ASI Presidents and The Year of the Woman

With the 2018 Midterm Election fresh in our minds, we wanted to write a story about women in male-dominated positions of power. 2019 has started off as “The Year of the Woman,” and we wanted to bring that to a local angle and a Cal Poly angle. Though it took some time to really get a solid, concrete angle on our story, we were able to figure out the best way to approach it: by talking to past and current Cal Poly ASI presidents.

The first step of the process was to conduct a community engagement report. Since we had a 2-cycle news story, we were able to do two of these and get a lot of information about what readers wanted to know, which also helped shape how we told our story.

The current ASI President, Jasmin Fashami, was our first contact. We knew we needed to talk to her about her role as ASI President and some of the challenges that come with the job, as many of the responses from our Strategy and Engagement efforts wanted to know the answers to those questions. We also wanted to know if she felt any limitations as a woman.

“At the beginning, I felt like I wasn’t being taken as seriously,” Fashami said. “I don’t know if it was because of my own insecurities or because I’m a woman, but I feel a lot better about it now.”

We also interviewed Aaron Gomez, Heidi Harmon and Erica Stewart to get a bigger picture on the story and bring it to a local level. Stewart is the first African American woman to serve on the SLO City Council, and was also ASI President when she was a Cal Poly student. We also spoke to Rose Dunn, who was the first female ASI President at Cal Poly in 1980. All of their perspectives were very interesting and essential to our reporting.

Another step of the process was to get visual elements for our video and interactive components. We scheduled on-camera interviews with some of our sources and made time to photograph them. We also made a timeline of female ASI presidents at Cal Poly and we provided additional interactive graphs.

Each team member had an important job in this process. Here’s what we thought about it individually:

Kayla Berenson (Strategy and Engagement): “The process of doing a 2-cycle news story was challenging, but I think we were able to get a lot out of it. We have so much information and I think it adds so much to our story. I really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something more PR-focused; it’ll definitely be something I can put on my resume. I’m excited to learn more about the other components and keep challenging myself!”

Casi McIntyre (Writer): “This round has taught me how to work with another writer on a story. It was shown me how to focus on a theme for a story and continue to connect back to that while I interview and write. While taking on two cycles fit for our story, I encountered some challenges that I didn’t think I would.”

Jaelin Wilson (Video): “It’s been a great experience getting to interview more people for this piece. Morphing our narrative has proven a little challenging–but, in the end, it’s been beneficial to have that hurdle and overcome it. Collaborating with another writer has also been a learning experience.”

Krista Hershfield (Interactive): “This round it was really exciting to go on one of the interviews in City Hall. I also felt being involved in the interactive end brought me more into the storytelling process as well. It is exciting switching roels and I can’t wait to keep taking on different tasks.”





Cuesta Canyon

With all of the rain the past few weeks, our group wanted to do a story about the outdoors to encourage people to get outside. Maddy discussed with us about how she worked on a story last quarter about the city of San Luis Obispo buying land in Cuesta Canyon, creating new hiking and biking trails.

We knew this would be a very visual story and we looked for creative ways to show the new land. Laura Cassin came up with the idea of using a drone to show the scope of the land. She contacted Brady Teufel to get training on the drone. She really enjoyed trying something new.

“It was fun going out of my comfort zone and using drones to get footage of Cuesta Canyon. I learned a lot through making this video and I think that it turned out well,” Cassin said.

Tina Raeisi also helped with the video portion of the story. In a Public Relations track, she said she’s never really used Adobe Premiere before.

“I didn’t have much experience with premiere prior to this project so I learned a lot through making the video for this project,” Raeisi said.

Our group also saw an opportunity to use video footage to make an interesting parallax component. Nicole Thorpe was in charge of the interactive portion this cycle and she enjoyed creating elements to make the story pop. She hadn’t created any multimedia elements for a story before and she said she was grateful for our group members for helping her

“Being able to go to Cuesta ridge and see the land was a good opportunity for our group and very helpful when getting content for interactive and video,” Thorpe said.

Maddy Copley wrote the article and was behind this cycles story idea.

“I’m so glad we were able to pursue this story because I feel like a lot of Cal Poly students will really like to know about this new adventure to go on,” Copley said.

