Behind the Scenes: Buck the Stigma and Mental Health at Cal Poly

Our reddit post! We had 3 responses that were very detailed.

The initial impression that the group had going into our project was that the angle, story and sources would be relatively straightforward. What started out as a project highlighting the work behind Buck the Stigma and mental health assistance at Cal Poly changed directions drastically and near immediately as it became clear to us that the general consensus among the student body that mental health services at Cal Poly were, for the most part, lacking in depth, availability and effectiveness.

Once angles changed gears, we were able to gather potential sources quickly. As staff and student information are readily available, it was as simple as finding associates for Cal Poly’s number of mental health-related programs. While many of our desired potential sources — psychology professors for example — failed to get back to us, we found that reaching out to these sources earlier than during our previous project helped us out tremendously.

“I found that setting up interviews early on was a good decision because it made gave us more time to put our story together,” team member and journalism senior Spenser Judd said.

That pretty much sums up our experiences with sources. Likely due to our change in direction with our subject and better conceptualization of the project as compared to last time, our project’s sources truly made the project, providing valuable insight and great material.

That insight can be seen from one of the sources interviewed for our written word portion: Anita Notthoff.

“All of the organizations facilitated different conversations and had different roles yet held one common goal: to break the stigma around mental illness,” Notthhoff said. 

She would also elaborate later that “stigma is the main reason people suffering from mental health issues don’t seek help.”

These perspectives provide valuable insight into the bigger picture of mental health and the purpose behind Cal Poly’s programs, whether they are effective or not.

Buck the Stigma happening on Cal Poly’s campus.

Good sources, indeed. As group member and journalism senior Victoria Gracie put it:

“I found that our sources were willing to help a lot more this time around by being more responsive and that made our story better because of it,” Gracie said.

Gathering background information on our subject provided valuable insight as well. Much of this came from online sources on my end, such as this reddit post I made:

Thoughts on Buck the Stigma and Mental Health help at Cal Poly from CalPoly

This generated a relatively high volume of thought-out and detailed responses, at least from r/CalPoly standards.

Background info was also compiled in my backgrounder:

These articles shed light on Cal Poly’s past with Buck the Stigma, mental health, and how things have changed very little in recent years. Nationwide reporting details the rise of mental health problems and stigma among college students, and how Cal Poly compares in dealing with these problems. These perspectives were valuable in crafting interview questions and writing out the article.

Once all the sources were interviewed, the bigger picture of Cal Poly’s problem with dealing with mental health issues among a rising trend of those issues nationwide came to our understanding and was crafted in our content.

Our video summed it up nicely.

As far as what the article will amount to, it’s hard to say. The general consensus among group members is that the project ended with much more coherence, efficiency, and value.

“I found the story this time around to be a lot more successful and came together in a very cohesive manner,” said group member and journalism senior Katie Peterson.

Behind the Scenes: Cal Poly Brewing Professor

For our second story, we decided to cover a Cal Poly professor who also manages and operates a local brewery. Bio Professor Emily Taylor runs the 7Sisters Brewery in San Luis Obispo when she’s not teaching, along with owner/brewer Steve Van Middlesworth. While media covered the opening of the brewery last year, nobody did an in-depth piece on how Taylor juggles being a professor and a local business owner at the same time. So we took on the story with that being our angle as well as mentioning the sustainability of the brewery.

When you walk into the brewery, the first thing that strikes you is the incredibly cozy and welcoming atmosphere. A colorful mural of mountain peaks adorns one wall, a nod to the Nine Sisters in San Luis Obispo County. Sturdy wooden tables fill the room and a colorful menu of beers hangs on another wall behind the counter.

The colorful selection of beers on tap at 7Sisters Brewery.

