Behind the Story: Cal Poly Students Who Stay in SLO for Thanksgiving

We all have that one out-of-state friend. Whether he/she is from Hawaii, Colorado, or Georgia. YOU get to drive a few hours away and bam you’re sitting across the dinner table from your Aunt Lucy who’s had two drinks too many already. As much as you hate them, you love your family because the cook of the night always makes the yams just the way you like it–with way too many mini-marshmallows.

A Common Theme

During our time researching questions and discovering answers to the question:

“What the heck do Cal Poly students do when they stay in SLO for Thanksgiving?” 

(for those who aren’t locals), we found that many people actually adopt what’s called a friendsgiving. Friendsgiving: The celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends. Ex. “Hey guys, bring over your family leftovers to my house on the Friday after Thanksgiving to celebrate Friendsgiving!”

It was fun to interview the outliers of the holiday and analyze their attitudes about staying in SLO. Some seemed un-touched, while others were slightly, dare I say, excited. I held multiple friendsgivings myself and they really are fun.

Our Thoughts About the Process

Demitria Castanon (PR & Yours Truly):

The reporting process was very fun. I very much enjoyed being the public relations person in the project. I like to blog, and social is fun for me (and most other people my age), and it didn’t really seem like work to me to be honest. My favorite part was tagging along in the interviews. Meeting the sources is the most exciting. Thinking about challenges, I’d say the only part that was somewhat difficult to me was the first social networking checklist because sources don’t know (nor should get the feel) that we are on a deadline so I need our communication to be prompt. A.k.a. not waiting days to see if a certain time works or not. I understand everyone has plans,  it just makes it difficult when people are unsure about setting interviews.

Amanda Fridley (Text):

I like doing print because this topic had a lot of people willing to come forward and talk about their experiences during the holiday I had fun getting to know everyone and really diving into this topic. Usually I write for broadcast so it short sweet and to the point so print should be fun for me to dig deeper into my writing. Finding sources was not difficult at all for this project

Kaylee Bingham (Broadcast):

I am not super familiar with broadcast, which is what I am doing this time around. So it has been a challenge learning all of the components, from how to use the camera to actually editing and putting a video together. I am having fun with this topic though and learning another facet of journalism.

Trevor Melody (Multimedia):

MM has been rather tricky for me compared to PR and video so far. I’m not really familiar at all with ThingLink so working with it to try and make sure that it’s been working and how it should be has been rather difficult. I also am finding that I have to interview more people than I did for both PR and Video in terms of making sure that I have enough visual and audio quality for the thinglink.

Rachel Furtado (Multimedia):

I liked hearing what everyone who couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving was doing instead. People do things that I wouldn’t think to do if I couldn’t be home with family. The multimedia component was challenging at times but it was fun trying to come up with creative ways to produce content for his project!

Behind the Scenes: From Grad to Grapes

Choosing Our Topic

About two weeks ago, my group completed our first story about the new Mustang Station on campus and the changes coming to the Cal Poly community now that students 21+ can drink on campus. Come Monday morning, we were all still pretty stumped on what to cover for our next story. While brainstorming during class, Vinny Van Patten pitched what would become our new topic: Cal Poly’s influence on the local wine industry.

We all know Wine & Viticulture students and knew a few people who have graduated and either work in a local winery or have printed labels for the bottles. Our professor Brady Teufel had a few suggestions for sources for us, including his lifelong friend Coby Parker-Garcia, and a group of former Cal Poly students who had created an app that helps the user pair wine with what they’re eating for dinner. Initially, our group decided we wanted to profile different people from the Cal Poly community that are involved with the San Luis Obispo County wine industry. So far our source list contained an older graduate, a current student interning this quarter at a local winery, a professor who’s created labels for bottles and the group of former students who created the app. However, pursuing these different sources proved difficult and we realized that we needed to narrow down our topic to be more specific. After brainstorming again in class the following Wednesday, we made the official decision on our story: to cover Cal Poly graduates’ influence on the local wine industry.

With Arinee Rahman and Brittany Tesmer on broadcast, Katelyn Piziali on print, Vinny Van Patten on multimedia, and myself covering Public Relations, we felt pretty confident on covering our story. I personally was looking forward to getting great footage of the inside of cellars and seeing some of the winemaking process.