The whole process to get the visual elements were challenging due in part to the weather. It rained for the majority of this cycle and it was hard to find clear a clear day and coordinate with the group to meet at that time. Eventually, we got a window to use the drone and go out to the land Wednesday.

At the interview, we asked through provoking questions and tried to find answers from professionals that would get our audience’s attention. Since Copley already worked on this story last quarter it was easy to re-contact her sources and have follow-up interviews with the answers they gave her a  few weeks ago.

Overall this was a fun story to do. There was a lot of outside adventuring. A lot of us were exposed to new technologies that allowed us to tell this story better. The group was nervous about trying new roles, but I think we created a story that is multi-dimensional and will reach audiences across all platforms.

Notes: Here

Competition: Tribune

Social Media: Post

Letters from Inside the California Men’s Colony (part two)

The initial blog post by my teammate Claire Blachowski summarized the events of how our story idea came to fruition, who we interviewed as our first sources, some history behind the inmate letters to KCPR, and where we were hoping to go with the story. It has been almost one month since my team started this story, and all its parts are coming together.

We have interviewed a few sources: former KCPR DJ and current Cal Poly student Connor Sullivan, current KCPR DJ Camilla Corcuera, former KCPR DJ Bibi Pickles, KCPR’s advisor Patti Piburn and two California Men’s Colony inmates that have sent letters recently.

Sullivan and Corcuera are the most recent recipients of letters, and have mixed feelings about them. However, they both feel flattered that they are the chosen recipients they said. “It is shocking, exciting and kind of flattering that these people are writing me…I think it is pretty cool more than anything,” Corcuera said.

Bibi Pickles, which is her former DJ name and current nickname, brought about 80 CMC letters to share at our interview that she has collected over the years. Pickles said she responded to a few of them in the past, developing a pen pal relationship with at least one inmate. She enjoyed this communication overall she said.

The interviews that most people expressed curiosity about are with the two letter-writing inmates, Leonel and Kenneth. My group members Rachel Showalter, who initiated this project topic, and Claire Blachowski were the two members who went to the CMC to conduct the interviews on Friday, Feb. 1.

Just days before these interviews, Showalter, who is also a KCPR news anchor, received a letter from Leonel. She had never received her own letter from an inmate, and had only been mentioned in letters sent to other DJs. The timing of this was impeccable and quite humorous in Showalter’s eyes. It made her nervous to see him face-to-face, but she knew she should go through with his his interview for the story’s sake. “I knew I would have regretted it if I didn’t do an interview with Leonel,” Showalter said.

Inside the CMC, Blachowski and Showalter were only allowed to record the interviews on an old-fashioned tape recorder and pen and paper. They said Leonel and Kenneth discussed their reasoning behind writing and sending the letters, along with things like their daily routines. Blachowski described their CMC visit as “once-in-a-lifetime”.

Through further research on the history of inmates writing letters to radio DJs, we discovered that letter writing in general is a common outlet for inmates, as it connects them to the outside world. We also read about inmates who wrote letters to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and the cast of “Big Bang Theory”. However, it became evident through the duration of this project that KCPR holds a special place in the lives of some CMC inmates.

Letters from the Inside the California Men’s Colony

We heard it on KCPR 91.3 FM SAN LUIS OBISPO first: California Men’s Colony (CMC) inmates writing in to the student-run radio station and calling in to the live broadcast. For some student DJs this is a welcome surprise. For others, this is just another regular Tuesday radio segment.

Fourth year Journalism student and KCPR DJ Rachel Showalter has been named in some of the letters and wanted to discover how these relationships have evolved and why it’s good for the inmate’s morale. CMC inmate Leonel calls into the KCPR radio station every week, religiously. Former KCPR student DJ Connor says he receives letters from Lionel quite frequently. Mostly, they are notes of support and regular fan mail, but their relationship has grown over the years.

Our team wanted to investigate this history and apparent tradition of California Men’s Colony letters, and speak to the inmates about what it’s like for them to have that relationship. We contacted the men’s colony public information officer, Monica Ayon, to kickstart a clearance process for our story, pitch our media plan, and ask about her knowledge of the letters.

After submitting clearance paperwork and requesting media interviews with the inmates, we submitted a list of our intended audience, media channels, and potential interview questions to the California Men’s Colony PIO to be reviewed.  

