Behind the Story: Tackling the STI Monster

I will never forget the moment one of my best friends told me that she had been diagnosed with herpes.  The summer sun casted a hazy glow through the window, illuminating the dozens of photographs of her, happy and smiling, hung up on the wall.  But when I looked into the eyes of the friend sitting before me, that smile was gone.

“I have genital herpes,” she said, tears staining the pillow she hugged to her chest.  “We used a condom every single time, but he still gave it to me.”

She was the first, but not the last friend that would tell me their story.  Over the next year, my grandmother, her sister, two of my roommates and my close friend would all confide in me about their diagnoses.  Through their bravery, I realized not only how common STIs are but also how it can truly happen to anyone.

When this idea was pitched to my group during Brady’s class, we all unanimously agreed that this is a story that deserves to be told, and hasn’t been told enough.  Our personal experiences sparked our passion for this project, and we dedicated ourselves to normalizing the conversation and reducing the stigma of STIs through our work.  We hoped to breakdown how to communicate with your partner about having an STI, address the fear of getting tested and feature students’ personal experiences.  It was a complex, controversial topic and we had some pretty big shoes to fill, but we wouldn’t let that deter us.

However, the project was not free from obstacles.

The first bump in the road came in the initial emails.  Entirely my juvenile mistake, I failed to address a doctor at the Cal Poly Health Center by her official title and she immediately called me out for it.  She wrote, “If you gain a title once you complete your education, I certainly hope someone accords you the respect you deserve.”  Lesson learned.  

I instantly apologized for my lack of professionalism, and was so embarrassed by the oversight that I felt like crawling into my bed and never resurfacing.  However, she seemed to love my response and wrote in return, “You are completely and 100% forgiven…I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this email from you.  You are clearly an individual who knows what to do with feedback.  I hope we do get the chance to talk.”  On Friday, my team met her in her office and she delivered an amazing interview.

The second inconvenience occurred on Monday.  Inspired by the project, our audio/visual member, Elise, took me to the Center to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.  Though I didn’t test positive for any STDs, the doctors discovered I had another type of completely unrelated infection and had a severe case of the flu.  This landed me bedridden for the remainder of the week with a fever of 101, intense heat flashes and some occasional hallucinations.

My fever persisted throughout the week, leaving me bedridden.
My fever persisted throughout the week, leaving me bedridden.

In the meantime, my team was engaging in some incredible journalism.  I connected them with two friends willing to share their stories, and the resulting interviews were both touching and empowering.  

It was amazing to hear students talk so openly about their personal experiences and be so comfortable talking about an uncomfortable topic,” Elise Goetzl said. “It really helps contribute to opening the conversation about STIs and the importance of getting tested.”

Taylor Petschl, our awesome writer, interviewed psychology lecturer Elizabeth Barrett on Wednesday morning.  Professor Barrett offered valuable insight into the best practices when discussing your STI with your partner, or anyone, for the first time.

“Doing the reporting on this story has really opened my eyes to the fact that even though we’re all college-educated, many of us aren’t approaching our sexual health in a smart way,” Petschl said.  “I really hope that this project will help normalize the conversation around STIs so partners feel like they can talk to each other openly about any potential risks!”

Our interactive portion of the project was in Kaylee Brunke’s hands.  She became the numbers girl, uncovering and mastering all information regarding STIs.

“This project has made me think about the prevalence of STIs on college campuses,” Brunke said. “It doesn’t hurt to get tested even if you think you’re being safe because they are a lot more common than I’d originally thought. I’ve learned a lot through researching individual infections and now know which are the most common as well as how to treat them. I hope our piece can educate our audience in the same way that I educated myself through working on it!”

Despite the obstacles I encountered this time around, our team is really proud of our completed work.  We educated ourselves on the importance of sexual health, spoke to inspirational students whose bravery I can only hope to emulate and delivered a product that we hope will impart the same wisdom on our peers.


Behind the Story: Opioid Crisis in San Luis Obispo

As we have gathered information regarding the Opioid issues in SLO county, we have found some very interesting angles and potential lede ideas for our story.


