Doni: One downside to swapping the confines of a constricting corporate newspaper career for the liberation of online journalism: It makes job shadow days a bit tricky, because I lack a newsroom in which to invite high school job shadowers. I work anywhere there’s wireless, but mainly from home, which would probably be pretty underwhelming for a high school student who’s expecting the excitement of a chaotic newsroom.
That’s why I chose Yaks Coffee Shop on Bechelli Lane a few weeks ago as my meeting spot with four Shasta High School juniors who’d signed up for Redding Rotary’s annual job shadow program.
The students, Felicia Hughes, Brianna Herold, Morada Ingraham and Rudi Yniguez, are all 17. After high school, Felicia and Morada plan to start at Shasta College, then transfer to a university, while Brianna hopes for the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and Rudi has her sights set on Vassar or Brown universities.
The four expressed some very clear ideas about journalism, life, the future, and even thoughts about that day’s upcoming Rotary lunch at the Riverview Country Club. Here, with their permission, are excerpts of our conversation:
Doni: Why did you sign up for this job shadow?
Felicia: To learn about journalism.
Brianna: We’re interested in the field of journalism, and what it has to offer.
Morada: First-hand experience with the job, instead of having someone tell us, we get to experience it.
Rudi: To get rid of false assumptions.
Doni: What are some of your assumptions about journalists?
Rudi: When I think of reporters, I imagine they dress in suits and carry tape recorders.
Brianna: That their bosses are crazy and scary, like Spiderman’s boss.
Felicia: Oh, what’s that movie, the one where this woman went undercover to get the story? That’s what I imagine, that they have to go undercover to get the scoop.
Brianna: That reporters work long nights, and that they’re really pushy people.
Felicia: I think of media – and journalists – as being rude, maybe even kind of solitary.
Brianna: Yeah, and that they only care about the story.
Morada: They only care about getting the dirt. They don’t care about people.
Doni: Ouch. Gosh, if those things are true, why in the world would you want to be a reporter?
Felicia: Having your own opinion and getting that out.
Brianna: I don’t hate the idea of being a journalist, and the competition is a draw. Also, I think most of us work well under pressure, or we wouldn’t be here.
Rudi. I think as a reporter you’re helping other people by getting their story out.
Doni: Well, that’s certainly true. Any other reasons why you’d consider journalism?
Brianna: <laugh> I think because we all hate math and science.
Doni: Amen. I hear ya.
Felicia: I’m like, well, I can write.
Rudi: I think journalists have the perception that they can change the world, and they can choose what they change. A story can have a big impact.
Morada: Do you ever publish books on your site? I love creative writing. I always wanted to be a novelist.
Doni: Well, no, we’ve not published an entire book on anewscafe.com – yet – but that’s a good idea. <taking notes>
Rudi: We probably all wanted to be writers, so we thought journalism is something successful you can do with writing.
Doni: I can relate. That’s exactly why I majored in journalism. It was the only realistic occupation I could think of where I could actually be paid to write. Sure, I thought I’d like to write a novel someday, but then I see all those hard-back books at the Dollar Store, and I change my mind.
OK, just for fun, how about a little observation exercise, as if you’re a reporter. Describe what you see inside this coffee shop.
Rudi: I’d say it’s definitely a mixed crowd.
Felicia: There are business people, teenagers.
Brianna: A couple of mom groups …
Morada: Some people are working on their laptops …
Rudi: There are dressed-up office-y people; lots of people chatting.
Doni: Good people observations. What about the place itself?
Felicia: It’s a relaxed atmosphere. It’s old-fashioned, but arty.
Brianna: It’s decorated with dark and light woods. It’s cozy. And it has a big coffee grinder in the corner.
Doni: I know. Isn’t that cool? It’s made of copper. They actually roast coffee beans in it. Also, what about the size of this place? You can’t just say it’s the size of a coffee shop, because that doesn’t tell us anything.
Morada: It’s about the size of two classrooms.
Rudi: It’s the biggest coffee shop I’ve been in.
Doni: You’d make great reporters! So, back to the job shadow program. How did you come to sign up for it? Do all high school kids get to do this?
Rudi: I don’t know about all the kids, but our teacher, Mrs. Ellingson, told us about it.
Morada: She teaches history.
Felicia: She said that if we had any particular interests, the job shadow program is a good opportunity to learn more about them.
Brianna: She said that basically, it’s to see if we’re interested in what we thought we were interested in.
Morada: Also, we got to get out of school.
Doni: This program is hosted by the Redding Rotary. What do you know about Rotary?
Rudi: It’s an older group that tries to get kids involved in the community.
Felicia: We went to a presentation last year, and Rotary people were doing videos of foreign exchange students. I was like, “But Rotary, we’re not part of the foreign exchange program.”
Brianna: I know nothing about it.
Doni: Can you think about any stories written by reporters that made an impression upon you, or that were particularly memorable?
Brianna: I remember a really gross funny one, something about a girl that got mad at her neighbor who had a little dog that would go to the bathroom on the lawn. So the girl picked up the poop and threw it at the door and got in trouble.
Doni: Nothing else?
Brianna: I read a lot. I read about Westborough Church, a couple of blogs about it, that made me angry. They claim God hates gays. I read US magazine, and a Dior fashion designer made an anti-Semetic comment – is that the right word – and he got fired from Dior. He couldn’t even attend his last fashion show.