In the meantime, we reached out to KCPR current students, who shared their letters with us. We received a lot of feedback and multiple letters. Upon seeing the diversity of the letters, we reached out to KCPR alumni to inquire if they had similar experiences. Our team received an overwhelming response to this, with alumni DJs offering to interview and share their letters with the inmates.  We also briefly interviewed our target audience, Cal Poly students, and those within the Cal Poly community via our social network engagement report. Main feedback incorporated the desire to hear from inmates themselves on the relationship with KCPR student DJs and how the student DJs have interacted with them over the years of the station.

The California Men’s Colony, after multiple email communications detailing interview questions, visitor clearances, the letters, and relaying information on behalf of the Department of Justice on whether we can visit and interview the inmates, agreed to let us visit the inmates. Our timeline was pushed back as the clearances were not submitted as soon as the team submitted them.

Through background research, we identified that these letters were not only widespread throughout the past and current KCPR DJs, but also broadcasters and radio show hosts in the San Luis Obispo area. Historically, KCPR DJs have entertained calls from the California Men’s Colony on their shows, as we discovered in Cal Poly’s digital archives.

Our team plans on recording audio of the KCPR DJs on the phone in the studio with the inmates, as the CMC will not allow any audio or video recording. In addition to posting the letters with our story, we’d like to see some interactive capabilities with hyperlinking text to audio. For our video component, we would like to capture DJs reading their letters, the studio, and any establishing footage of the California Men’s Colony and KCPR studio.

Our story is continuing to the second cycle and will hopefully be complemented by a visit to the CMC and interviews with inmates. We do not yet know if we have permission to use their full names. 

SuggarDaddies and Human Trafficking

Our initial idea was to talk about San Luis Obispo being a hub for human trafficking, however after researching we realized we needed stronger angle. We thought it would be interesting to discuss how dating sites like are linked to human trafficking because it is often used by college students to help pay for school. In a college town like San Luis Obispo, it hit close to home. Once we completely the community engagement report, our respondents made it clear that they wanted to know more about the topic because they weren’t entirely familiar with the information. People specifically wanted to know what they could do to avoid predators on social media. In the age of the internet, we decided that this would be a large focus in our story.

Through my social network engagement report, we were hoping to to hear back from someone who had first-hand experience with websites like However, we realized that it’s highly unlikely that someone would reach out and share a personal story about exchanging dates for money. Luckily, we had a girl reach about the experience of someone she knew in college. Although it wasn’t directly in San Luis Obispo, it gave us insight into the world of dating sites like and why young girls use them to make money. Even though we weren’t able to find a direct source in San Luis Obispo, Dan Dow was able to put us in contact with Opal Singleton who is the CEO of Million Kids. Million Kids is an organization that works to fight to end Human Trafficking. She gave us valuable information about the increase in human trafficking and what we can do to stop it. After talking with her, it became clear that we needed to discuss ways to avoid the dangers of social media and online dating sites. Additionally, our backgrounder gave us insight into how prevalent these sites and human trafficking are all over the US. After reading through some of the articles, we were able further decide what we wanted to focus on in our story.

As for our interactive and video portion of the project, we plan on attending an event for survivors of sexual assault and take a video of the candle ceremony. It’s been difficult to find visuals that would be a meaningful attribution to the story. We are still deciding what to do for our interactive portion of the project. We would like to have different sound bites of victims talking about their story so people can hear the emotion directly though them. Before we really start to work on our interactive portion, we need to get an interview with someone who has experience with these sites and human trafficking. We posted a survey online asking for people to interview with us and told them that they could remain anonymous. As for the candle light ceremony, we want to use that as the banner when readers click on the article.


Behind the Scenes: New Year’s Resolutions

Our teams initial idea for the first project was to do a feature story on a Cal Poly professor Dr. Todd James Pierce, who writes books and records a podcast about amusement parks. We thought this story would be interesting for Mustang News readers because it would showcase a professor in a different light than students are used to and reveal some of the professor’s hidden hobbies. Our first assignment, the community engagement report was completed in the hopes that this would be our topic. After we were unable to schedule a meeting time with the professor before our deadline, we decided on Thursday morning of the first week that we would change our topic. We settled on the new topic of Cal Poly students and their opinions on New Year’s resolutions and hit the ground running.