If Emily Taylor is around, she is immediately what catches your attention next. Her bubbly personality and enthusiastic demeanor light up the room and fill the brewery with warmth. Taylor has a busy schedule, with her roles at the brewery ranging from event coordinator to social media manager. Speaking of events, part of what makes 7Sisters so eclectic is their array of entertainment. Most nights you can walk in and listen to live music, comedy shows or open mic performances. Seasonal events could be pumpkin carving or costume contests and are fun for all ages. “I just work constantly,” said Taylor, “but it’s fun. I used to just go home and sit on my computer and work, and now I’m out here enjoying live music at my own place. And I get to walk up to the tap and pour myself a beer – it’s pretty much the best thing ever.”

Professor Emily Taylor // Photo courtesy of Cal Poly

Taylor also considers herself the executive chef; although she doesn’t cook the food, she did design the menu, which features mouth-watering grilled cheeses (their speciality), three bean chili and more. The food is all made from scratch or locally sourced from places like Edna’s Bakery and Central Coast Creamery. 7Sisters prides itself on offering a variety of vegan and gluten free options throughout the menu, something that makes me happy to see as a vegetarian. Taylor and Van Middlesworth truly seem to care about about who comes to their brewery and how they can cater to everybody. “It’s wonderful to know how much thought and intention is behind all of the work that Emily and Steve are doing,” said group member Alyssa Mavor.

Grilled cheeses are a popular food item at the brewery. // Photo courtesy of 7Sisters Brewery

The beers themselves are all vegan too, actually, part of 7Sisters’ sustainability efforts. When our group visited the brewery we got a behind the scenes tour of the unique sustainability process that Van Middlesworth goes through to ensure he saves energy and water when producing the beer. Their environmental efforts don’t stop there – the tasting room is made almost entirely from repurposed materials and they try to stay away from plastics and non-compostable waste as well. “It was interesting to see how Steve manufactured the brewing system to save water in order to be eco friendly,” said group member Emily Fagenstrom. “It showed that they truly care about the environment and what they’re accomplishing at 7Sisters.”

“I have a newfound respect for 7Sisters, and it’s nice to know that I’m supporting a CP prof whenever I drink a beer there,” said group member Carter Harrington. “Emily and Steve were awesome to be around. It’s apparent that they care a lot about a sustainable brewing process.”

It was a fascinating experience to get a glimpse behind the scenes of a sustainable brewery and to see how a Cal Poly professor deals with teaching and running a brewery, both of which are full-time jobs and commitments. I definitely recommend checking out 7Sisters; even if you’re not a big beer fan, at least go for the welcoming atmosphere, delicious food, live entertainment and, of course, the brewing professor.

Behind the scenes: Covering both sides of Measure G

With the upcoming elections, Measure G has been a very popular topic around San Luis Obispo.  We often see the signs stuck in our neighbors’ yards reading “No on G” or “Yes on Measure G,” but we haven’t truly taken the time to understand what this measure means for all of us living in the San Luis Obispo county. Maybe you’ve read the Tribune article on Measure G, or possibly saw The Mustang News article on Dominique Dashwood, a Cal Poly student who has dedicated her time to Measure G, or the article explaining the initial steps San Luis Obispo county took to potentially ban fracking .  Either way, we observed that as a whole, San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly want to know more about Measure G.

As journalists, it is our job to inform the public.  We spend our time finding sources and proving facts so that the community doesn’t have to.  In covering this topic, we spent a large amount of time finding the facts and learned a lot on the subject that surprised us.


A ballot along with an educational ballot that serves to inform voters on both sides of each measure.

Measure G

Measure G is simply “a county-wide measure to ban fracking and new oil wells in [San Luis Obispo]” according to environmental management and protection senior Dominique Dashwood.  Dashwood has been working on this campaign since last academic year and spends many hours a week tabling in the University Union.  She works closely with Charles Varni the co-founder and co-chair of the coalition to protect San Luis Obispo county. Varni helped write Measure G and explained to us the impact this measure has on schools if “No on G” passes and the tax revenue is lost.