We spoke with two women who are part of the force leading the fight against Opioids in SLO county. Dr. Winstead (pictured above) and below) a Cal Poly professor and grant writer, is part of the syringe exchange program where she volunteers to provide clean syringes to the opioid using community. She is also overseeing a senior project by two biological sciences students who have been volunteering at the syringe exchange as well as collecting data from the opioid using community.

“The students who volunteer at the Syringe Exchange are instrumental to helping the community. They are literally saving lives. I want them to get recognition for that,” Dr. Winstead said.

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Dr. Winstead provided us with other sources. She suggested we speak with Katie Grainger (pictured below) the leader of the Naloxone action team of the Opioid Safety Coalition of SLO County, who was instrumental in developing our information about Opioid use. As she is extremely involved, we wanted to know what perked her interest.


“What got you interested in helping the opioid using community, what wakes you up to help?” Lindsay Mann asked.

Grainger shared that she was specifically was personally affected by opioids, her ex husband was a heroin addict. She said that when you have so much love for one person and see their struggle, you want to show that love to everyone who has the same problem. She also explained that most of “the war on drugs” turns into a war on drug users, as opposed to the drugs themselves. For this reason, Grainger has been an active promoter of Naloxone- the opioid overdose antidote. Naloxone basically reverses the opioid overdose and has saved several lives since California was granted an increase in Naloxone.  We felt that Naloxone felt like a clean up duty for a problem that was already established: opioid addiction. Megan Healy was interested in more.

“Do you think Naloxone is just solving the issue after it’s already been prevalent. Is there a way to get to the root of the problem, instead of dealing with addiction after it’s been established?” Healy asked.

Grainger expressed that obviously it wold be great to stop addiction from the start, but that isn’t as realistic as we think. There are many ways that Naloxone can help, and sadly the stigma regarding drug users also surrounds the drug to help them. Megan Lynch heard Grainger speak at the Opioid Safety Coalition Meeting and wanted more details

“What is the stigma surrounding Naloxone?” Lynch said. “Why do you think this is?”

Grainger shared that Naloxone should be viewed just as commonly as a fire extinguisher. Although Grainger is not an arsinist, she still keeps a fire extingusiher in case an accident happens. Same with Naloxone. Grainger has friends and loved ones that use opioids and if they were to take too much, she wants to be able to help them in a crisis. Naloxone doesn’t encourage addiction, but encourages a second chance and can save lives. She hopes that one day they will be second nature to us, found in public restrooms everywhere. Of course that is not the case as of now, but expressed the need for a public health answer for a public health problem, not a law enforcement answer to a public health.

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Behind the Story: How a group of college students were able to get class credit tasting spirits


It felt as if we had just finished our story on the baby cows… we were exhausted, overwhelmed by calf cuteness and dairy knowledge. But it was Monday, which means Brady was expecting a new story topic.

“There is no time to reflect, only time to report.” -Alice Neary

Matt Medlin, the mastermind behind our newest creation, was the one to pitch Cal Wise. He attended a tour for Poly Reps of the Hot House downtown San Luis Obispo where he originally discovered the start-up. With quite the variety of business ideas, a spirit distillery was one which truly stood out.

At first, the team was overwhelmed by the scope of the topic. It seemed huge. There was the political aspect, 12 craft distilleries in the county, but all which make different products from different bases in different quantities. How could we do it justice?


After the initial interview, the team found the greatest connection to Cal Poly was Cal Wise, a start-up distillery founded by a Cal Poly alumni in the Cal Poly affiliated Hot House downtown San Luis Obispo.


The team met up at Cal Wise’s headquarters, a small cubicle in the corner of the office space above Ross on Higuera St. There, they met with Aaron Bergh,  the founder of CalWise, who refers to himself as the “Commander in Mischief.” The team was able to taste through the spirits he offers while learning a little more about his product and brand. CalWise spirits feature lots of California inspired botanical additions as well as untraditionally artistic labels. Bergh says he, “wants there to be a little more edge and personality to his brand.” After tasting, Kayla Veloso says her, “favorite was the blonde rum because it had a very fruity taste and made me feel super elegant and fancy, kind of like an old man.” This is possibly my all time favorite description of a flavor, ever.