Nicole and Tina worked together on the strategy and engagement portion of the project. Nicole had some great ideas regarding angles to take for the story and questions to ask on social media. “I think students would be interested in hearing about realistic resolutions that can actually be accomplished,” she said. We carried on by asking students on various social media platforms how they felt about New Year’s resolutions, whether or not they keep them and for how long if they make resolutions, and if any of their resolutions revolve around improving campus social climate and environment. We thought asking about campus social climate and environment could give us an interesting angle to write about. Unfortunately, we hardly received any fruitful answers for this question.

Through our social network engagement report, we found that most students are interested in learning about unique resolutions of diverse groups of students and whether or not they follow through with these resolutions. “I got a lot more responses than I expected from students on Reddit, Instagram, and Snapchat, Tina said. Additionally, our backgrounder provided insight into some previous professional news stories on this topic. This gave us ideas about how to take a different approach on the topic than one might expect. We came up with the idea to interview random students on the spot during UU hour. Maddy, the Interactive group member, would photograph them holding a whiteboard with their resolution written on it and then Connor, the audio and video member, would interview them by asking a few questions and get video footage.

“I did a word on the street to try and get people to talk about their New Year’s resolutions and it went really well”, Connor said.

Wine and viticulture junior Noah Knebel’s New Year’s Resolution was to remove his social media accounts and he has stuck to his resolution so far.

One of the students we interviewed, senior Art student Melanie Delacruz, mentioned how she liked what we were doing. “I think the idea to interview people just walking around makes the story really genuine and forces them to give raw, unedited answers,” Delacruz said.

Art senior Haley Sylvers had a simple resolution to drink more water and she hopes to continue sticking to that for the rest of the year.

“Originally, I was worried about how I’d be able to approach this story visually, but it ended up being a really enjoyable experience, Maddy said. She guided students as they wrote out their names, majors, years, and resolutions on the whiteboard and then as they posed for a quick picture. She took a total of twelve pictures of students with the whiteboard.

Maddy created this collage of pictures featuring students’ and the whiteboard which they each filled out.

Laura, the word group member, has been working on the story for our project. “Initially, I had some trouble finding professional sources for the story, but a couple professors have been very accommodating and I think my interviews turned out well. She interviewed Daniel Levi and Don Ryujin, both Cal Poly psychology and child development professors.

Overall, our group worked very well together to put together the pieces for this project. We will be using this final day before the last due date to put together all of our components and make sure everything is as good as can be.

Behind the Scenes of Female ASI Presidents

2018 proved itself to be the year of women in politics. With historical wins in the House of Representatives and the Senate, this most recent election has proved that times are changing, and women involvement in politics is rising.

We wanted to incorporate this trend and relate it to Cal Poly as well. With this, we were aware of the fact that the last three student body presidents had been females themselves. Has Cal Poly been ahead of the game this entire time?

Our group initially wanted to write a piece about female involvement in politics, and learn more about whether or not they have felt like they had a disadvantage to their male peers. Since many doors have opened for women in the political realm, we wanted to find out more of the inside perspective that females have in these roles. After some brainstorming, we narrowed it down to Cal Poly government and wanted to tie in the concept with our very own past ASI Presidents.

For this story I was strategy and engagement, and I initially quickly interviewed five individuals about their take on this idea, all different ages and backgrounds. Through this initial interview process, I found common themes of interest in the concepts of the female perspective in politics and discovering what different initiatives past female ASI Presidents used in their campaigns. Not only that, but those that I interviewed wanted to learn more about what the role of the ASI President does.

Our group pinpointed that interviewing Jasmin Fashami, the current ASI President would be a good start. Scheduling time with Jasmin for an interview is when we learned just how much time commitment it takes to be the ASI student body president. With many emails every day and constant meetings, it takes a lot of time and responsibility to be ASI President, as well as hard work and patience. After Jaelin Wilson’s interviews with Jasmin and our group brainstorming sessions, he concluded, “The fluid structure of this course has meant a pretty interesting experience. The freedom of it has been a double edge sword. If anything, it’s taught me to utilize my time as efficiently as possible.