“I  am 100 percent in support of Measure G. It’s specifically about fracking and other related technologies, but, frankly, all fossil fuels in the ground need to stay there,” said mayor Heidi Harmon.  Harmon is a strong advocate for “Yes on Measure G.”  She has made climate change a large part of her campaign to be re-elected as mayor of San Luis Obispo.  “[W]e are in deep, deep trouble when it comes to climate change and that we need to act right now if we have any chance of creating a livable planet,” said Harmon.

A “No on G” pamphlet that was placed in my mailbox.

Our Roles

Working as a team we each had a part in researching this topic.  I was in charge of the team communication as Strategy and Engagement, Hollie West wrote the article and Jillian Smith created interactive components for the piece.

Jillian possibly had the toughest job as she was supposed to create video teasers, however having only three team members we didn’t have anyone in Audio/Visual to make a video for Jillian to promote. “The challenging part for me was wrapping my head around the Instagram story component of my part. I am not an Instagram story person, so knowing that I was going to have to do one stressed me out a little bit at first. However, once I realized that I didn’t have to follow the guidelines EXACTLY as they are since we are missing the video part of our story, I was able to feel more at-ease with it,” said Smith.

Another challenge we endured was getting an interview with someone who actively stood behind “NO on G”. Though we had lists of names and  contact information, we were only able to get input from a couple of sources after consistent efforts to contact them.  Luckily, for “Yes on Measure G” we had many sources who took the time to talk with us, sometimes even twice. This did make it tough to get both voices out fairly.

“The most challenging part of this story was trying to report in an unbiased way in regards to an issue that I have a strong opinion in,” said West. Already having a strong opinion does make it tough, especially with the opposing side not contacting us back. “Professor Bisheff’s climate change comparison in class helped me figure out that I don’t necessarily have to give equal weight to both sides of the conversation if it is not actually equal.”  West, however, was able to find a few opposing sources other than students and did her best to create an informational article.


A “Yes on Measure G” sign posted out front of the University Store.


Overall, we all learned a lot about what Measure G really means.  There are many false claims mentioned on the “No on G” website that is consistently pinned to the top of any Measure G google search. Through our research, we discovered that not only does voting yes on Measure G not cost anyone their job, but it does not call for the shut down of existing oil extraction sites either; two strong claims backed by “No on G”.  Rather, the purpose of Measure G is to stop creating more extraction sites.

Covering Measure G has been a great practice in journalism.  As I mentioned before, it is our duty to inform the public correctly and to help everyone understand the facts, and I feel as though we did the best job we could.  “No on G” has a lot of funding and advertisements, but “Yes on G” has a lot of events and campaigners who have reached out to us and personally explained their purpose and drive.

Behind the scenes: Veterans receive service dogs trained by inmates

What do dogs, inmates and veterans all have to do with one another? This question caught our attention when we found out that a local coffee shop called Top Dog Coffee Company, located in the foggy coastal town of Morro Bay, was selling coffee beans to raise money for the training of service dogs.

These service dogs are a part of New Life K9s, a local nonprofit that works with the California Men’s Colony to train service dogs.

“I’ve worked in correctional services for 24 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen rehabilitation,” said New Life K9s program liaison Lt. Patrick Nolan.

The main focus of this project is that the community as a whole benefits from this win-win situation. While inmates train the service dogs in a form of rehabilitation, the service dogs are also rescued and will eventually have a home. Veterans and retired police officers also have the opportunity to apply for these service dogs. Truly, it is a win-win situation.

Top Dog Coffee Company, although an important facilitator in the process, was not the main focus of this story. This is because we had a conflict of interest when one of our teammates, Dylan, said that she worked as a barista for Top Dog. In order to eliminate this conflict of interest, we had multiple people at every interview, and the story was focused on the relationship between the California Men’s Colony, the dogs, and the veterans.

We also chose to focus on the veterans and service animals aspect because of the feedback we received on social media. Many of my interactions included questions about the process of training a service dog, and the benefits both the veterans and inmates saw when they worked with them.

