Bookmark and Share

About 'Stories Between Stops'

By Joshua Carroll

Although the University of Southern California (USC) is located in the heart of the vibrant, colorful, and exciting city of Los Angeles, few students dare to venture past the unspoken, yet well-known USC bubble. The surrounding culture routinely goes unnoticed due to fear of gangs, violence, and drugs, yet most people’s opinions are based on movies and news reports that highlight the bad that does realistically exist.

There’s no doubt that these areas generally go underreported. Not only do students seldom so much as drive through them, but also reporters and news stations ordinarily only appear to narrate problems within the community.

Stories Between Stops is a project tackled by five “Intro to Online Journalism” (#ASCJ309) classes at USC, taught by Professor Kim Bui, Professor Robert Hernandez, Professor David Medzerian and Professor David. This semester students were assigned cities along the metro stop, hence the name for the project. The areas covered were Culver City, La Cienega/Jefferson, La Brea, Farmdale, and Crenshaw.

Students were presented with a variety of different ways to tell the stories of the characters they would meet in their respective cities. Though there often times weren’t any big time events taking place, one of the main things students were able to walk away with after this semester is that a story can be found anywhere.

“I was extremely nervous at first as far as would I be able to consistently find stories in my city, but come to find out, I met so many great people who were seemingly dying to tell their story and I was happy to do that for them,” said Joey Krassenstein, a student in Professor Bui’s class.

Students were asked to step out of their journalistic comfort zone and get away from the traditional notepad and pen. Moving forward as hybrid reporters, we utilized voice recorders, cameras, cell phones, and most importantly, the Internet to push the narrative forward in hopes of reaching a broader audience.

“When I first heard we had to tackle html coding in this class, I was concerned to say the least. But after just a brief introduction I realized how important coding is not only for journalism, but for a lot of other professions out there too,” said Jacy White, a student in Professor Bui’s class.

Students also learned how to use different “webby” tools to their advantage and were challenged to incorporate them into their pieces.

“Sometimes words just can’t tell the story as well as you want it to. But when you hear the sound, see pictures, and combine that with words of your own, that’s when you really start feeling like what you’re putting together can really make an impact,” said Andrea Martinez, a student in Professor Hernandez’s class.

Many students did harbor some fear concerning going out and exploring the unknown, yet quickly realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.

“When I heard we'd have to go hunting for stories in South LA, I was pretty apprehensive. I ended up knocking on doors near my beat to find out what was really going on in the neighborhood and I found one of the best stories I've ever done. It wasn't scary at all,” said Stassy Olmos, a student in Professor Medzerians’ class. “The people I met were genuine and kind, everyone wanted to talk about their home! This online media class has really opened my eyes to the amazing people in South LA as we'll they city's strengths and weaknesses. It was neat to be a part of.”

Being a semester-long project, one of the huge takeaways for the students was the importance of building trust with their sources. Often times one source proved to be useful for multiple stories.

“Building relationships within our beat and not jumping all over was a different experience, but I learned a lot from it,” said Cecilia Callas, student in Professor Hernandez’s class. “Now I can honestly say I’ve made friends in places I would never step foot in before.”

This also became an opportunity to learn more about the culture that surrounds USC. No matter what beat we chose to tackle, lack of culture was never an issue.

“I learned that our area actually has a lot of small businesses that people loved, it taught me that culture plays a big deal in building these shops and it’s those family values that help them survive,” said Evan Budrovich, a student in Professor Fontaine’s class.

Although this class comes together to improve reporting skills and continue to grow collectively as journalists, brushing away misconceptions about the surrounding community is a positive result that came about as a result of this semester-long ordeal. Individual students dealt with their own challenges along the way, but always managed to produce enriching and inspiring stories that would likely go unnoticed without Stories Between Stops.

<“Through taking this 309 website course I learned that student journalists have just as much potential to tell a good online story as any other working professional does,” said Professor Medzerians’ student Pierce Larson. “We have been given a great opportunity to explore our city’s landscape and tell people’s fascinating stories through the growing media market that is the Internet; as a young journalist there is nothing more I could really want.”

We are very thankful to every person who took the time out of his or her day to make this project successful. Needless to say, journalists are nothing without sources and we hope to have made you proud with the pieces we were able to produce.

We welcome feedback from the community. If you have any comments or concerns, please tweet us at #ASCJ309.