After a lively interview, they proceeded to Granada Hotel and Bistro located on Morro St. downtown SLO that carries Cal Wise. There, they filmed the hipster bartender (yes, he had a man bun) crafting the “Bodega Punch.”  “I knew that I was going to eventually buy a $14 cocktail in my lifetime and this just seemed like it was the perfect opportunity,” said Taylor Mohrhardt. She was impressed.

The team was satisfied, but Brady would not be. They still needed more sources. Alas, the hunt was on. In a false lead that there would be Cal Wise spirit tasting samples at CaliFresh (my bad), the legendary journalist Matt Medlin decides to seize the unanticipated time opening to shoot for something even greater…he spontaneously called Bill Owens, the Founder of the American Distilling Institute, to gain a little more insight to the industry from a man who is definitly an established member. Sitting on a bench outside of the grocery store, Matt recalls being, “pretty desperate at that point and I just happened to catch him at the end of his work day when he was walking to his car to go home.” Thankfully, the people in this industry are happy and willing to share their knowledge of craft spirits. They are hopeful that through education the products they so tediously craft will be appreciated by a broader public.

During this time, Alice Neary was up in Paso Robles getting video footage of an interview with the Co-Owner of Krobār Craft Distillery. He shared some epic insight on the expanding industry including why the Central Coast is the ideal location for this kind of craft movement to begin.

The team had everything they could have wanted. Incredible sources, an exciting topic, and more than anything, they had each other.


Behind the Scenes: Farmer’s Market to Front Door

12 p.m. Monday we were sitting around the table in our senior practicum class, about to pitch a story idea when one of our classmates leaned over and whispered, “You should interview Joey Lyman”. Initially I was thinking, we’ve already all agreed on an idea, let’s move forward. But out of curiosity, we turned to Google to see what this Cal Poly grad was all about. Within a few minutes, we had a relevant, intriguing story in front of us with local contacts that would likely make the interview process run relatively smooth. Our audio/video team member for the project, Mikaela Duhs, hopsed up and used what I’ve decided is her super power : the cellphone and scheduled an interview with our primary contact for the next morning.

10 a.m. Tuesday morning, our team of four headed out to meet Joey at the Cal Poly Organic Farm. Relying on trusty Google Maps, we winded through the hidden back roads of Cal Poly property that stretch for miles past the agriculture classes students complain about having to bike out to. The more cows and fewer people we passed, the more hesitant we became of where we were headed. Long story short and thanks to Joey’s directions over the phone … we made it to the new Cal Poly Organic Farm which is in a different location than the one labeled on Google Maps.

Our interview went well as we learned about Joey’s past as a Cal Poly biomedical student, and his ambitions as a young entrepreneur who landed a spot in the SLO HotHouse after receiving a grant. Since then, he’s developed his local food delivery service, Localsown.

After meeting with Joey for about an hour, we interviewed Victoria Ross, a member of the Cal Poly Organic Farm.  Victoria is relevant to our story because Cal Poly Organic Farm is one of the “producers” Joey’s service works with. We learned a bit more about what it’s like to work with Localsown and then Victoria took us inside Cal Poly’s greenhouse.

Cal Poly Organic Farm Greenhouse | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch
Cal Poly Organic Farm Greenhouse | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch

12 p.m. Wednesday in class we worked to bring together the information we had gathered so far and develop a more focused angle. The challenge (which we had anticipated) was figuring out how to write the story in a way that doesn’t seem like native content or advertising.  “I think there’s just such a different context that should be used in evaluating the business,” our interactive team member, Lindsay Mann said. We were trying to figure out how to present this business and which audience Localsown caters to most, in deciding whose perspectives we needed to include in our story.

12 p.m. Thursday I joined Mikaela to interview Cal Poly agriculture business professor, Tim Delbridge. He gave us insight into the agricultural and economic impact of businesses like Localsown. It was helpful to gain this background in our process of deciding on a specific angle to take.

