Editor-In-Chief of the Viking Views
2020-21: Co Editor-In-Chief
2019-20: News Editor
2018-19: Copy Editor/ Reporter
*This portfolio will be easiest to read in a full-screen format*
On one side of the vast wooden desk sat me: small, all the way to the edge of the seat so as to sit up straight, clutching my reporter's pass. On the other end, my then-principal loomed tall, armed with red pens and a printed copy of my story.
I was a freshman reporter for our school paper writing a story about how our district policy did little to protect Transgender students on our campuses. The nation was erupting into debate over Transgender students and public restrooms. Arizona still had “No Promo Homo” laws in place that forbid teaching about (or even acknowledging the existence of) “homosexual lifestyles.” So, the story was uncomfortably truthful about the base disregard our district showed for transgender students. Our campus didn’t do anything out of the norm and, for precisely that reason, it was doing incredible harm. Still, I truly believed that everyone would want me to uncover this- would want our community to do better.
Soon he slammed his fist at me.
At that moment, all I felt was shock that this was happening. I slammed my fist back, I didn’t feel so small. I didn’t have anyone with me, but I didn’t waver. An hour later, I left the office, tears welling in my eyes- tears of frustrated grief for my innocent trust in the system that washed away with each step. By the time I reached the newspaper room, I’d decided I would publish with or without his blessing. After hours spent reaching out to additional outlets, local organizations, days rereading and revising- my story was successfully published in the school paper. And with that publishing came the realization that even if the system wasn’t always playing on the right team, I have the power to change that.
I brought this lesson with me all four years of high school. As News Editor my Sophomore year, I dug deep into stories in our surrounding community about topics that we usually shy away from, such as issues around policing and immigration. My commitment came to bear during the pandemic when, as Editor-In-Chief, I created the first-ever online edition of our school paper- a new community resource, providing valuable information about school shutdowns, testing, and available mental health resources. It also provided a platform that gave voice to the difficult issues students were facing and a space uniquely able to cover and contextualize global news and what it means for students. This online paper won Second Place in Overall Production at the Arizona Interscholastic Press Association in 2021. With the return to campus, however, something was missing- and just as I helped our staff adapt before to the online world’s constraints, now I helped us build out our program even stronger. While continuing the success of the online paper, I created the Sunnyslope Sage, a new student life magazine created for and by students, in celebration and support of the community on campus. We are now on issue four and each issue has served as a vital resource of information for students about the small and big happenings on campus, from covid protocols and guidance to school plays, it is centered always around students. All of this work has had one guiding principle: that often the most direct challenge to unfair systems is the whole, genuine, commitment to the truth.
Editing, Leadership, and Team Building
As the Editor, part of my goal was to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the team. To me, this meant building a class that had clearly organized deadlines, goals, and a leadership team built equitably. I opened the editor roles of News, Features, Sports, Photography, and Politics to the whole staff and interviewed all interested applicants. Once the students were selected, to provide real leadership opportunities, on weekly plans there would be feedback sections and we would hold Editorial Board meetings where they had to report out their reporters' status, needs, and supports so the whole team was aware of everything needed. By fostering and encouraging hands-on leadership, I feel confident the newspaper will continue strong with an infrastructure I built out. This work is demonstrated below.
This is a weekly plan I sent Sunday night to editors, before sharing it with the class Monday. In order to maintain accountability, fair work distribution, and clear goals, organizing all that needs to be done in the week helped build the consistency and sustainability the staff needed to succeed.
This is a set of notes from an Editorial Board Meeting. I created this template to create space for editors to "own" the work their section was doing to the team and so they could maintain clear notes throughout the week as they discussed with reporters. This was part of my goal of giving these editor positions genuine leadership opportunities on the paper.
This is a picture of the latest story tracker used. The tracker serves as a resource for reporters, they can find deadlines, see others' stories, and see instant feedback. This also allows for all the parties who need to approve pre-publishing, to have a clearly marked note in one clear space. As I edit, if there are significant changes needing to be made I select the "Needs Writer Review" and students know we will conference during the next class and work through it.
On the staff, there have always been varying levels of interest and experience. At the start of each year, I came into the class with interview guides, writing norms, lessons, and reviews needed to get the writing started. After the first stories were assigned, I would help with every step and check in regularly with each reporter. As the year goes on this is delegated to the section-specific editors. One thing that remains consistent, however, is my thorough read and feedback of each story. After I read a story I hold a conference with the reporter(s) about what my thoughts were and we create a plan for improving or changing what needs to be changed. Below are stories utilized in the February Issue of the 2022 Sunnyslope Sage.
This is a snapshot of a heavily edited story. What is important to note is that the student is a 1-2 Journalism Student who wrote a feature for class about Neopronoun Controversy on campus that we decided to publish. While there are small edits over wording and grammar, the main edits are in concept. I purposefully offered alternate phrasing, asked questions, and provided several ways the story could go, but made it clear the importance of evidence and consistency. This, in turn, led to a collaboration with the student to get the story ready for print and was a learning experience.