Rudi.I think it’s funny to take a big issue and read different outlooks. Like we had to write something about the Gulf Coast. So you go to CNN and it says one thing, and the BBC says something else. I think it’s really funny that different people can have completely different viewpoints on exactly the same subject.
Doni: Can you think of any potentially scary parts about being a journalist (
other than the low pay and dying newspaper industry)?
Brianna: Probably some journalists get into some really scary stuff, like photojournalists who go to Iraq. I think writers do that, too.
Felicia: I think writer’s block would be scary. <laugh>
Rudi: Also, I think if you’re writing opinions, just by writing any column you’re going to offend someone, and that would scare me.
Morada: I’d be afraid of saying the wrong thing and losing my job because of it. Then everyone would think I’m a bad journalist. I’d have to make sure I had everything right.
Doni: You’re absolutely right about that. As one of my journalism instructors liked to say, “If your mother says she loves you — check it out.”
That’s supposed to be funny. Soooo, it’s almost time for lunch and the Rotary meeting. What are you expecting?
Brianna: It’ll probably be a good meeting. And I’ve heard good things about the food.
Rudi: There will probably be inspirational people who’ll tell us that college is the big thing; college, and do your homework, and don’t ever give up. And follow your dreams, but make sure they’re realistic dreams, and make sure they’re the right dreams. <laughs>
Brianna: And don’t be a smart ass. <more laughter>
Felicia: And life is hard, but it will get better. It’s all a downhill slide from here.
Brianna: College. Job. Kids. I don’t think it’ll get better. Retirement is at the end of the tunnel.
Doni: Geez. You guys are depressing me. That’s deep stuff. I wonder if adults realize that’s how you see things? I wonder, what would the “typical” adult be surprised to know about the “typical” teen?
Rudi. That we care about what’s going on.
Felicia: They act like we don’t know anything.
Brianna: We know plenty.
Morada: They’d be surprised to know that they can trust most of us, and we’re not all bad. We’re not all doing drugs and sex. We’re trying to live life and get somewhere.
Rudi: I think school is a lot more stressful than people think — just the pressure — at least for our generation, is pretty intense. I think the perspective has changed about what’s important. I’m getting an education, which is important. But we worry a lot about getting into college, and getting a job. We worry about that prematurely, I think. We’ve inherited this economy, and that’s scary. But it’s not just the economy, but social issues and the environment. Every generation thinks the younger generation has problems, but I guess they turn out OK.
Morada: I don’t want to struggle on a day-to-day basis; jumping from job to job. I don’t want to be extremely rich, but have enough to live, not standing on a street corner. We have it harder than most people think. Some of us don’t have an easy home life. And then you have to always think about college and grades.
Felicia: College is harder than it used to be. We keep hearing how important it is to get a job after college, but then we hear on the news that the job market will be so much worse in like five to 10 years. I hear that and I’m thinking, I’ll be in my 20s then, that’s when I’ll be looking for a job.
Brianna: I think it’s why we sometimes choose to not think about it. It’s scary to think about paying the bills and taking care of everything. We’re studying the ’50s, and everything seemed so much easier then. I have a friend who has a job, and she says she has to blow off her homework so she can work.
Doni: What do you all worry about now?
Brianna: I worry about Japan. I do. But I also worry about whether to drink a Red Bull in the morning. And how I don’t want to be 30 and living at home with my parents. It’s scary thinking about the future sometimes.
Doni: Not to change the subject, but it’s almost time to go. Any predictions about lunch? My bet’s on something in the chicken family.
Felicia: Cookies, sandwiches.
Brianna: Hot stuff, iced tea and water. It’s a country club, I imagine tiny foods, like little cucumber sandwiches.
(above, from left) Rudi, Felicia, Brianna, Morada and I were joined by fellow Shasta High students Abi Gilmore (shadowed at Sharrah, Dunlap and Sawyer), Alissa Law (shadowed a Shasta Regional Health Center nurse), Kelsey Cagle (shadowed Kibler & Kiber architects), Tottionna Mattews (shadowed a Redding School of the Arts psychologist) and Rachel Sumsion (shadowed Commissioner Gary Gibson of Shasta County Superior Court).
The Rotary meeting did include some inspirational messages, like one from the Shasta High student who’d shadowed a CHP officer, even though the student used to have his heart set on growing up to be part of a SWAT sniper unit.
And we heard from a young woman who’d shadowed an attorney, and the girl admitted that her parents had always suggested law as a career, because their daughter was a good arguer, but the girl learned that law is about more than arguing.
I won’t mention any Rotarians by name, because I don’t want to bear the responsibility of someone being fined, but I will say I had a fascinating conversation with the ever-brilliant fellow who goes by “Creeky” who shared some amazing information about a particular insect that feeds on soiled diapers dumped in waterways.
But I digress.
The girls at our table seemed to enjoy the Rotary meeting, and their lunches, which did include iced tea, cookies and chicken. No cucumber sandwiches.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Rudi, Morada, Brianna or Felicia will become reporters one day. But I have a hunch that with their brains, humor, depth, imagination and curiosity, they’re off to a promising start.
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.