Journey To Journalism

(from left) Sophia K., '19, and Gracie S., '22
Ronni H.
By Sophia K. & Gracie S.
November 1, 2018

This year, Spyglass would like to start off by introducing two new writers, Sophia K. ‘19, and Gracie S., ‘22. In pursuance of our year-long goal, to build community, we hope to demonstrate the breadth of journalistic experience present on our staff and to share two stories about writers’ journeys to journalism. These staffers, a freshman testing high school's waters and a senior preparing to continue her educational adventure beyond Westridge walls, come together to write their stories. These budding journalists demonstrate that while Spyglass writers’ journeys to journalism may differ, ultimately, we all come together to produce a complete and inclusive newspaper.

Sophia K.

I am someone very much defined by dualities. My room is a mess, but my annotating pens never stray from a specified order; my favorite TV shows are “Parks and Recreation” and “Game of Thrones,” and I can hear both Yanny and Laurel if I strain my ears. While these examples are obviously insane, I promise they translate to how I approach the world.

From a young age, I fell in love with the diametrically opposed academic disciplines of science and humanities. Equally fascinated by the live pair of lungs used to demonstrate the effects of

smoking as I was by treacherous tales of westward movement, I soon grew to despise the question posed to most children at the beginning of their education: “What is your favorite subject?”The very idea that one of the two was better seemed preposterous and a choice unnecessary.

However, over time I began to divert my attention to science, deciding at the age of thirteen that I wanted to be a doctor who also ran a biological research lab. Merging the challenge of applied science and the human connection of the humanities, my young, teenage self decided that this was my finalized path. As I finished middle school and started high school, this dream held true, reinforced by every loved science class and each disliked English book. Retrospectively, I believe that my fascination was exacerbated by the lack of women in STEM and my own ambitious wish to defy social norms. It also did not hurt that there is science in my blood; half of my extended family are or were research scientists.

But then, everything changed. It was 2016, and there was an election afoot. And this was by no means an ordinary election. Every day, outrageous headlines drew me into fascinating articles. I downloaded six news source apps on my phone to guarantee almost continuous coverage. I became obsessed, my humanities side rearing its head after years of hibernation. I read and read and read, exhausting my unsubscribed free article quotas within the first few days of each month.  

But then, it was over, and my personal attachment to the election made the outcome hurt even more. I felt angry, betrayed. I had gotten invested, and for what? I forced myself to backtrack toward my STEM-fueled endeavors. In my mind, science and research allowed for answers and closure, the precise opposite of this political adventure.

The following summer (that which followed my Sophomore year), I had the incredible opportunity to intern at a cancer research lab at City of Hope. I was going to see my future in action for the first time. I received an opportunity that I wanted to one day offer to other girls interested in biology and medicine. Unfortunately, though, I could not stand it. It was slow, impersonal and primarily independent work. My cultures required substantial wait time to grow, and I would go hours without speaking to another human being. As I slaved over my E. coli, each back-pocket buzz announcing a press update commanded my attention, providing a welcome distraction from the monotony of my work.

At the end of this summer, I was torn, the question of “What did I want to do when I grow up?” a constant companion. If I no longer liked what I had so long believed to be my future path, then what did I have left? In a year, I would need to apply to college, to present myself to innumerable admissions officers as a driven person, but what was my drive towards? With these questions swirling around my mind, I entered junior year.

It was during this year that my question was answered. By simultaneously taking AP Biology and AP United States History, I was able to approach my opposed identities head-on. Over the course of that year, I determined that while I loved the thought processes and logical approach to problem-solving provided by science, the history subject matter was far more engaging. My thirteen-year-old self had decided on a future path before understanding what that would entail. Instead of embracing my dualities, I attempted to define a singularity. With this discovery, I shifted towards the humanities but promised myself that I would never forget the lessons I learned through science.

Keeping this in mind as I chose my classes for senior year, I made the unprecedented decision to join Spyglass. It was through consuming news that I had found my own path, and I wanted to honor and uphold the defining tradition of truth-telling. To me, the news is not just a collection of current events, but the method by which I determined my educational identity.

My story is in no way singular. Westridge students are highly dualistic – just because they are a soccer star, does not mean they can’t also be a coding genius, just as their dream of becoming an actor does not undercut their academic drive. It is due to this diversity of identity, both academically and otherwise, that I am very excited to be writing for Spyglass this year. I am looking forward to sharing your ideas and magnifying your voice through print. Self-discovery is a journey, and however you do decide to approach the matter, I cannot wait to tell your story.

Ronni H.

Gracie S.

I ended eighth grade confidently in my choice for my elective, speech and debate, for 9th grade but that soon changed after I met one person: Maria Martin.

This summer, I had the opportunity to go with a few Harvard-Westlake students to Antigua, Panajachel, and Lake Atitlan, all in Guatemala. Our goal for the ten days we were there was for each of us to create a digital storytelling film, a personal anecdote along with videos and photos that I would be taking while there. I set out to create a film about Volcán De Fuego, a volcano which recently erupted, and to interview locals about their personal experiences.

 

After a few days of interviews, I met Maria Martin, a female journalist who changed my idea for the film. Maria Martin is a journalist based in Guatemala. She was born in Mexico and later moved to the U.S. at the age of five. Martin grew up in Santa Barbara California working at National Public Radio (NPR), but during her time at NPR, she was discriminated against because she was a bilingual, bicultural woman. She illustrated the reality that NPR would edit her stories to the extent that they were no longer representative of the story she was trying to convey. Martin then left NPR and created her own radio station called “Latino USA.”

 

While I had initially planned to create a film about the volcano, Maria’s life seemed to be a story waiting to be told. But then something else happened. Maria mentioned how she trained journalists in Guatemala that were ordered to be killed by a Guatemalan congress member. She explained to me that every day, journalists risk their lives to tell the truth and the government feels threatened by their honesty because they lack control over these individuals and the narratives they share.

 

Martin described how authorities have the ability to arrive, unannounced, at these female journalists’ houses and demand for them to take down an uploaded article or stop writing one while threatening the safety of their families. I learned about how many kids of journalists were killed because their parents exposed hidden information that did not sit well with the Guatemalan government. After hearing these stories, I decided that my film would be about the risks of being a female journalist in Guatemala.

 

Coming back to Pasadena after this trip, I brought back an amazing story and a sense of gratitude towards the many journalists risking their lives every day who I got to work with through film. I also brought back my newly decided elective for freshman year, Spyglass. I joined Spyglass to uncover new stories like Maria Martin does. While I am not risking my life every day, I am still discovering new stories at Westridge. I am so excited to be a piece of the puzzle for Spyglass.

Ronni H.