Photo taken by Kayla Berenson in Jasmin’s office

The next source we interviewed was Rose Dunn, the very first female student body president on Cal Poly’s campus. In her interview with Kayla Berenson, she said “I do think women have a unique perspective to add to the conversation.” We want to continue to incorporate the female perspective with politics in our story.

We are doing a two-cycle story, so we will continue interviewing other sources for this piece. The next person we have planned on interviewing is Kristin Hultquist, another previous ASI President.

We took some turns with the direction of the story, as we originally wanted it to be a political piece on the local level in SLO and it has turned to more of a political piece of Cal Poly.

Photo taken by Kayla Berenson in Jasmin’s office

Overall, this process so far has taught our group a lot. Kayla Berenson said, “This process has really shown me the speed of which things happen in this industry and how to better manage my time. I’ve had to schedule interviews, edit video, and gather b-roll in a much quicker time than I’ve been used to. I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration aspect of it and I’m excited to improve my skills in other areas.”

As for Casi McIntyre, “This process has shown me what it’s like to collaborate as a team on a multimedia project. I’ve witnessed some of the difficulties of scheduling and finding sources, but have also widened my skills of using interactive elements. The process has felt organized and I like working outside of class more.”


Behind the Scenes: Reporting on the Women’s March

The San Luis Obispo Women’s March has been going on since January of 2017. The march started to send a message to our new President and his administration that women’s issues matter and that we will not be silenced. My group had never attended a march before, so we really didn’t know what to expect or what we were getting ourselves into. The morning of the march we all met at Haley’s house, and walked to the park square from there. Since none of us had ever attended the march before, we thought it would be a good idea to get there an hour early to get our bearings and get a better idea of how our reporting would go.

Haley Pryde, who was in charge of word for this project, had a great experience with the Women’s March.

“I loved getting to meet women from all ages who were involved with the march. From a 61 year old to a 16 year old, learning everyone’s perspectives was so cool and it made reporting so much more fun.”

Our group was lucky enough to have gotten into contact with Dawn Addis, the organizer of the event. Dawn was so helpful and welcoming to our group, and was very excited that we were going to be reporting on the event.

Taking photos during the march made the event that much more powerful. Young children would be seen carrying signs about women’s rights, and whole families were there supporting something they believed in.

Kenzie Nicoli, my group member in charge of the interactive portion of the story, was very touched by the whole experience.

“Meeting everyone at the women’s march and experiencing their eagerness to share their support and their story was definitely the most heartwarming experience that derived from this story and capturing that enthusiasm on their faces through photos made this project that much more rewarding.”

When we first started the reporting process, we thought we were going to be doing a ‘Humans of New York‘ type piece about the event. Our first idea was to do it about this years slogan, truth to power, but Mustang News was already reporting on that. After reporting on the march and conducting interviews, our team realized it would be a lot more interesting to change our angle to that of women and men at the march. Including a male perspective about a largely female event would make our story more inclusive.

Valerie Gasparini, my group member who was in charge of the video for this project, was a big advocate that we include men in our story about the march.

“It was interesting observing how men played a part in the Women’s March this year. I got the chance to speak to a Cal Poly student and an older SLO county resident, both men were passionate about actively supporting women’s rights. I learned how the march has become more inclusive every year, covering not only women’s rights but also minority rights and human rights in general.”

Walking in the march was such an amazing experience. Men and women, young children and the elderly, were all there for a cause that they believed in. Isabella Hamman, a Cal Poly graduate, was in town the weekend of the march and decided to join. Dressed as Rosie the Riveter, Hamman is a big advocate for women’s rights.

“Having a place where men and women can come together and march for the rights of others is such a powerful thing to be apart of. I’ve gone to these marches every year since 2017, and really believe that this is the way you can create change in our society.”

I think I can speak for my group when saying that the march was an amazing event to be apart of. I think it helped our story that none of us had ever attended it before, because we went into the reporting process not fully knowing what to expect, and letting the story take us wherever it lead.

Behind the Scenes: Cal Poly Poinsettias

The Cal Poly Plant shop this year has over 4 thousand poinsettia plants for sale this holiday season. Group 3 settled on writing about this topic after a number of false starts. First, we wanted to write about goat yoga that was going to occur at Madonna Inn. We investigated this yoga event and found that there was a class scheduled for the first Saturday of our project. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that another Mustang News writer was going to tackle this topic so we went back to the drawing board.