Visiting our Sources

The two interviews I accompanied our group to was with Pat Doyle, Cellar Hand at Chamisal Vineyards and to Coby Parker-Garcia, winemaker at Claiborne and Churchill. Our first interview was with an old friend of my boyfriend who graduated Cal Poly in 2014. He studied Business and concentrated in Packaging Logistics. He’s currently the Cellar Hand, or assistant winemaker, at Chamisal Vineyards and was thrilled that we had an interest in the wine industry and was more than willing to talk to us and give us an inside look at his job.

“The graduates were really happy to make an effort to help us with the project, which shows how much they still care about the school and its students” said Vinny Van Patten.

That Friday we carpooled to Chamisal and opened the cellar doors to be greeted by a cellar dog and the sweet aroma of fermenting grapes. Pat walked around with us and explained everything about the duties at the cellar and how he got involved with the wine industry. Pat started off as an intern, and realized how much he loved the people he worked with and the experience of making wine. He described the process of learning how to make good wine as “tasting your mistakes”. We got lots of great interview and B-Roll footage, however editing audio proved to be very difficult. The cellar echoed, and made it difficult to hear Pat during some parts of the interview.

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Brittany and Katelyn interviewing Pat Doyle at Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

“I learned how important planning ahead is. Always check your equipment before you leave the equipment check out place, always have back-up equipment and always always mic up the person you are interviewing no matter what. Camera audio is very difficult to edit and is horrible sounding” Brittany Tesmer said.

The second interview that I attended was with Claiborne and Churchill winemaker Coby Parker-Garcia. The drive to the winery was beautiful, and the flowers and landscaping surrounding the building was very welcoming. He gave us a rundown of what a year in a winemaker’s life looks like.

“During harvest, which is in the fall, we’re picking the grapes, getting the fruit off the vines, processing it, fermenting it, and getting it into either a barrel or tank. Then, the springtime is typically busy bottling a lot of our whites and starting some vineyard work which is getting the vineyards prepped and ready for the upcoming growing season. And in the summertime, we’re bottling some of our reds by the end of summer. Throughout that entire time, we’re trying to sell our wine, hitting the market in different areas throughout California and the US” -Coby Parker-Garcia.

He also told us something we thought was really cool: all full-time employees at Claiborne and Churchill are Cal Poly graduates.

I was really in awe of how passionate each worker was about their job. Seeing how passionate they were on the topic made it more interesting to me than wine ever has been to me before” said Katelyn Piziali.

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Katelyn Piziali interviewing Coby Parker-Garcia at Claiborne and Churchill in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The other graduates we interviewed were David Beress, a winemaker at Stillwaters Winery in Paso Robles, who graduated from Cal Poly in December 2015 with a degree in Wine and Viticulture concentrating in Oenology, and Alejandra Alvarez who interns for Treasury Wine Estates. Alvarez graduated from Cal Poly in June 2016 with a degree in Wine and Viticulture and a concentration in Viticulture.

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Grapes at Stillwaters Winery in Paso Robles, Calif.

It was so inspiring to me to see how Cal Poly graduates spread out all over San Luis Obispo County and got involved in the wine industry in different ways. I learned that you don’t need to have former connections or to study Wine and Viticulture in school in order to work in the wine industry.

“I thought it was cool to see how successful people become with a Cal Poly degree. Still Waters’ owner, general manager, winemaker and a lot of people in the tasting room are all Cal Poly grads so it’s cool to see what an impact we can make in a community” said Arinee Rahman.

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A shot of the vineyard at Stillwaters Winery in Paso Robles, Calif.

Wrapping Up the Story

I loved covering this topic for the last couple of weeks, and it was really cool hearing about how the university I’m about to graduate from prepares students so well to work in the wine industry, and how interdisciplinary the industry really is. We’re looking forward to seeing our final story and what stories are to come!

Behind the scenes: Cal Poly swipes right

Getting Started

Planning our angle for this story was a process. Our group knew that stories on dating apps have been used before. Mustang News had published stories about dating in the digital world and we knew there was definitely an interest in this topic. We messed around with  the idea of do’s and don’t of online dating. We also looked into reporting on what makes a good dating profile.

After discussing our idea with our professor we decided we needed to narrow dating online to just one app. We chose arguably the most popular dating app, Tinder.  After researching other articles that explained exactly what the app is, we wanted to tell the stories of the people using Tinder. Success stories, failures, and everything in between.

It all starts with the decision to swipe right…. 

The Process

We were all assigned our roles for this project and buzzing with excitement for this not-so-traditional topic. Demi Castanon was the print portion, Kaylee Zaccone was multimedia, Trevor Melody and Rachel Furtado were broadcast and I was assigned PR.