The project was not too hard to cover, and each of us took on different roles in the reporting process. I covered Strategy and Engagement, and encountered minimal challenges in sparking meaningful conversations surrounding our topic.

Dylan was in charge of the video reporting, and produced a really nice teaser video that perfectly captured the essence of the story. She was even able to visit a doggy boot camp, and said, “I got to meet everyone, so that was a positive!” Megan handled the traditional reporting process, and enjoyed the interviewing process, saying, “Wow this is amazing! I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more about it Friday.” Arran was in charge of the interactive components to accompany the story, and gave some great feedback regarding narrowing our focus down. “Just to clarify – we’re still trying to focus the story on the veteran angle?” This helped keep us on track.

By working together, we were able to interview many sources who added amazing contributions to the story. Unlike our last story, we had almost zero problems with the interview process, giving many of our team members a longer editing process. This was helpful in producing a well-rounded story.

Overall, I would say that this project went smoothly. Every team member added valuable input to the project, and worked together as an effective reporting team that produced a great feature story.




Behind The Scenes: Girls Who Handle It

It’s that time of year! Scrolling down Instagram leads to pictures of friends posing at the pumpkin patch, casually going apple picking, and sipping on PSL’s. It is common for female students to create a sense of happiness for themselves on social media. What they are actually enduring, however, can often be the complete opposite.

Girls Who Handle It  is a story about two women, Asia Croson and Julia Freet, who partnered up to provide a platform for female empowerment.

When we first found out about the senior project, Girls Who Handle It, my team and I were instantly intrigued by the idea. A platform for girls to come out and talk about their hardships, despite what they make their life out to be on social media. We agreed that we are all guilty of this.

We later found out the details of the project. Girls Who Handle it started as an art exhibit that documented female resilience in the face of personal struggle. The piece showed that women are often pressured to mask themselves under social media.  After diving into it, we all agreed this was the story we had to cover for our first project. Luckily, Molly was good friends with the photographer for the project, Asia.

In order to cover the story well, we each took on a different role. I covered Strategy and Engagement, the Interactive component was completed by Megan, Dylan covered the written portion, and Molly was in charge of Audio and Video. Diving into separate rolls helped us understand the mechanics of what a project like this entails. The amount of detail each role had to pay attention to was challenging, but we all learned a lot in two weeks. Because some of us had strengths where others had weaknesses, we were able to use each other’s knowledge to complete the difficult parts.

After deciding on our topic, we knew we had to get an interview with the founder of Girls Who Handle It, Juila. At first, we struggled to reach her. However, Dylan and Molly were eventually able to get a hold of her. From start to end, our group was solid on communication. Dylan did a great job keeping our group up to date. “Just had a great interview. We definitely have what we need for the teaser!” From there, the project was a breeze.

Molly lifted a rock from our shoulders after her KCPR interview, claiming “It was so easy!”

And Megan helped the team by always lending a hand. In an instance where Molly got stuck on Premiere, Megan was instantly responded with “I may be able to help!”

One challenge for Dylan was the ability to stay optimistic under the stress of a deadline. A similar issue for Megan was trying to make all of our schedules (from our teammates to our interviewees) work together. I think the communication within our team helped us overcome everything that got in our way.

Despite a few hiccups, I think the team did a great job on Girls Who Handle It! We are looking forward to rotating  roles on our next story.


Behind The Scenes: A campus club uses their skills and determination in hopes of taking on the fastest human-powered vehicle

For our first project, we wanted to do a fun but an interesting topic that would grab readers attention easily. We decided to revolve our story around the Human Powered Vehicle Club and their process of building a man-powered vehicle. The HPV club is just one of the many clubs at Cal Poly that work as a team to create fun experiences through building a human-powered vehicle, which is one of the many reasons why we chose the topic.

A team of determined mechanical engineers works together to build a bicycle that will accomplish high speeds.


As we began research on the club, we had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into. The building process of the bike, the passion the club members have for the field, and the members’ anticipation for the competition gave us a bigger, better, more interesting story than we could have ever asked for.