Interview with Professor Tim Delbridge | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch
Interview with Professor Tim Delbridge | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch

“I think that this could be a really good thing for growers if it expands the direct marketing opportunities. Farms that are already selling at the farmer’s market might find this a convenient way to add a little bit of predictability to their growing and ordering processes,” Tim said.

3 p.m. Thursday Mikaela joined Joey at the Morro Bay Farmer’s Market to see his work in action. She followed him while he selected the produce he needed and proceeded to deliver the orders to his customers. Mikaela mentioned how the Morro Bay farmers folks said the San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market is the most difficult for producers, because it’s become such a tourist attraction. In reality, a large portion of the crowd consists of browsing students reluctant to pay the extra dollar for fresh produce.

6 p.m. Thursday evening, Mikaela, Lindsay, and I met Joey in front of the Cal Poly Organic Farm booth to watch the magic happen. In hand, he carried  a paper list of customer orders and Trader Joe’s bag to fill with carefully selected foods. Mikaela and Lindsay joined Joey on two of his deliveries that night to see how the process works.

Mikaela Duhs takes a picture of Joey Lyman talking to Cal Poly Organic Farms volunteer, Victoria Ross | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch
Mikaela Duhs takes a picture of Joey Lyman talking to Cal Poly Organic Farms volunteer, Victoria Ross | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch


Joey Lyman references his grocery list with customer orders written down | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch
Joey Lyman references his grocery list with customer orders written down | Photo Credit: Megan Lynch

12 p.m. Monday in class we discussed more about how to present the story as a feature piece, focused on telling the facts without any hint of advertising. Mikaela mentioned how helpful it was to meet with Professor Delbridge and learn about the benefits Localsown could provide the community. “It’s a new way to solve foods problems by merging the economic and agricultural markets … the story is there, we just have to be careful in how we communicate  it” Mikaela said.

Megan Healy, our writer, talked about how one aspect of the story we should make sure to cover is Joey’s future plans to outsource the company. “I want to follow-up with Joey about the outsourcing because I think that’s a key  component of the story,” Megan said. Our focus for the second week consisted of tying up loose ends and trying to get in contact with other customers of Joey’s newly developed business. The newness of it was probably the most challenging part of the story, because though people were excited about it, there was very little the producers or even customers had to say since it is just in the process of taking off.

The rest of the week consisted of sifting through minutes of video footage, doing last minute follow-ups, and fully developing our story of how farmer’s market came to the front door.

An Emotional Rollercoaster: Trying to Report on Cal Poly’s 24/7 Subway

Ask a person what comes to mind when they hear the word “Subway” and you’re likely to hear a variety of responses: “Can smell it from a mile away,” “Love the Italian Herbs & Cheese,” “I haven’t been since the whole yoga mat thing came out,” references to questionable Jared Fogle memes, etc. But, ask any student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, the same question and I bet you my savings account (a whopping $5.76, mind you) that their response will allude to the campus’ 24/7 Subway, in some shape or form.

As the only 24/7 establishment on campus, most Cal Poly students have probably had to “Eat Fresh” at one point or another in order to simultaneously absorb obscene amounts of information and satiate hunger pangs in the dead of night.

Thus, a story idea was born for our group – What are the most craziest, endearing, and wholesome events to go down (preferably during the wee hours of the night) in a Cal Poly around-the-clock dining staple? What has its effect been on the students since its opening in 2012?

Prepping for Interviewing
From left to right: Shelby Dewberry and Rachel Foote have a quick pep talk before getting ready to interview a source.

And, for a hot minute, it seemed like this Project 2 would be smooth sailing as the Store Manager, Mauricio Vergara, assured us that the powers that be (AKA Subway Corporate) would be accommodating to all our reporting needs once they were provided a detailed accounting of our plans for audio and video. The email in question was subsequently sent at the midway point of the first week for the project, and we waited with bated breath for the go-ahead to interview within the campus Subway and its employees with relative freedom. This is when the hot minute ended and the avalanche of despair began.

“What is an avalanche of despair?,” you may ask. Why, merely our group’s burgeoning propensity for having the worst luck in acquiring sources.