I was definitely nervous to be assigned the public relations section of this project because I had never had a PR course at Cal Poly. I must say, once I got started with the preliminary PR portion, I was hooked.  I did research and viewer outreach to gage what people wanted to know, I set up interviews and received a surprising amount of people willing to be asked about their dating life.

What better way to find a professional source about online dating than to look online! I reached out to Laurel House , tv personality and international dating coach. Here are her thoughts about using dating apps…

Laurel House says having discussions with someone before meeting in person is important.
Laurel House says having discussions with someone before meeting in person is important.

Rachel and Trevor started with their interviews and did a great job of helping people open up. They both decided to interview some of the same people but do different angles for their videos.

“I really like working with video again and editing because I haven’t been able to do that in a while.” Trevor says. He explained the only challenge he ran into throughout this process was using the Mustang News elements while editing the video.

“I had fun interviewing Harmony. She was super outgoing and gave me a lot to work with for the video! This was a fun topic to cover”- Rachel

 

Trevor Melody and Rachel Furtado are all smiles while writing scripts for their videos
Trevor Melody and Rachel Furtado are all smiles while writing scripts for their videos

 

They interviewed 4th year, Psychology major, Harmony Chen who admitted to downloading Tinder as a joke. “It was fun, it was like a game. I didn’t really take anything seriously.” Chen says.  That’s until she met her now boyfriend, Jason.

Harmony Chen and boyfriend Jason say they are glad they met on Tinder.
Harmony Chen and boyfriend Jason say they are glad they met on Tinder.

I went with Demi to her interview with Elizabeth Alvarado, a freshman, Child Development major at Cal Poly.  Elizabeth stopped using Tinder because she felt she needed to focus more of her attention on school.

“I loved writing my story about this topic and was surprised about how many people use this app.” Demi says. Her only challenge was finding someone willing to be interviewed about their personal life.

Kaylee wanted to create an interesting multimedia portion to this project but had trouble in the beginning. “I liked working with multimedia because it gives you a lot of room to be creative, but it’s the platform I’m the least familiar with so there was a bit go a learning curve for me.” Kaylee says.

Takeaway

After this project our group learned a lot about the ways people meet each other. Tinder opens doors for not only relationships, but good friendships as well. You never know wha connection are out there waiting for you.

It all starts with the decision to swipe right…. 

Happy swiping friends!
I already found my match on Tinder
I already found my match on Tinder

–Amanda Fridley

Behind the Scenes: Mustang Music Majors ♫

Ideation

Throwback to week four, Monday afternoon. ‘Twas the second round of stories for senior practicum and our group was totally stumped trying to come up with a new topic.

Luckily, another journalism student needed to use one of the Mac computers in the room to work on her project for another class. While overhearing our conversation with the Professor as we were trying to come up with ideas, she suggested, “well, what about music majors?” All it took was one look at each other from Maddie, Katie, Caitlin and I to run with it.

Music majors haven’t really been covered much in the news at Cal Poly. Besides the fact that they perform in shows at the PAC and that we have a really good school band, we concluded there’s not much known about them.  

How do you get in? What’s the curriculum like? What do music majors do after graduation? These are questions we asked ourselves. Our story angle: What’s like to be a music major?

Action Plan

By Wednesday, our group solidified our plans – we wanted to interview at least two music majors and the Chair of the Department. I was tasked with the PR role and hopped on it.

Caitlin decided to go with a spotlight piece on a music student for her broadcast video.

“This was the first time I did a formal video project; I learned a lot about how to set up the camera and the subject, as well as arrange a time to get good b-roll. It was fun to talk to the students and see what their plans and experiences are like. I also got to sit in and shoot video of one of the symphony rehearsals.” – Caitlin Clausen

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Katie’s story focused on the academic experience of the major. For Maddie’s piece, we had trouble deciding between the theme “success stories” or “a day in the life of a music major.” She ended up going with the topic “sounds of the music department,” and recorded different people in practice rooms to gather her audio.

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“My sister is a music major at NYU, so I was really excited when we chose to cover the music department at Cal Poly because I always wonder what music majors actually do in school. After hearing about all the work and time these students put in, I have a new respect for the major and department. Being able to capture some of the “sounds” of the music department for my ThingLink was a great experience and really shows what someone can hear walking down the halls of the music department.” – Maddie Reid

Our first official interview was with Brandon Webb, a senior with an emphasis in percussion. Next, we interviewed Kelly O’Shea, whose concentration is in voice and Dr. Terrence Spiller, the Chair of the Music Department. He explained the nitty gritty of the music academia for Katie’s print piece.  