Both reporters on this story are dedicated and talented. However, because neither was used to writing profiles, they felt limited in how creative they could get, and what was the most important part to highlight. I conferenced with both during class and we identified their lead being Schlesinger winning the award, so it needed to be much farther up. We also discussed being creative in their intro to make it captivating. We workshopped ideas, worked through the story format, but they took that feedback and enacted it on their own.
In the final draft, they explored how to introduce the story and both came to be after and said they felt much more excited about this version. Structurally, the article makes its point clear from the beginning, allowing for a better flow. But, most importantly, both reporters felt that they understood how to write a profile effectively and the importance of story structure because of the time I took to workshop with them.
Law, Ethics and News Literacy
When I joined Journalism 1-2, one of the first concepts I had drilled into my brain sounds simple but has incredible implications: objectivity. When you ask most U.S. citizens what the media, the 4th pillar of the government, is supposed to be, many will say “objective”. But, those same citizens wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell you what they mean by “objective.” In its most devastating form, this ambiguity has allowed a commitment to “objectivity” to be twisted until the same amount of airtime is given to untruths, obfuscating conspiracy theories, and other anti-journalist practices. Rather than destroy the very institution of journalism through performative objectivism, I argue, we must have a commitment to the truth in service of our audience. This is what each of my pieces reflect: a deep dive into discovering the truth and reporting it in a way that is accessible and useful to students on our campus.
The United States is currently being withered by a pervasive distrust in the media that grows greater each day. While much of this distrust is created by deliberate political tactics, there is some merit to much of America’s suspicion. True local news, in focus and production, has been decimated for profit. Did you know that the Sinclair Broadcast Group owns 243 local broadcast stations? That means that audiences in Arizona are being informed by the same materials and guidelines as those in Maine. There is no commitment to investigative journalism at the most local levels because there simply isn’t enough bandwidth or funding for it in these mega-media corporations. This is exactly why as a reporter I was committed to telling the “difficult” stories that truly mattered to students and why as an editor, I am committed to contextualizing and covering stories ranging from the school play to global tensions with Russia with our staff. I believe it is important to intentionally create space to celebrate and build community within the campus through the publication, which is why the Sunnyslope Sage was created, but also it is important to balance that with proving responsible coverage of difficulties.
This mission has translated into many moments discussing and guiding staff on which sources to turn to for building background, how to decide who to interview, respecting anonymous interviews, ensuring all facts are double checked, and how to present the story to be most useful to students.
This thought process can be exemplified in my deciding what was most important to cover for students a month into the pandemic:
This story was different than any other story I had written. Normally, I would spend time surveying and interviewing multiple students and getting their thoughts. I would contextualize the statistics to Arizona specifically and explore the "why". But this time, it was important that there was no room for convolution because students needed the resource. Instead, I made the decision to pull resources specific to domestic violence help and only interviewed the school social worker. Both decisions were to ensure the article was truly serving its purpose. Click on picture to read the article.
The goal of this story was to address the conflicting narrative going around the student body. Many were confused, many didn't know where to turn, and many were disagreeing. I utilized a student body survey, specific interviews, and contrasted those thoughts, concerns, and fears with national health guidance. It served both as a tool for students, but also a space of necessary dialogue about the confusion everyone was feeling. This also meant intentionally writing so that this contrast didn't feel like a "call out". Each element of this story had to be intentional. Click on picture to read the article.
Just recently, in the 3rd Issue of the Sunnyslope Sage when deciding what to publish in the double truck many wanted to go with the traditional route of covering something "fun" and Valentine themed. But recently I had heard from a student in class that they truly didn't know what the vaccine does because their parents don't speak English and they don't know where to look. The Sage has the unique reach to students because it is passed out during class and available to read throughout the day and physically in your hands, so I decided we should be mobilizing that as a true source of critical information and changed the spread to a fact page about mitigation strategies, where and how to get vaccinated, and what is in the vaccine.
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Reporting and Writing
Click headline to read the story
Heatwaves across the Southwest resulting in melting power lines did not come without warning; looking back to Texas’ winter storm
AIPA 2021 Award: Excellent in In-Depth Reporting
This story exemplifies all the promise an online paper has to offer. I had the opportunity to dive into an issue like never before, with over 3 hours of recorded interviews, connections with various experts on the issue, and extensive research because it was a long-form piece.
ICE influence grows in pandemic; students impacted
AIPA 2021 Award: Excellent in Social Justice Reporting, 2022 Scholastic Honorable Mention Regional Awards
This story was particularly important to Sunnyslope students because there had been blips of news about temporary detention centers and inhumane conditions, but with the pandemic raging it seemed to fall on the collective consciousnesses' back burner. For immigrant students or students with family who immigrated, however, the pandemic only exacerbated the pressure, presence, and danger of ICE. This coverage allowed for this issue to be refocused in our larger community.
