. Working on the project and being able to interview three very informed sources opened my eyes to the food growing methods and the pluses and minuses of each side. I was really nervous going into the editorial piece since I haven’t written a news story in so long, but this topic was really interesting for me so it made writing the story a lot easier and I ended up being really proud of how it all came together.”

Caitlin Clausen, Public Relations

“I have always tried to buy organic when it was at a reasonable price, but I never knew why. Ever since the end of high school I have been told that organic is better and healthier for you and my mom always encouraged me to eat organically. So, I did. But why? Now I know that when something says it is organic, it does not mean that it is entirely organic. So, from now on, although I might be slightly stuck in my ways, I will be careful about what ‘organic’ and conventional food I eat.”


– Caitlin Clausen

Behind the Story: PolyTronics Phone Repairs

First Things First: Story Ideas

After finishing both our first and second stories on beer and wine, respectively, our group wanted to veer away from alcohol related topics and try something new. When we were all in class tossing around ideas, I had one fresh in my mind that I had been thinking of for a few days.

I had recently gotten my new iPhone 7 and had to return my iPhone 6 to Verizon for their money back trade-in program, but had cracked my iPhone 6 right before receiving my new one. When I was doing research on cheaper repairs than Apple, I stumbled upon PolyTronics, where I ended up getting my phone fixed and my idea was born.

When I went to PolyTronics to get my iPhone 6 repaired, I was greeted by a tall guy wearing glasses and an eager dog who jumped through the doorway to greet me. He was friendly enough, a little awkward, but told me the repair would take 20 minutes and for me to leave and come back in that short time. I went and got food and when I returned to get my repaired phone, I started asking him some questions. Did he run the business out of his house? What year in school was he? How did he get to be running this business on his own?

It was only a few questions, but his answers immediately sparked my interest, and I remember thinking to myself, “this would be an interesting story to cover for my senior project.” And lo and behold, a week later, I pitched the story to the rest of my team members and they went for it. With myself, Katelyn Piziali, on PR, Avrah Baum on multimedia, Vinny Van Patten on broadcast and Brittany Tesmer and Arinee Rahman both on print, I was excited to see the story we would uncover on PolyTronics.

Interviews: Scheduled and Scavenged

As soon as we had decided that we would be covering PolyTronics for our story, I went to work putting Brittany and Arinee in contact with Parker Smith, our primary source and the current co-owner/phone fixer of PolyTronics. I had already contacted him by text for my engagement report, and he had replied with how excited he was to be interviewed – something refreshing compared to the usual begrudging sources journalism students have to deal with.

Text message between Katelyn Piziali and Parker Smith.


That Thursday, the rest of my group minus myself went to interview Parker and his secretary Claire Drewery at his house on Santa Barbara Street near downtown San Luis Obispo.

Vinny Van Patten, Arinee Rahman and Brittany Tesmer interviewing Parker Smith.

Even though I didn’t get to be there myself, I heard only good things from my team members about how friendly Parker and Claire were, how cool the backyard was, and how cute the dog was.

Avrah Baum playing with Parker Smith’s dog, Elvis.

“His workspace is really cool and I was impressed with his set up and his commitment to the business,” Avrah Baum said.

Brittany Tesmer interviewing Parker Smith.

“Interviewing Parker Smith at his house was such a cool experience. I learned so much about iPhone fixing and small businesses. It was an inspiration to see a Cal Poly student run a full success business,” Brittany Tesmer said.

While most interviews are scheduled, there are those you have to scavenge for. After our first interview at Parker’s the previous Thursday, there were still some quotes Brittany needed to get from a professor for an expert source. So, we wandered around the business building on campus, knocking on different doors until we found a professor with his door open who would talk to us.

Brittany Tesmer knocking on Dr. Tad Miller’s office door.

Dr. Tad Miller ended up being very friendly and willing to give us the exact information we needed, even though entrepreneurship wasn’t his specialty. He gave us some great quotes, and we left feeling a little motivated ourselves.

Greatness does not come from waiting at the right time. I think greatness comes from being stupid and passionate and going for it,” Dr. Tad Miller said. 

Since there were still some facts and pictures that Brittany and Avrah needed, respectively, we headed back to Parker’s house later that same day, which happened to be election night, to get what we needed.

While Brittany asked questions, Avrah played with Parker’s dog, Elvis, and I finally got a look around on what I missed during the first interview.

Parker Smith explains phone repairs and parts to Avrah Baum.
Avrah Baum takes a picture with Parker Smith’s dog, Elvis.
Parker Smith repairs a phone at his workshop.

Reflecting and Feeling Inspired

Once Avrah got her pictures and Brittany had gotten her quotes, we left with hugs from Parker and a sense of accomplishment. It was crazy to see how we had come from an idea I had randomly thought of to a full-fledged story with several components.

With this being our third project of four, we’ve started to get the hang of things, but that doesn’t mean we get everything right. We’ve realized that while there are things you do get wrong, it’s those failures that lead to your successes. We all felt pretty inspired watching a student two years our junior running an entire business at his fingertips.

“The interview went well with Parker and it was really easy to speak with him. It was an inspirational experience to hear from Parker how he runs his business just by doing what he enjoys to do,” Arinee Rahman said.

“The interview was really cool. I enjoyed filming his quirky workspace and him working in it. I learned that it isn’t impossible to run a business while you’re in school, it just takes great time management skills and dedication,” Vinny Van Patten said.

Overall, this has been my favorite project topic to cover so far, just because there is so much detail that goes into repairing one phone and it was crazy to get to see the insides of the phones that we carry around everyday. I’m excited to see what topic we cover next – hopefully it’ll be a good one since it’s our last!

-Katelyn Piziali