“One thing that tends to set music apart is there is almost a conjoining of basic musical skills and the academic studies. Musicianship skills really develop the ability to understand music as you hear it. In the theory classes, the students learn how to read, write and analyze music in all sorts of different forms. There’s a building process across the major. We’re a distinctive program. If a student comes here, they will get an excellent academic preparation and basically you can pursue anything you want music-related. Everytime we get a program review, we get raves about it. ” – W. Terrence Spiller, Department Chair

Ending Note

Everything came together quickly for Katie’s article. By Wednesday (10/26), Caitlin and Maddie had most of their footage, but wanted to record Brandon playing his percussion. We decided to schedule with him again, but he ended up getting sick and had to push it back. Luckily, music majors practice relentlessly, so we were able to film him the next day.

New Appreciation

“Needless to say, our group left each interview in awe. The music majors at Cal Poly are some of the most hardworking people on this campus, often having twelve hour days of school. From class, ensemble, seeing and performing in shows, practice, private lessons and rehearsal (all of which are requirements), the word “dedication” seems like an understatement.” – Dani Orlandi

“I really enjoyed writing about the music major. I learned so much about a major that I think is disregarded at Cal Poly. People at this school think the hardest majors are engineering and architecture, but I have such a newfound respect for music majors. They put so much time and energy into something that doesn’t guarantee them a well paying job out of college. Talking to these students… my jaw dropped hearing about everything they have to do.” – Katie Stark

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~ Dani Orlandi

 

Behind the Scenes: The Mustang Station Way

Coming Together

When our group first came together, we struggled a little bit with finalizing our topic. We went from thinking about writing on the downtown bar scene, to writing on how the bars affected the neighborhood, to Mustang Station.

Once we decided we would write about Mustang Station, we needed to come up with our angle. We realized that not many of us knew all about the new “pub” and we had questions on how it operated on campus.

Who checked ID’s? What would happen if an underage student was caught drinking? Are we allowed to drink beer anywhere on campus? How did Cal Poly become an official wet campus? Are we actually “wet” or “semi-wet”?

These were the questions we needed answered and we were ready to tackle them. Brittany Tesmer and I had the PR role and we quickly began to speak to people on their thoughts.

Interviews

We had to change the angle of our story very quickly when Mustang News reported on the new pub. Their angle was how the pub came about and what paved the path for Cal Poly to make the campus “wet”.

We changed our angle to focus on the rules and regulations of the pub, how it effects the campus environment, and what the future holds for Mustang Station.

“We should focus on how to balance having a wet campus now and underage drinking. We would focus on the policies, what happens if your caught drinking underage, what you can or cannot do now.” -Vinny Van Patten

I wanted to initially get the thoughts of the general public on the new pub. Most people had similar questions as we did. Brittany worked on getting thoughts from Cal Poly Corporation since they had a lot of input into the venue.

As I was speaking to the cashier about how IDs are checked, one student went over to him to ask if he was allowed to bring his beer into Mustang Way, the bowling alley. The cashier said it was against the rules and that all beer had to stay inside.

After speaking with the cashier, I went to talk to the student that had asked him the question. The student suggested that they should break down the wall that separates Mustang Station and Mustang Way to create a nicer environment to drink and play.

We realized his wish was granted when we spoke to ASI Facility Supervisor, Warren Chang.

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Warren Chang told our team in a broadcast interview that they had just changed their rules to allow beer into Mustang Way. It looks like the rules and regulations have been changing based on students’ input.

Avrah Baum did the broadcast portion and we had some trouble with the audio at first. The mic wasn’t working and so we ended up having to interview Warren Chang twice. It helped me learn to always bring an extra audio recorder and to always record with two devices in case one doesn’t work.

“There will always be technical issues with Broadcast. You just need to be prepared for it.” -Avrah Baum

With that in mind, Avrah and I were ready to interview Chief of Staff, Jessica Darin. We brought in extra batteries, extra mics, and set up in her office to ask her how she felt about Cal Poly being a newly wet campus.

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Unfortunately, Jessica said she didn’t want to be on camera to answer those questions. She explained that since she has only been at Cal Poly for 6 months, she would not be the right person to ask these questions.

Avrah and I were quite disappointed in not being able to get the quotes we wanted from her. But to our surprise, she offered to check in to President Armstrong’s room and see if he was available for 5 minutes to take our questions.

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One door closed, but another had opened. Things worked out better than we thought because we were able to ask President Armstrong his thoughts on Cal Poly’s new pub and how it came about.