Next, we investigated the possibility of writing about the cube satellites that had recently sent back pictures from Mars. Cal Poly had helped build and program these satellites and it was a big deal to get the first images back. We spoke with a Mustang news editor who had worked on the cube sat team and she said the story would probably be very technical. The team was skeptical of journalists and might be reluctant to talk to us, she said.

We then decided to pivot to another topic: drag show bingo. We found an event put on by the Cal Poly Pride Center for a fundraiser called Drag Bingo. The night would feature games and people dressing up in drag, and all group members were really excited to go to it. I did some background research and the Cal Poly students were really excited to learn about drag bingo. Unfortunately, this event was cancelled shortly before we could write about it and we had to head back to brainstorming for stories.

To our delight, we found out that goat yoga hadn’t been written about as we’d previously thought. We called Madonna Inn to see if we could come to their event on Saturday and, surprise surprise, it had been cancelled.

Finally, we settled on a topic we had been considering all along- the Cal Poly Plant Shop’s annual poinsettia sale. We learned that the shop had over 4,000 plants this year and were interested to know what the rub was on these holiday plants.

I reached out to the parents on the Cal Poly Parents Facebook page and they were more than excited about these leafy treasures. The parents wanted to know all about the care of the plants, the prices, the varietals for sale, and if they really were toxic to cats (it apparently is an old wives tale and unfounded).

My group went to the greenhouses on campus and took beautiful pictures of the poinsettias. Max interviewed one of the students working on the project. “For anyone considering doing this project in the future, be ready to work hard but I promise the rewarding feeling of seeing the plants that the team worked with for months being purchased by smiling and wowed customers is priceless and something that we won’t forget,” Graeme Davis said.

My team also enjoyed the project. “It was really interesting to see the behind-the-scenes process of the greenhouses and the plant shop. Knowing how much time and effort the poinsettia team spent preparing for the sale makes me appreciate the project even more,” said Max Goldberg. In his signature style, Carter Harrington also chimed in: “Cal Poly poinsettias are the witches tits. The beez kneez. The creme de la creme.”

As for Emily Fagenstrom, she was still stuck on the goat idea. “I love baby goats!”

Behind the Story: Student Transfer Club

The Cal Poly Transfer club is one that lacks attention on campus but has great motives. After completing our social engagement report, I found that a lot of Cal Poly students are unaware of the club. Why? In fall of 2016, 779 transfers were admitted to Cal Poly in comparison to 4,341 freshmen. As you can see there is a huge gap here, which is why we wanted to look into the transfer club that recently started up again this fall. 

Our video producer was the perfect person for this position. Victoria Gracie is a transfer student herself and was passionate about producing a video that sheds a light on the community. She said her transfer experience was not easy. She went behind the scenes to the club’s potluck study event and saw what the club’s community and interaction was like. Obtaining interviews was a lot easier this time around than previous stories. 

“Getting interviews and sources early really worked out to our advantage because we were able to adapt and find new sources as needed,” said Victoria. 

Spenser’s job was the interactive components. He decided to do photos of transfer students in their everyday environments. By doing this, the audience could hopefully get an insight into what the club does and looks like. Spenser also felt that our story was smoother this time around because of the willingness of our sources. 

“The story came together smoothly because our sources were quick to respond,” said Spenser. 

The transfer club is a place for transfer students to come and feel welcomed and joined by community. There are close to 200 people in their GroupMe, which is the club’s main source of contact. Itai Maine, a transfer student at Cal Poly, described the club as “a big community”. 

Transfer Student Club at Bonfire

A few other transfer students were also willing to help with our story. We got input from Alisa Frost, the president of the club, and Primo Fachinni, a member of the club. As the strategy and engagement role, I felt we had a lot of strong background information on transfer students in general and Cal Poly students’ overall knowledge about the club. Our goal was to go inside the club and look at members of the club’s stories. 

Jarrod’s role was word. He said the most helpful part during the process was the one on one meeting. 

“The one-on-one meeting helped me instrumentally in analyzing my work and updating it to where it needed to be,” said Jarrod.