The Regional Manager’s, Jose Aguilar, response to our earnest inquiry was that we would only be allowed to shoot audio or video within the Subway as long as he was present. After momentarily panicking, we decided to settle on agreeing and booking the coming Friday as a time to gather all the necessary footage and interviews under Aguilar’s undoubtedly thorough supervision.

Friday eventually came but, unfortunately for us, Aguilar did not. Due to a last-minute trip to Santa Barbara, he was unable to attend our filming session at Cal Poly’s Subway on Friday and therefore we were unable to obtain said footage. Not only did this create another reason that our group will vehemently chant “Buck the Gauchos” at the next Cal Poly SLO vs. UCSB soccer game, it threw a very large wrench into our best-laid plans.

Or, as disgruntled, fellow group member, Kevin Schindler put it, “Subway, more like sub-par.”

Reminiscent of our first project with the Veterans Success Center, we settled on winging it to the best of our ability and obtaining sources through mostly ambushing random people outside of Subway late at night.

Photographing the view from Cal Poly Subway
Shelby Dewberry taking a picture of the view outside Cal Poly Subway’s doors during a late-night visit.

Like any emotional rollercoaster worth its salt, there have been some highs along the way in the form of magically obtaining interviews from current and former employees as well as an email response from the Regional Manager (which is currently mysteriously encoded in a PDF format that refuses to open).

The group interviewing former Cal Poly Subway employee, Liberal Studies sophomore Marina Salluce
From left to right: Kevin Schindler, Rachel Foote, and Shelby Dewberry work in tandem to interview Liberal Studies sophomore Marina Salluce about her former experience of working at Cal Poly’s Subway.

For example, a notable highlight from interviewing Liberal Studies sophomore Marina Salluce was this quote: “Probably like the weirdest thing I saw at the Cal Poly campus [Subway] is that one girl came in one night and stripped on a table.”

If nothing else, we, as a collective, are proud to have captured such a sound bite and will forever treasure it in memory of this arduous journey in creating a whimsical, character-driven story on Cal Poly’s 24/7 Subway.

There was, of course, the occasional intrusive thought of changing the story angle to better reflect our trials and tribulations with the facility. “‘Eat fresh’? More like ‘Eat Sketch’: Why we think the Subway franchise has something to hide,” said Rachel after a particularly trying ordeal in getting a late-night Subway employee to talk to us.

But, alas, we persisted in the name of journalistic integrity and sheer stubbornness.

And, in regards to the lesson our group is beginning to learn about this class as well as the story itself, Shelby concluded that “This was a lot more challenging than I suspected it would be.”

Behind the Story of the Investigation into the Harmine Project

Have you ever worked for something so hard, dedicated your time and efforts to that something, only to expect it to fail? Well, I haven’t either. The Eagon Research Group, a research lab right here on campus grabbed our attention when we heard they were in the process of developing new drugs to combat diseases like Cancer and Malaria, also known as the Harmine project. I know what you’re thinking: aren’t there already doctors all over the world working on this? And you would be right. But these students at Cal Poly are a small fragment of the whirlwind of scientific talk and experimentation to find a cure for those deadly diseases that just won’t go away on their own.


But getting used to failure is not the only idea that ceases to surface my group’s journalistic minds. When my group entered the unknown, also known as the Baker science building, we sauntered up the stairs, our patent leather sandals lagging behind each step. All excited to jump into the lab and see what all of the talk is about, our grammar stuffed brains simply did not understand that we could not wear our trendy sandals in the chemically infused lab. When we arrived in Dr. Eagon’s office, our hopes and dreams of entering a lab, when not required for a GE, came to a screeching halt as it was brought to our attention that all of our bare feet dangled out of our sandals, and apparently that is not allowed.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get the video footage we needed of the lab that day. But only a few days later, we laced up the Nikes sitting in the back of the closet and took a second try at getting into that miraculous lab. Amazingly, we made it in.