When we first began the project, all we knew was that the club built bicycles powered by a human. We didn’t really realize why, or for what purpose until we looked further into the story. Once we started researching various platforms of social media, we found that this club was gearing up for the World Human Powered Speed Competition located at Battle Mountain, Nevada. This was something that really intrigued us and made us want more information when there were no other articles and little information about the club. Once we found a topic that was intriguing we set out to find what interested people the most about the story.

Although I didn’t receive much traffic throughout the various platforms I posted to, I did find that people wanted to know more about the members of the club and the process of building the vehicle. We found that they were interested in the story itself, which gave us great insight to furthering along our research.

Through social media, our reporter Alyssa Mavor was also able to direct readers to the clubs social media, “I wanted readers to directly have access to the HPV Instagram so they could get a visual of what the club is all about and what exactly they do.” This helped people better understand the story we were pulling together and what exactly it consisted of. While social media was helpful for finding our niche in the story, making quality interviews allowed us to get the facts and really dig further into the club and why they do what they do.

2017 Assembly Process

We found that with each human-powered vehicle, there is a specific jockey that is tailored to fit the vehicle. One of our reporters, Carter Harrington learned through an interview that the building process of the vehicle is more strategic than people think, “Going into the interview, I figured the team just built a vehicle and found a jockey or rider to fill in.  They actually build these vehicles to precisely fit the jockey so if one thing goes wrong or the jockey gets hurt, they have to start from scratch.” By tailoring these vehicles to measure the height and weight of the jockey, the breathing patterns, as well as how well the rider pedals and steers, it allows for the vehicle to increase in speed.

The Cal Poly’s 2017 Human Powered Vehicle hit a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

While the building process of the vehicle is vital to the success of the team, the club has found more of a family through long nights working on the project. When interviewing Chief Engineer, Derek Fromm, reporters Goldberg and Harrington found just how committed the members of the HPV club are, “…I realized that being dedicated to this wasn’t something I had to force myself to do. Because all of a sudden, I was in love with this project and it became easy. It became easy to pull all-nighters, to design and build this thing. It became easy to kind of put everything else on the side just because I wanted to get this done so badly”, said Fromm. Our video reporter Goldberg, was surprised to see all the hard work that actually goes into making a human-powered vehicle and was surprised with how much time and effort the club puts into the project. “I didn’t realize how extensive the process was. It really shows how determined the club is and how they’ve really put their heart and soul into not only the vehicle but the club itself,” he said.

We have enjoyed putting this story together in hopes that people enjoy the hard work and dedication the HPV club has. We wish them all the best luck at the World Human Powered Speed Competition.

For more information, you can go to their website. 


Thinking about Streaking?

The week before pitches were due Cal Poly had the biggest sporting event of the year when the Mustang faced UCSB Gauchos in a heated soccer match. Every year the main attraction of these games are lots and lots of tortillas that are thrown onto the field. This year there was a drastic change with lots and lots of individuals who attempted to “streak”- but were fully clothed. We all wanted to write about this but we didn’t even know what to title our story if the seven people who were arrested were technically not streakers because they were clothed. Our group then decided to look up what the definition of a streaker was when I asked, “what even is a streaker?” After looking it up we saw many different definitions for it and decided that a streaker can either be naked or clothed because as shown above number 12 states “to run, go, or work rapidly”- which they did or number 14 which is “to make a sudden dash in public while naked, especially as a prank” according to

Although there were many streakers, Primo Facchini, a Cal Poly Student said “I did not see the students run into the field at that time. I saw videos of the streaker on Snapchat. My initial reacting was its just another striker at a game and I thought it was pretty funny. The game was high energy the whole time since UCSB is our rival. I don’t think it changed the game much after that.” In this hyperlink you are able to watch a snap chat story yourself and see what is was like to be at the game. group thought that since this was such a big deal going on all around campus and there were many different opinions of it as well as many videos and pictures that we thought that it would be easy to get interviews- but we were wrong.

