Student Journalism Forum

LAUSD Students Receive Advice on Navigating the Evolving World of Journalism


"Take care of yourself."

Such advice might not be what aspiring journalists expect from industry professionals. Still, it was among the most impactful messages delivered at a Student Journalism Forum hosted by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the ASU Learning Transformation Studios, and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
More than 100 high school students from across the LAUSD gathered at ASU's California Center Broadway on October 11, 2023, for the half-day event that included tours of ASU's state-of-the-art production facilities, networking with representatives from the Cronkite School, and a panel discussion featuring professional journalists.
Panelists emphasized that self-care is crucial in an industry known for long hours, high stress levels, and frequent exposure to trauma. The panelists stressed the importance of setting boundaries, discussing your mental health needs with supervisors, and getting help when needed.  
“The industry does a really bad job at mental health. We suck it up. We go from story to story. There's never a break, because as you know, there's always stuff happening,” said Matthew Glasser, Communications Director for the ASU Learning Transformation Studios and the former Director of Storytelling and Managing Editor for NBCLX.
“My biggest piece of advice to you in pursuing this profession, take care of your mental health. Talk to people. Don't let it fester,” he said.
Ashley Mackey, a sports and general assignment reporter at ABC7 in Los Angeles and an ASU Cronkite alumna, said talking to someone about the trauma and stress she experiences daily can really help.
“Therapy, you know, I mean, my girl every two weeks and she's great. I think also taking time and really paying attention to what your body is telling you,” said Mackey.
Kate Sequeira, an audience engagement editor at The Los Angeles Times, added that it’s essential to “be in communication with your editor, be transparent about how your reporting is making you feel or what headspace you're in.”
The panel, composed of seasoned reporters and news managers from TV, print, and digital media, encouraged students to explore opportunities in the field and talked about the importance of holding the powerful accountable and keeping the public informed. However, they didn't shy away from discussing the challenges facing today's emerging reporters.
Panelists spoke candidly about the industry's challenges, including economic pressures, the decline of traditional platforms, and the difficulties of building and retaining new audiences.  
However, according to Glasser, new opportunities exist for niche journalism and creative storytelling.
Glasser offered the students some insight on building and retaining an easily distracted audience in today's competitive market.
"That requires really good storytelling that's emotional and moves them, connects with them, and relates the audience to what they're going through. And I think you have great tools to do that," Glasser said.
The forum comes at a pivotal moment for journalism. With increasing attacks on the press, layoffs and newsroom closures, and fewer Americans trusting the media, its mission to hold the powerful accountable and uphold democracy faces an uncertain future. 
Alan Arkatov, Executive Director of the ASU Learning Transformation Studios, opened the panel by reminding the teens that journalism is central to both LAUSD and the world.
"Journalism is about making sense of the world. It's about preparing news and the choices you make in your career," Arkatov said.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho emphasized the vital need for "free, unfiltered journalism" that serves as a watchdog and brings truth to power.
"Journalism is a bright light, often a faint light, in an otherwise dark environment. And you know what even a flicker of faint light does to a very dark room? It disturbs it. It disrupts it. That is what these folks here do," explained Carvalho.
The panel discussion, moderated by Shannon Haber, LAUSD's Chief Communications Officer and an ASU alumna, and Britt Vaughan, a public information officer for the district, covered various topics ranging from mental health to future industry outlooks to objectivity's meaning.
Haber asked how panelists remove their opinions and emotions when covering a story, something the group acknowledged is impossible.
"Not everybody in the newsroom is constantly asked to strip themselves of their identity," noted Brooke Thomas, a news anchor at Fox 11. 
Thomas added, "There are people in the newsroom, whether it's their gender, race, or religion, who are never asked to erase those things to be a good reporter. And the truth is, none of us can."
Mackey, encouraged students to pursue their interests, such as sports, when studying journalism. However, she also urged students to be versatile and learn about all aspects of the media business.
"Don't be afraid to try new things," Mackey said. "At ASU, there was a fashion club, and there's entertainment news that I tried. I did political news, even though I was a sports journalism major."
Glasser also emphasized the importance of subject-matter expertise.
"You have to know a lot about many things because when you're doing interviews, those people know their field, and it's easy for them to mislead you if you're not knowledgeable enough to spot inaccuracies," Glasser said.
Regarding the future of news, the experts said it remains uncertain. However, some platforms are more at risk than others. Only three students raised their hands when Glasser asked if they watched local television news. Glasser then challenged the students to devise an alternative, explaining that journalism is too important to go extinct.
"So, what are you going to replace it with? I think we have tons of tools in the toolkit. You just need to be really innovative and creative," Glasser said.
Moderator Britt Vaughan followed up by jokingly asking, "Did any of the panelists just have an existential crisis with that answer?"
"When you ask, what do you think is the future? I'm like, I hope it's still here," said Thomas.
Claudia Carrera, a reporter at Univision, offered advice to a generation facing a critical moment for journalism.
"As media changes, you have to continue adapting and acquiring new skills. Your generation will have to learn even faster," she said.
All panelists agreed that today's students will help shape journalism by pioneering new ways to reach audiences. 
"You all know what the future is, and it's up to you to determine what that looks like," Mackey said.  
Sequeira stressed the importance of experimenting with new ways of delivering the news.
"It's about being creative and trying different approaches to engage your audience," she said.
Enkhsaruul Sandagsuren, a University High School student and editor of her high school paper, took that message to heart. 
She told her peers, "Instead of asking what the future of journalism is, you should ask yourself, how do you want to shape the journalism of the future?"