Unlike the students performing the research, as journalism students we start a project only to see it come to a complete end, whether that is in publication or submission. But to Dr. Eagon, who’s “primary goal when coming to Cal Poly was to introduce students to the struggle,” disappointment and failure are a normal part of the day. “You get so really used to dealing with disappointment but you get a thick skin and go at it with a kind of tenacity that makes the failure okay, and you kind of just persevere so when you do have successful reactions, it’s just that much more sweet, says senior biochemistry major, Tyler Sisley. The idea that our fellow students could be working so hard for something every week, every month, every year for maybe… nothing? That was simply crazy to us.


But as the project continued, a dilemma projected its black light onto our shining heads, what did all of this scientific gibberish mean? Luckily, one of our group members understood the puzzling vernacular, “Being able to report on this type of science research has been such a fun experience for me since I plan to go into public health communications after graduating”, says senior journalism major, Taylor Petschl. But for the rest of us, synthesizing organic molecules, tetrahydro-β-carboline, and drug resistance of P. falciparum came from a different world. “I’ve had to think about synthesizing molecular compounds which is something I never thought I’d have to remember after my chemistry classes in high school,” says senior journalism student, Kaylee Brunke.

But after much confusion and a  lot of research, my group finally obtained a grasp on the information that grounds the research being performed. Though we initially curled our brows and tilted our heads at the terminology pouring out of Dr. Eagon’s mouth, we successfully got a hold onto the backbone of the project, and found it possible to explain what we were trying to showcase. As our project came to a close, we all realized how incredible this research group truly is, “I’ve never realized that these parts of campus existed. It’s so cool to see the lives of students that are outside our major, and the amount of work and effort that goes into it,” says senior journalism student, Sierra Newell.

Though we hit the ground running in scientific speak, a language we do not speak fluently, we finished this project with an appreciation for not only research and its ability to save lives, but for those students that are right down from the hall from us as well.



SLO Voyagers Dragonboat Club

On Saturday, February 12th, we went to go film the SLO Dragonboat Club live in action during their morning practice. The dragon boat team has recently become a club on Cal Poly’s campus. It’s comprised of students that are either starting this hobby, or have long been competing. At 7:30 am we made our way to Morro Bay to attend their club practice. They didn’t start until 9 am, but we wanted to get their earlier to make sure we could interview some of the members before we began filming their practice. Zach from Mustang News also joined us to take pictures of the practice so we could use them for our story.

We got to the bay, and were immediately met with hundreds of gnats floating about around our heads, swarming. They were pestering us and the other members that had arrived earlier. We eventually got used to them, but we were worried they would get in the way of filming and shooting. We ended up getting great footage though, thankfully. Since Riley’s doing video, she had some great ideas for getting different content for this project. She brought her friend Hudson who has a drone, and is more experienced in using it. Riley said, “I was so happy that he was able to come to help me, because I was really nervous that I was going to crash the drone.” They got some really cool footage going over the water of the members in action, paddling. They also were able to get angles that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Riley also joined the members on their boat as they were paddling so she could get 360 video footage of their practice. Allison stood on shore taking b-roll footage and working with Zach to take pictures of the practice. Allison said, “I was pretty happy to stay on shore and get the shots, I was afraid of dropping the gear. The gnats got annoying, though.” Ali was multimedia, so she has been working to get at some other angles of this project. She’s been targeting a more informational approach, since many people don’t know what dragon boat racing really is. She was going to feature the different aspects of their boat that traditionally represents different features of a dragon. Unfortunately, the team has a regular boat- that they borrow from another dragon boat paddling team, SurviveOars- without it being designed to look like a dragon. So, Ali shifted her focus to make a listicle, to tell readers 10 things they didn’t know about dragon boat racing. This should effectively serve to teach readers about the cultural aspects of this Chinese tradition, and also mention some fun facts as well. She’s also focusing on the different positions of the paddlers with a cool hotspot idea. She’s going to use one of Zach’s pictures to tag different audio clips of the paddlers that explains what their doing and what their position is. It mixes in an informational audio element with a cool visual element. Ali said, “I’m excited to work on multimedia for this project, because I feel like there was so much I could do to focus on different angles.”

Though we realized that they were a club and not a team, we were excited to feature a unique Cal Poly group that is so new to campus. We hope to do this club justice, and hopefully more people will know what dragon boat racing is after this. We’re excited about this project.