We initially wanted to focus on the streakers and where they ended up but we had to change our ideas in order to get all of our interviews and a successful story. The streakers were easy to spot at the game but hard to find who they were around campus. Mustang News wrote a story prior to ours coming out about the seven arrests but none of them mentioned names. Here is a link with the story if you would like to get some more information :  We then thought that taking the advice of Kinesiology Professor Maurice and looking at how the players felt would be a good idea. The players were difficult to interview despite a few members of our group knowing a few of them. We quickly learned that public relations tactics are very much alive when one of the players opted out of an interview because we had to go through his publicist.

We  had to change our story angle again, Spenser Judd tunes in on the change of topics by saying that, “Even though we had to change our original story idea, we were able to quickly find a new angle once we got ahold of our sources.” We then decided to focus on staff such as UPD and athletic directors. Jarrod Urrutia shares how a great interview he had with the athletic director and how he helped bring the story together, “Until I got a very strong interview from the athletic director, I was unsure of how I would be able to bring a video together. When the reaction started coming in, so did the video.” We were running out of options and like being a big help to the athletic department he was also a big help to our story!

Another aspect that was surprising to us was how hard it was to get social media content. There was so much being posted but it was hard to go back and find by the time we got around to our story. Being able to add angles that we had not talked about before allowed us to be able to complete our story. Katie Patterson, who was in charge of that says, “I found it difficult to find successful multimedia components for our story; however, our story came together in a cohesive manner.”

We want to leave with you today that streaking might seem like a good idea at the time but is it worth the fines, jail time and possibly even become a registered sex offender?” According to the Shouse Law Group, students who choose to partake in streaking run the risk of being arrested under California Penal Code 314 PC. First convictions can result in misdemeanor penalties of up to six months in county prison and a fine of up to $1000. Any future offenses can lead to a felony with a prison sentence. People who are convicted for indecent exposure are also required to register for a minimum of ten years as a Tier one California sex offender.  It may seem like a good idea at the time, but think twice next time you think about running across the field and get close to jumping that fence.

Thank you and enjoy our story!

Behind the Scenes: Possible BlackHorse Closure

Topic Choice

San Luis Obispo is growing. Growth comes with change. San Luis Obispo might be closing a neighborhood favorite coffee shop in favor of a new apartment complex. For our first topic our group decided to report on the possible closure of BlackHorse Coffee on Foothill Boulevard for the new 790 Foothill apartment complex. When we made the choice to report on this topic we did not realize that there was much more to the topic than we first thought. This was a topic that could provide topics for multiple stories. We decided to cover the story as an overview, but each piece could have been a story on it’s own.    

Photo: Taylor Barnet


For this project I worked on strategy and engagement, Mckenna wrote the article, Taylor worked on interactivity elements and Leanna did video and audio. While we each had our own part of the project, it definitely was a group effort- and I have hundreds of GroupMe messages to prove it.


Every story has its own unique set of challenges. This story was no different. Overwhelming it was difficult for everyone to get interviews.

Mckenna Roberson’s, written article, biggest challenge for this project was getting sources to speak on the record. “It was difficult to hut down and find people in general to talk about this project because it is such a big story, but the real frustration come after finding the sources. A lot of people were not okay being on the record.”

Taylor Barnet, interactivity, used the challenges she faced in this story to dictate the interactive element she created.  “A lot of the information was dense, which made creating an interactive element a bit of a challenge. I decided to do a timeline because there were so many significant dates in the administrative process that I discovered through research.”

Leanna Newby, audio and video, said for her it came in waves. Newby stated, “I tried to be proactive in my role, but when it came down to it, I had a lot of beautifully edited b-roll, but none of my sources were able to be interviewed.” This created a lot of scrambling the last day and a long night of editing, but she put together a video she is pleased with.

For me the biggest challenge of this project was my health. I was not able to help my group as much as I would have liked or be proactive. It felt like I was trying to play catch-up the whole time.