Election brings out long time political divide
AIPA 2020: Excellent in News Story
It was impossible to ignore the growing tensions across the nation and on campus as the election ramped up. One facet, that seemed to go uncovered, especially in a state with such stark contrasts between the Urban and Rural populations, was how these geographic factors influence the political interaction. Highlighting this served as a frame for students to analyze the political divides within the campus with lived experience in mind.
Uighur Muslim crisis and suppression of Mongolian language strike parallels to rising issues in US
AIPA 2021 Award: Honorable Mention in Feature Story
When the news of ICE Detention facilities conditions broke national news the similarity to the Uighur Muslim Crisis was striking. Yet many students didn't know about either. Breaking down the why in the lack of critical analysis of US policy in classrooms exists is important to understanding how to reach students. Writing this global news story through the lens of Sunnyslope students only helped me further explore the nuances involved.
Sunnyslope's thriving art community deserves attention, promotion
AIPA 2020: Excellent in Opinion
This story thread the line of discussing a hyper-local issue and contextualizing it within a larger cultural debate. The article focuses on the general disregard for art in K-12 public education due to budget cuts, testing demands, and an already existent bias. By scaling back, the issue is easier for students to see clearly how it impacts their peers, campus, and neighborhood.
Protests spread across Russia, government cracks down
AIPA 2021: Honorable Mention in News Story
As Sunnyslope went on a block schedule, 50% of students at a given moment were not in a history class. This meant, for many, there was little awareness of global news. This story was to serve an educational purpose- to contextualize why it matters how Russia was handling its protestors, but also to dive into students' feeling of disconnect from conversations about global news.
Transgender students seek strength in LGBTQ policies; generally agree Sunnyslope supports positive culture
AIPA 2019: Honorable Mention in Feature Story
This was the story that changed everything for me as a writer. Because I faced such heavy push-back from administration, I was forced to analyze each line and the potential for editorializing. While a frustrating experience, writing this story taught me how to report in a way that will reach all sides of an issue because a true commitment to the truth is a commitment to accessibility of information for all. This story also taught me the power of using quotes to guide where your story goes, rather than setting out with preconceived notions and plans.
Great book for student readers: "A Thousand Splendid Suns"
AIPA 2019: Excellent in Review Writing
Writing this review as a freshman taught me the value in having a range of writing. My interests lay in politics, local news, and investigative journalism, but this review was my first glimpse into the power of intentionally building community through the paper as well. Reviews create audience engagement, get students talking, and make people want to read, each of these things important lessons for me to take with me as an Editor.
This page was commemorating the first dance show since the inperson return to school, so it was important to keep the page engaging and cheerful. The biggest task was incorporating the pull quotes in a non-distracting way.
This page had lots of text that needed to be organized in four distinct sections with limited space. I accomplished this through utilizing the shifts in color to break up the text and signal the clear distinction.
This story had enough text to almost fill the page on its own, so it was important to find a design that was striking, but didn't displace too much text. This process led me to creating this page design.
When designing this page, I had several factors to keep in mind. I was trying to keep the information as accessible as possible and not overwhelming, needed to make sure the clubs would be noticed equally and wanted it to be attention-getting. This is how I decided on having a uniform template for each club that filled in the information. The design is bright, clear, and accomplished this well. It is a specific example of the overall website design I have created.
Each of these pages was collaborative, but the responsibility of manually designing each with the goal of exemplifying the main themes of the story was a formative lesson I took with me in designing the website and style guide for the magazine, along with specific pages and stories. With current experience, I would go back and experiment with differently placed pictures to uniquely frame the story and add variance in a very traditional structure.
AIPA 2020: Newspaper Front Page Honorable Mention (Ezri Tyler and Sam Parker)
AIPA 2020: News Page Design Honorable Mention (Ezri Tyler and Eden Wein)
AIPA 2020: Editorial Page Design Honorable Mention (Ezri Tyler and Sam Parker)
When I rose to Editor-In-Chief, I built out a culture centered on responsibility to our audience and resources for our community. In the first week of isolation, I created the first-ever online edition of our school paper and built out the lessons, resources, and instruction guides needed to mobilize a nascently online staff. We scrambled to create new community resources- providing valuable information about school shutdowns, testing, and available mental health resources. We also provided a platform to give voice to the difficult issues students were facing. While we covered global news for the first time consistently, we made sure to always relate it back to the students and contextualize what, how, and who it impacted in our community. This work earned us 2nd Place in Online Newspapers General Excellence in the 2021 AIPA Awards.