“It was just an evolution. It’s something we’ve been thinking about and increasing in intensity since I’ve arrived. We’re excited and we think it’s a good time.” -Jeff Armstrong

President Armstrong told us more about how the pub came to be and what he hopes Mustang Station will bring to the campus environment. It was my first time meeting Armstrong in person so for me, it’s something I’ll never forget.

The Final Product:
Cal Poly and the Mustang Station Way

With a lot of funny hashtags thrown out there (#CPGetsWet, #TipsyMustang, #Moist), our group had finally produced a great story. It was a great experience uncovering Mustang Station, what it had to offer, and what the future holds for it.

“Having to be on a deadline only two weeks long really makes you lean on group members and better time management skills” -Katelyn Piziali

My favorite part of this experience was seeing how 5 people can work on a story together. Our different thoughts and ideas on this topic brought the story to life and it made me really appreciate having others in my group to lean on.
-Arinee Rahman

Behind the Scenes: Harmon v. Marx Mayoral Race

Why the Mayoral Race?

With elections coming up in just under a month, our group thought it was important to highlight the race for the next San Luis Obispo Mayor.  While most students are debating over whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump would be a worse President, very few students recognize the names Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx – the two women running for SLO Mayor.  Katie brought this idea to the groups attention and we all jumped onboard.  The story is so relevant, not only because it is election season, but also because Cal Poly is at a time of growth and change and the next San Luis Obispo mayor will have a lot of say in what the University can and can’t do.

As we started talking about our story angles on the day of assignment, we quickly realized our hypocrisy when criticizing our fellow peers for not being more aware of their local government representatives.  We ourselves were also not too familiar with who Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx really were.  So task number one for our group was to research the candidates so we were educated on the topic when talking to our sources.

Time with Heidi Harmon

Our biggest fear when choosing this story was that it would be too difficult to get a hold of both Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx in a timely manner.  Our worries were put at ease when Heidi’s campaign manager emailed me back within 24 hours of our email inquiring an interview.  The only mishap we ran into was that another student (Bryce) had also requested time with Heidi.  Because of the overlap, we decided to collaborate and conduct our interviews at the same time.  We set the interview for Friday (10/7) and communicated with Bryce to insure we would all be on the same page regarding the type of questions we wanted to ask.

On Friday we met at Bella Mundo, a cafe located downtown.  While the cafe was a little loud, we were able to find a quiet corner with perfect, natural light from the window for our video.  The interview went off seamless and Heidi seemed to be very enthusiastic about bringing a new insight into the SLO government to achieve solutions to prevalent issues in our community.

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Dani (pictured on the right) interviews Heidi Harmon on issues involving Cal Poly vs. the San Luis Obispo community as Bryce (pictured on the left) takes notes on her responses.

Tracking down Jan

While Heidi’s team was quick to reply to our interview inquiry, getting a hold of Jan was a more difficult scenario.  After a couple unreturned emails and phone calls, we finally found success from our new friend Bryce, from the Public Policy reporting class.  When we realized that our deadline was fastly approaching and we still had no word from Jan, we reached out to Bryce to see if she had any luck reaching Jan.  She replied informing us that she was doing an interview with Jan the next day and we quickly invited ourselves to tag along to get video and ask our questions.

The interview was held outside the UU by the Mustang statue.  While it was a nice place for visuals, the area was less than ideal for sound – it was extremely loud due to how close it was to the street and foot traffic.

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After watching the interview back on tape and realizing that the loud traffic took away from what Jan was saying, we decided to schedule a second interview.

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Reflections

In the end, this story made me realize how important it is to vote for your local government.  Cal Poly is in a period of change as the University wants to increase its student population and the next Mayor will have a lot of say on the how much they can grow.  It’s extremely easy to switch your to registration to be able to vote in SLO and voice your opinion in the upcoming Mayoral elections.