Photo: Taylor Barnet


It’s easy to understand why BlackHorse has a loyal customer base. It has a cozy, greenhouse feel with lots of windows, it’s set up for a collaborative work and has plenty of outlets. The owner of BlackHorse does not want to leave. Tom Brown stated, “I plan to stay here until 2022 at the very least,” he said. “I have a lease. I’m there.” He has worked hard to create an environment that the San Luis Obispo community and students enjoy.  

Image courtesy of the City of SLO

790 Foothill Apartments

The proposed apartment complex would be comprised of 78 residential unit complexes with 155 parking spaces. The building plan proposes that the building will be 43 feet high, which is 8 feet above the city code. Affordable housing is  a problem in San Luis Obispo so it will also include 12 deed-restricted studios that will be rented to residents in the low income category. Dana Leyva, a second-year student at Cuesta supports the decision to remove Black Horse in favor of housing. She noted that there is a severe housing shortage in San Luis Obispo, and plenty of other places to get coffee. 

Appeal Decision

The co-signer of the appeal and city council candidate James Lopes stated, “I think what people and San Luis Obispo neighbors would really like to see is some mixed-use project there that is more sensitive to the view. We should try to make this project more self-contained and respectful of the street and neighbors.”

On January 15, 2019 the appeal will be decided by the planning commission.

Atsá Foods Behind the Scenes

Storytelling has always been a part of human nature. Before language, people would use art to tell their stories. Cavemen drew pictures of their stories on the walls of their caves, ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics, and so on. It could be argued that telling stories is a primal instinct that is rooted in our DNA. Our ancestors used whatever tools they had available to tell stories, and today we call that journalism.Journalism is one of the fastest changing career fields. Technology is constantly advancing, and journalists are racing to keep up. Even within the last few years the journalist job description includes new aspects that weren’t there before. Now, a journalist has to be able to take photos, edit videos, create interactive graphics, write an article, etc. More than that, they have to be able to do all of those things with very limited time.

In the professional journalism arena, the time between a story being assigned to being publish is very brief. It is an extremely fast-paced career that requires organization and creativity. So what exactly goes on behind the scenes of a story from start to finish? To explore this, we will focus on the first project of the quarter.

The Beginning

After doing the research and arranging an interview, our group realized that our initial story idea was no good. There wasn’t really much to tell. In addition, the story did not lend itself to intriguing video. Since we are in a group of three, we realized that we should cater our story to the different storytelling components we were assigned for each project. The combination of boring footage and lack of a story made us realize that we needed to change our idea, and change it fast. At this point, we were a week behind and had to catch up. Ultimately, we decided to change our story from the new waitlist system to Atsá Foods.

Toasted Nut & Cranberry Atsá bar.

The Roles

Each of us had a unique role in the completion of our story. I was in charge of strategy and engagement, Hollie West was our audio and video person, and Megan Garcia was responsible for the written article. In our situation, a group project proved helpful because none of us felt our given role was our forte. We were there to answer questions for each other and lend a hand if necessary. That being said, we all did face some challenges along the way.

Megan Garcia and Hollie West working on their project components.

The Challenges

Aside from the obvious challenge that came along with needing to catch up after we switched our story idea, all three of us experienced different challenges for our given platforms. For Megan, the most difficult part of her job was figuring out a way to report on the story that wasn’t promotional. She said, “A lot of the questions people wanted answered were the nutrition facts and so I had to weave the answers into the newsworthy story of why Rafael Pintor wanted to create this product.”

For Hollie, her challenges came during the editing process. “The most challenging part of this project was picking out the best part of the story and condensing it down to only 90 seconds while including all of the important parts,” she said. Rafael gave an extremely informative interview and trying to piece together the most important aspects together in the limited time allotted proved very difficult for her.