Behind the Scenes: Appendage + Bough

Hi! My name is Ali Heston and I, along with three other group members, recently covered a story on Appendage + Bough, a local store in San Luis Obispo that sells upcycled furniture along with other eclectic and vintage items and home goods.

Allison Martinez, one of my group members, proposed the idea during story pitches and we all loved the idea. She explained that Appendage + Bough  was a “hidden gem” and that, to her knowledge, very few people knew about the store. “My roommate showed me this place. I’d never heard about it before, but it is so awesome,” said Martinez. We figured this would not only make for an interesting story but would also aid Appendage + Bough in getting the word out about their business.

After getting our project topic approved, the four of us went to Appendage + Bough to ask permission of the store owners if they would consent to a story being written about their business, with the possibility of being published in Cal Poly’s student-run newspaper, Mustang News. Only one of the store owners was there at the time, but he seemed very excited about the idea and immediately gave us permission to cover the story and offered to help us in any way he could, whether it be coming into the store early or staying after hours so we could get all of the footage we would need in order to be successful.

My role in covering the story was in regards to strategy and engagement. Through the use of social media and other forms of community engagement, I was able to learn what members of both the San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly community were interested in learning about Appendage + Bough. Here are some of the responses I received via my personal Instagram account and through posting on the Cal Poly Class of 2018 Facebook page:

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Martinez was in charge of the audio and video aspects of the story. I attended the interviews with both her and Riley Rhodes, our group member whose role was to create the written text for the story, and despite some minor technical difficulties regarding the microphone, the initial round of interviews went very well. Store owners, Malik Mike Thorne, Tim Beebee, and Ryan Ratzlaff all contributed beneficial information to the story and even posted a photo to the Appendage + Bough Instagram account.















All store owners seemed very passionate about Appendage + Bough. It was very inspiring to listen to what they all had to say. “Having a space where I can do a small show and invite people, or get some art up on the wall from someone who’s just starting out, or even just create a space where people can come in and find things and talk about music or books, for, that’s it,” said Thorne.

Tori Leets, another group member, was in charge of the interactive aspect of the story. After being inspired by a story previously published in Mustang News, “Cal Poly caveman: Psychology lecturer builds art caves under his property,” we decided it would be awesome if we could use a 3D scanner, such as the one used in the article about the underground caves to create a virtual reality tour of the store. After a short tutorial from our professor, Brady Teufel, Tori and I went into the shop and gave the Matterport 3D Camera a try. “I loved using this camera. I felt so excited to try something that’s so cutting edge that few other schools have the ability to use. This is one of the reasons why I love journalism, you can tell your stories in so many different ways,” said Leets.

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Due to time constraints and minor technical difficulties we had to come into the store a second time, but we yet again faced technical difficulties. We are going to troubleshoot during the upcoming week with our professor and complete the 3D scan when the camera is functioning properly.

“I loved this store when I first saw it and I love it even more now. It was so fun learning about such a cool place with such a cool story,” said Rhodes. We are proud of the result of our story and believe that our feature on Appendage + Bough gives insight to all aspects of the store that both the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo community will be interested in learning.

Behind the Scenes: Pismo’s Monarch Butterflies

Just off of Highway 1 lies a butterfly utopia. Each and every year, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, Calif. to escape the harsh northern winters and to find their temporary warm haven. But why do they come to Pismo?

Megan Healy, our audio/video reporter, came up with the idea to find out more about the monarch butterflies in Pismo. “I know Mustang News and other local media has covered the butterflies before, but I wanted to take an environmental approach. I was really curious to find out why the monarch population is declining and why the Monarch Grove in Pismo is where they migrate to.”

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As our strategy and engagement reporter, it was my first duty to find out what the community wanted to know about the monarch butterfly. My search started off with our community: what did they want to know more about the butterflies? “I’ve always wanted to know more about the Western monarchs. Why do they come to Pismo? What makes that grove so special?”, shared fourth year architectural engineering student Sarah Pascual.

My biggest surprise through both the community engagement report and the social network report was that, overall, the community knew nothing about the monarch butterflies. I knew from these reports that it was important we focused on general information about the monarchs, but also made sure we told the bigger story along the way: why the monarchs are important.