“Reaching out to the public about what they wanted to hear in the story really made me realize how different our perception as reporters about what we assume our readers want to see and what they actually say they want to see.  I loved working on this story and being able to talk to both Jan and Heidi to get their opinions on issues that are affecting Cal Poly students everyday.” -Maddie Reid

“Covering the Mayoral Race in SLO was fun and exciting. I’ve never been involved politically before, as this is my first eligible election. Thanks to this project, I have switched my registration to SLO county and will be voting in a few weeks. I will encourage my classmates and friends to vote in San Luis and will pay attention to what’s going on in our community from now on. I’m very happy our team covered this story successfully and can’t wait to see who becomes Mayor!” -Dani 

I learned a lot about the Mayoral Race and each of the candidates who are running. Even though I think they have similar stances on Cal Poly issues, they are very different candidates overall. While Jan Marx is more experienced and entrenched in the community, Heidi Harmon is very charismatic and has run a great grassroots campaign which made me think about whether we need new blood in the office. Ultimately though, I think Jan Marx is the more qualified candidate.” -Katie Stark

“I learned a lot about time management and being able to get things done on a tight deadline. I successfully completed an article and five interviews in less than two weeks, on top of work and my other school assignments. I also learned a lot about what a large role the mayor plays when it comes to decisions at Cal Poly and around SLO.” -Caitlin Clausen

Our Time with Smile and Nod: A Behind the Scenes Look at Developing the Story

The Idea

When we all came together to figure out which story we wanted to tackle for our first project, we came to the consensus that doing a piece on Cal Poly’s very own improv comedy team, Smile and Nod, was the clear choice. Some of the members in the group had never even heard of Smile and Nod and thought that it was a pretty cool aspect about campus that many students (and community members) don’t even know about. So with that we were on the trail for a new angle to come up with for narrowing down a story about our chosen topic. We knew that Mustang News had covered Smile and Nod in various ways before, but we wanted to try and find something new and exciting about the improv group that maybe a majority of Cal Poly students had never known about before.

Smile and Nod members at their show on Saturday night preparing for their sketch.
Smile and Nod members at their show on Saturday night preparing for their sketch.

The Start

In our group of five, Rachel Furtado and I were in charge of the public relations portion of the story. This meant hitting the ground running with developing audience engagement reports, doing background research on the group to see what else there was to cover, scheduling interviews, posting questions and starting discussions about Smile and Nod on various social media platforms and even diving into search engine optimization programs to help us narrow down key words and headlines that would best attract our audience’s attention.

Meet the Team

Kaylee Zaccone was tasked with writing the actual editorial piece about Smile and Nod. This involved going to interviews with people that Rachel and I set up for her so that she could take the jumpstart we gave her and run with it for her story.

Demi Castanon was in charge of doing the multimedia aspect for the project and coming up with a cool way to display some of the facts and information that we got from some of the team Members from Smile and Nod. Her portion is also going to be pushed to the web, so having a visual component about our topic was very important.

Finally, Amanda Fridley got to use her skills as a broadcast journalist to work the broadcast and radio portion of our story. She actually got to go to one of Smile and Nod’s rehearsals on Sunday afternoon to see what goes on behind the scenes to make the show what it is.

The Process

All in all each of us had a very set way that we were going to handle each of our portion of the project. Given that Rachel and I were both doing PR for this story, we leaned on each other for support and advice on what to do for each step of the way. It was all new to us and so any questions that we had were answered by figuring out what exactly it was that was being asked of us and reading in close detail. Setting up the interviews for each other was one of the bigger things because each of us depending on interviews and communication to get our pieces done. With that being said there were no arguments or drama between any of us in part because we knew that all of us were working toward one common goal. There was a mutual respect and understanding for everyone’s individual part in the group, which made working in our group a very cohesive process.

The Takeaways

For me, personally, I had a really good time with this project. I got to use Reddit for the first time and post a question in the forum, which I thought was pretty cool. Being able to post on social made the project seem a little more real, as well. Engaging with various audiences and posting questions (even though there weren’t that many responses) was still something that I can take into the professional world and use as a great tool for engaging with the public. I also was bale to sit down and have a pretty long talk with one of Smile and Nod’s veteran members, Sasha Smolgovsky, about some of the cool things that Smile and Nod gets to do that not many people realize.

“If people in the community knew that there was a team nearby that does comedy in Scotland at an international festival, then I think they would be more interested in seeing it as opposed to [thinking] ‘it’s just a college thing’” Smolgovsky said.

Sasha Smolgovsky at the Smile and Nod show on Saturday night.
Sasha Smolgovsky at the Smile and Nod show on Saturday night.

I think this is a great point to be made because I certainly didn’t know that they got to do awesome things like that and I’m not sure how many other people do either. It makes them seem more legit when it comes to performing and getting their name out there for people to come to their shows.

Team Takeaways and Perspectives

Demi, who went to the show on Saturday night to get images for her multimedia section was surprised at how entertaining the group actually was when she saw them in person.

“It was more funny than I thought it would be. I didn’t know that the audience also had a say in what they performing in cause it really is improv” Castanon said.