As for me, my greatest challenge with this project was figuring out a way to post on social media that would ignite a response. In my personal life, I am not super active on social media. It has never been something that was in my wheelhouse. Unfortunately, for the most part, I found that people didn’t really care enough to take the time and respond to my questions. I received very limited responses considering how many followers and group members there were on each social media platform.

Atsá Foods President

While the three of us may have felt overwhelmed and frustrated at times in our assigned roles for this project, I would argue that we all were able to put things into perspective after the interview with the creator of Atsá Foods, Rafael Pintor.

President of Atsá Foods, Rafael Pintor

Pintor, a senior agricultural science major, has been juggling school as well as being the founder of a relatively successful startup. He doesn’t think of himself as a businessman, and said that balancing them both has been a “wild ride.”

When the company launched in April, he took that quarter off of school and focussed on business. He said, “I feel like you’re learning more going out door to door selling to these shop owners.”

What We Learned

No one in our group was assigned to their most comfortable component for this project. Because of that, it left a lot of room to learn and grow for each of us. Megan learned the importance of writing leads. She realized that she is more inclined to write a cliché lead and said it was great practice writing and looking over the original leads.

Hollie learned how important emotion is in video storytelling. She learned how to get emotion out of a person while interviewing them and how much better the footage is when that happens. She is also proud to say that she now knows how to edit a video into Mustang News style.

I learned the importance of reaching out to your readers/viewers before you decide on an angle for your story. In the past, I would walk into my interviews with a very broad question, or simply just asking the person to tell me their story. I would listen for unique qualities when they spoke and would get my angle from there. I learned that just because I think an angle is interesting and needs to be addressed, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best way to go. I also learned how to be creative in my research. Our story was only covered by New Times SLO and was briefly mentioned in the SLO Chamber. The bulk of useful information I got during my research came from the Atsá Foods website and a blog on the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Behind the Scenes: HaptX

At the start of project four, we had decided to do our story on Marijuana ordinances in the City of San Luis Obispo. As we started exploring this topic further, we realized that the project timeline wouldn’t coincide well with City meetings related to this topic.

We decided to do our story on HaptX,  a local company. Haptics is the science and technology of touch – HaptX is creating devices that almost perfectly mimic the feeling of touch. We had the opportunity to visit the San Luis Obispo office and try out one of their newest technologies, the VR glove.

“It is remarkable to see the technology this company has created and the various ways it can help other people and businesses. Virtual reality is a very difficult concept to envision and create, but the peopole at HaptX seem to be adept at creating it,” said Jacob Forester.

HaptX was originally a small start up created in San Luis Obispo by a college drop out, Jake Rubin, and a Cal Poly professor. Over the years, the company has grown to two locations and multiple patents. They are releasing their VR glove later this year.

We chose to do our project on HaptX  but there were still road blocks that made it difficult for us to get the content we wanted. For one, filming was not permitted in the office which made Kelly and Jacob’s portions of the project difficult to complete.

HaptX has a strict policy on video recording and photography in the office and only pre-approved footage and pictures are allowed to be published. Prior to the interview, we also had to sign a form that prohibited us from sharing or publishing any information we saw in the office. The San Luis Obispo office handles all the engineering and design for HaptX and they want any information to be kept confidential.

We met with two engineers, both Cal Poly graduates, who have been working with the company for a few years. They offerred a unique perspective into

The secrecy of the company was intriguing and frustrating all at the same time. They gave us a simulation of the “VR glove” that they created and it was one of the most unique, impressive technologies I’ve had the opportunity of trying. We weren’t able to record any of the simulation but the HaptX website provides great simulations of the gloves.

Being able to experience the latest in VR technology is something we will always remember. VR is on the brink of a whole new revolution of technology that I don’t think we can yet fathom.

“I know very little about VR, but this concept is mind blowing. It was so interesting to learn about this technology and the implications it could have on our society. Also a little terrifying”, said Kelly Jacobs.

Getting to experience the hurdles in this project was an important lesson that couldn’t have been taught in the classroom. We had to learn how to be flexible in order to get the story done.