With these factors in mind, we spent a beautiful Saturday at the grove.


Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a better day to venture out to the grove. The sun was shining, the grove was filled with families, students, and travelers, and the butterflies were everywhere. Everyone at the grove was incredibly friendly and eager to share their experiences and thoughts about the monarch butterflies.

Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter, was able to get some great interviews with families and other visitors, and learned why they came to this grove and what the butterflies mean to them.


“The kids were so cute. I’m so happy I was able to interview them because they seemed really excited to talk about the butterflies,” said Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter.

Mikaela Duhs, our writer, wasn’t able to make it out to the monarch grove with us, but ended up having an amazing interview on her own. “Professor Villablanca painted such a great picture for me of why the butterflies are important and how we can help them,” Mikaela shared, of their interview. Villablanca shared this insightful thought during her interview:

“… it doesn’t matter how much milkweed we have, how many groves you have, if we don’t have the butterflies to utilize them… I do the little bits that can be done by the masses to make a difference.”

Megan Healy, our audio and visual reporter, was able to talk to great sources at the grove.

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To our surprise, we ended up talking to a couple who had traveled all the way from France! They spoke little English, but Zachary Donnenfield (who tagged along with us) shocked us all by speaking fluent French with them and telling us he was a French citizen! It goes without saying that we were all speechless. We ended up talking to Raymond and Minh Levant for almost an hour, and they were absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for our project.

We’re so excited to share all the information we gathered throughout these past two weeks. While plenty of stories have been done about the monarch butterflies, few have been as in-depth as this one, and we hope to spread the word about why the monarchs come to the monarch grove in Pismo Beach and provide insight to their decline.



Behind the Scenes: Will’s Cow Poly Experience

“I think I’ve had a very unique experience college experience compared to most students out there and I’m very happy about that,” said William Greenwood, Calf Care Manager of Cal Poly’s Dairy Calf unit.

IMG_3226The first project of our Senior Media Practicum class gave us the real unique Cow Poly experience. Our project focused on William Greenwood and his experience working as the Calf Care Manager for Cal Poly’s Dairy Calf Unit. The project’s goal was to focus on William and his different experience of Cal Poly; the project easily became a two-week adventure featuring a group of journalism students, a mystery man, and baby cows.

When generating the idea for our first project, the group went through a series of options from hotel establishment articles to the CAFES enterprise program. Ultimately, team member Alice Neary brought up the idea of a profile story on Calf Care Manager, William Greenwood. Alice met William on a run when she went to visit baby cows. With this, she was curious about his experience being a student and working in Cal Poly.

“I liked that you get to be outside and connect with nature. I was fascinated thinking about how vast our experiences differed,” said Alice Neary.

With this, the team proceeded to research and track down the elusive William Greenwood. It was at this time that the team had no idea who he was, what program he was in, or if it was even a program. (It wasn’t a program, it was an actual job.) With experts skills in Google and Facebook searches, the team found William Greenwood in the Cal Poly directory and contacted him through email and phone.IMG_3153

As interviews were set up and outlines created, each member had to rely on each other. New skills were learned, old skills were re-learned, and many baby cows were seen. Taylor Morhardt believed that this project helped improve her skills as a journalist.

“This project helped me organize my story structure better with the use of the story focus form and the story outline form. The outline form was the most useful to me because I could look back at what I put on the outline and was able to formulate my questions to my sources, based off the information I needed to write my story,” said Taylor Morhardt.

In the middle of the second week, rough drafts and edits were sent and software problems arose. Despite this, members of the team were able to meet with Brady and Brendan to gain tips and critiques for a better story. With the sudden help, members of the team were motivated and inspired. As Matt Medlin finished editing his video and moved to his infovideo, he became a bit more creative and inspired.

“I’m going to put jazz music with baby cows and it’s going to be like La La Land up in here,” said Matt Medlin.

Towards the end of the second week, each team member focused on their tasks to bring only the best content.  Filled with late nights, crashing software, and hours of transcribing, this group was able to successfully complete the first project ending in a great MOOd.