One of the main things that Kaylee wanted to do with her editorial piece was separate it from previous pieces that were written about Smile and Nod in the past.

“The other [Mustang News article] was just kind of an overview of what they are now and so we’re going to talk a little bit more about what they do outside, like giving back and working with Safer and also explaining how the group started” Zaccone said.

Having some previous background knowledge in comedy groups and possessing some great broadcast skills, Amanda wanted to change it up a little bit and do something a little bit different for her piece.

“I wanted to do a more fun interview just because it is a comedy group. I didn’t want to do just a clean-cut broadcast-style interview. I wanted to get more involved and actually have me talking with people” Fridley said.

Rachel and I both agreed that the PR portion of the project was a little difficult to begin with, but once we knew what we had to do everything was fine.

“I was really stressed out at first cause I had no idea what I needed to do and then meeting up with the members in such a short amount of time was hard, but I managed to meet with them and interview them for a little bit” Furtado said.

Team Smile and Team Nod getting ready to face off in their skit at Saturday night's show.
Team Smile and Team Nod getting ready to face off in their skit at Saturday night’s show.

Behind The Scenes: Cal Poly’s Wet Environment

Why We Chose The Topic

On a Monday afternoon, during the second week of classes, my group members and I each got assigned media roles for the story we were going to report on. Arinee Rahman and I both were both assigned the Public Relations role, Vinny Van Patten assigned to print, Avrah Baum to broadcast and Katelyn Piziali to multimedia.

In class, we bounced off topic ideas until we all agreed on a topic that we were interested in covering. All of us were interested in the topic of downtown culture in the context of day vs. night. After brainstorming multiple ways to cover the story, we realized that Cal Poly students would not be interested in the topic. So instead, we decided to cover Mustang Station, the new pub on Cal Poly’s campus. Mustang Station is new and intriguing, however, students are unaware of the rules and regulations at the pub. After we talked about this topic for five minutes, we created over twenty questions we had as Cal Poly students. Our questions made us realize how a story on the rules and regulations of Mustang Station is needed for the students of Cal Poly.

Shortly after, Arinee Rahman and I got together after class to discuss a plan reaching out to the individuals and organizations that were a part of creating Mustang Station. We did a little research on Mustang Station and the Cal Poly Corporation. Then, we found information of administrators and individuals we thought were best to interview for the story angle we were taking. To our dismay, just a few days later Mustang News released an article covering the history and decision-making process that led to the creation of Mustang Station. Because of this, our group decided to narrow the angle of our story.

“Improvising is important with reporting and you always have to be flexible enough to change your plans or angle,” Arinee Rahman said.

The Change In Direction

We decided to report on the environment of Mustang Station. The new story angle caused Arinee and I to speak with different people. We instead reached out to Jana Colombini, President Armstrong and multiple students and faculty hoping to get a sense of the environment. President Armstrong sadly rejected my group over phone and email, but did not say no to an interview when Avrah and Arinee ran into him in person!

Our original plan was to have Avrah interview Armstrong while drinking a beer, however, interviewing him in his office still gave us a great sense of the drinking environment at Mustang Station. In addition to Armstrong, our interviews with Jana, the Facility Supervisor and students painted a clear picture of the drinking environment at Mustang Station.

Avrah Baum interviewing Armstrong
Avrah Baum interviewing President Armstrong

Interviews

Avrah filmed the interview with Warren Chang, the University Union Facility Supervisor, in Mustang Station with the big television screens and many students with their pizza and beer in the background. The interview started at four o’clock in the evening and lasted for about thirty minutes. The setting was very loud and difficult to hear Warren from four feet away because every table was occupied by students or Cal Poly faculty. Once the interview was over, Avrah discovered that the audio to her broadcast taping did not record. I unfortunately had to leave because of another class obligation, but thankfully Warren did not mind redoing the interview.

Warren Chang interview at Mustang Station
Warren Chang interview at Mustang Station

“Always bring an extra audio recorder,” Avrah Baum said.

“It’s all about the acoustics,” Vinny Van Patten said.

Four days later, Vinny Van Patten and I interviewed Jana Colombini at three o’clock in her office located in the University Union. Jana gave detailed and thoughtful answers to our questions while also providing San Luis Obispo Community members’ opinions and thoughts about Mustang Station serving beer and wine.

“San Luis Obispo community members are worried about Cal Poly students drinking on campus and driving home intoxicated,”Jana Colombini said.