I first created social media for the newspaper staff in my role as News Editor with a vision of engaging students in a more timely manner, getting real-time feedback on what stories they are curious about, and what they want to know more about. During the pandemic, finding a style was difficult, but this year I came into the class ready to build it out efficiently. We held style guide competitions at the beginning of the year, with each staff member creating and voting, to decide on themes for each type of story on social media. We have used these style guides to allow for easier and regular posting of stories for students. We also engage on the story frequently with polls, links, and more
Marketing and Audience Engagement
Creating the website, social media, and magazine where each responses to ensure audience engagement. As they have developed, I have created specific goals to increase audience engagement while being aware of the budget including:
1. Sports Page
Sports was covered largely by one reporter through the pandemic, so coming into this school year I opened the position of a sports editor. After training this editor, we worked together to create an entirely new sports page that is updated multiple times in the week with the school statistics, upcoming games, and features. This page has brought in students who want to find this information and made it far more accessible. Click the image to visit the website sports page.
2. The Clubs Page
The Clubs page on the website served as the only comprehensive guide on campus for what clubs existed and what being involved entailed. We also provided feature stories about who was involved and what the last year had meant for that club, allowing people real insight and opportunity to get involved. Click the image to visit the page.
3. Budget Management
I have always been aware of the newspaper's budget. During my Sophomore year, I sold ads in the paper, visited local restaurants such as Ladera to speak with the owners and pitch buying ads, and more. This experience influenced my decisions as Editor-In-Chief. During the 2020-21 school year, expenses were nothing thanks to having an entirely digital paper, but, with the creation of the magazine, that changed. I made contact with the printers, negotiated the cost, and decided the final layout and format with budget items in mind. We decided against selling ad space and are now organizing a fundraiser to build up supplies for the final issue and the following year.
Commitment to Diversity
In my reporting, my commitment to diversity has meant covering the "difficult stories". Some examples include my continuous coverage of immigration policy and how it impacts students, coverage of issues for LGBTQ+ students on campus, discussion of issues like policing, and framing conversations around big issues like climate change and how it impacts the most vulnerable.
In this story, I don't shy away from conversations with students who don't trust the police, while simultaneously hearing from an anonymous source working within the department. Providing this duality and ensuring that the voices that most often don't get covered take up equal space is key in covering this issue equitably and with a commitment to diversity in mind. Especially because even in this story the issue of immigration status is covered because I firmly believe that a commitment to diversity is a commitment to nuance as well. Select the picture to read the full article.
My commitment to developing a true resource for our students is steadfast. In my public high school, this means embracing the unique strengths of diverse staff members. Their wide range of experience, interests, and needs necessitates developing unique lessons, goals, and tasks for each team member. The extra work involved in mapping out their specific needs, in helping them and the paper grow, is worth it.
Understanding the diverse skill set, interests, and strengths of each staff member allows me to assign stories intentionally, offer help without butting in, and ensure it is a positive environment for all students. I believe that having a wider range of experience only serves to benefit the paper. This is why instead of targeting only advanced track English students for recruitment, we put out a call to all English teachers and open up opportunities for Journalism 1-2 students, contributing writers, and any passionate student to have a voice on the paper. Just in the last issue of the Sunnyslope Sage, four stories were from contributing writers.
While learning to lead this inclusive team effectively, I have helped turn our little public school paper into a top student paper in Arizona, demonstrating the strength to be found in true commitment to community and the power of covering uniquely local issues.
The materials in this video were gathered and compiled at the same time as the In-Depth Feature story on the power failures in Texas appeared in the paper. A year later, they were used for a quick retrospective look at how little has changed. Effectively utilizing visuals to augment such a dense story only expands the breadth of audience and accessibility of the story, drawing in students who may not otherwise be interested.
During the student Climate Strikes, multiple SHS students attended, wanted to know more, or cared about the issue. I went to the strike to take on the ground photos, notes, and meet students at the strike to interview. Each of these pictures and captions are used to reflect that and candid shots from that day on the Capitol lawn. Having photos from directly within the community helped contextualize what might be an abstract concept for students- this really was on their front doorstep.
This was the main photo for a story about the recent statistics naming Phoenix Police as the deadliest force in the Nation. Students were interviewed about their experiences and many had racially charged interactions and fears. There was no picture of the actual issue that would not be triggering or inappropriate, so I decided the best way to tell this story was to find the most recognizable part of the force: the cars. This image still complements the story and helps students visualize, but it tells that story in a way that isn't harmful. In order to maintain authenticity, I went down to the police station nearest to Sunnyslope students to take pictures, so it was really the cars and signs that students see.
The story was about how Sunnyslope and the surrounding community have a vibrant art scene that goes unrecognized. Part of this culture is reflected in the student art all around campus, such as the sculptures pictured. The piece argues that the art in the community as a whole goes undervalued and this art installation had gone unnoticed, highlighting this exact issue.