Personally, I understand the San Luis Obispo’s community members concern, however, Cal Poly is making their best efforts to promote drinking safety on and off campus through their Week of Welcome educational programs which every Cal Poly student goes through.

The next day, Katelyn Piziali and I went into Mustang Station during dinner time to take pictures and interview a few 21 year-old students with beers. After spending an hour in Mustang Station we really got a feel for the environment.

Katelyn Piziali taking pictures beers at Mustang Station
Katelyn Piziali taking pictures of beer at Mustang Station

“I think it’s really convenient that Mustang Station was created during my last year here at Cal Poly, when I’m actually 21 and able to drink on campus. Sittin in there in the evening, I could see why students might want to come to Mustang Station and grab a beer, whether it was to accompany studying or an on-campus meal.”

What we learned

After two weeks of working on this Mustang Station story, my group members and I learned multiple rules, regulations, history and environment of Mustang Station, but most importantly how to work well together.

“Having to be on a deadline only two weeks long really makes you lean on group members and better your time management,” Katelyn Piziali said.

Now it is time to relax and have a beer at Mustang Station!

 

Beer at Mustang Station
Two glasses of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA beer at Mustang Station

Brittany Tesmer

Behind the Scenes: Smile and Nod

fullsizerender-2 Our group decided to cover Smile and Nod, the improv comedy group at Cal Poly, because we thought it would make a fun feature story. We wanted to do something different than what other people had done in the past. We wanted to go beyond just highlighting this club, and share things that people don’t typically know about this group— like how their audition and callback process works and how they give back to the campus community.

Trevor Melody and I were assigned the PR role for this project, so as soon as we knew the topic we started contacting Smile and Nod members, reaching out to the San Luis Obispo community, and brainstorming the possible angles along with what would be important to include in the story.

Finding Our Sources

No one knew anyone personally who was in Smile and Nod, so we started with the group’s website. When and where were their shows? What possible footage would we be able to get in two weeks? Who do we talk to? We found out that they performed the first seven Saturday nights of the quarter, so we were excited that we would be able to see what they do firsthand.

Trevor and I started to send emails to some of the members listed on the website and hoped for a quick response. We also had to reach out to community members, people in administration, and faculty along with utilizing multiple social media platforms to get feedback for our story. Trevor says, “The most challenging part for me was approaching community members and getting good responses from them since most of them typically hadn’t heard too much about Smile and Nod.”

The Process

I ended up contacting one of the girls in the group, Brianna Rodebaugh. She was extremely helpful and agreed to meet with me and bring a new member (Paul) along with her. Talking with her helped generate ideas to cover for the story.

“Many people don’t know how much practice improv comedy actually takes, there is a different one for each type of performance,” Brianna says.

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Kaylee interviews Brianna and Paul from Smile and Nod.

Later, Briana and Paul became two of our main sources for the story. They met with Kaylee Zaccone, the person assigned to editorial, and me for an interview. Trevor set up the interview with Kaylee, himself, and one of the team’s managers, Sasha, and we had our three sources for the editorial portion of the project.

“We are doing an angle that focuses on the history, present, and future of the group,” Kaylee says. “It will hopefully be different from other articles done on them because we are going to talk more about what is going on outside of the comedy aspect, like how they give back by working with SAFER.”

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Demi getting footage for the multimedia component.

Demi Castanon and I went to the show Saturday night where Demi got video, audio, and photos for the multimedia component of the project.

“At first I was going to make a video, but now I am going to do the photo slide show,” says Demi. “I feel like people might be less likely to actually go to the show if they could just watch what Smile and Nod do on video.”

Lastly, Amanda Fridley is working on the broadcast piece for our story so she went to Smile and Nod’s rehearsals to do her interviews and take video.

“I wanted to do more of a fun interview. I didn’t want to do the clean cut broadcast style, but I wanted to get more of me involved in the interviews talking to people,” says Amanda. “It was a challenge for me to organize my angles and shots during the interview because they are an improv group, and everyone is so eccentric and was screaming in the background.”

What Surprised Us

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Smile and Nod performing Saturday night.

Throughout the process of putting together this story, each of us found ourselves learning something new.

“It impressed me how quick-witted they are and how easy it is to go from sitting in their chair to getting up and being crazy.”- Amanda

“I was surprised to find out how many people actually audition every quarter. I didn’t know many people were interested in Smile and Nod.”-Kaylee

“It was more funny than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know that the audience also had a say in what they were performing. People in the audience were throwing out topics and Smile and Nod would just run with it.”-Demi

Rachel Furtado