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“5 Questions” is an occasional feature in which we ask five questions of Downey business and community leaders. This week’s participant is Alicia Edquist, an adjunct journalism professor at Cerritos College. Interview conducted by Eric Pierce
1.) How did you get into journalism?
From a young age I grew up reading newspapers and watching the news with my parents and especially my grandparents, but what really got me into journalism is that I loved to write and tell stories about people or events. Even in high school I participated in the school newspaper. It wasn’t until I got to Cerritos College and experienced being on the Talon Marks during 9/11 that I became hooked to story-telling, breaking news and giving others the opportunity to have a voice. I realized during that time how important my job as a journalist is because without journalism and journalists in the world, people would not be informed about what was happening and we would not hear personal stories that connect us with the world.
2.) Journalism is obviously in a state of flux, in terms of how things are reported and how that information is consumed. What do you tell your students about journalism’s changing landscape?
Journalism itself is the same, what has changed is how journalists and media outlets deliver the news, consume news, how we report, gather information and distribute stories to the world. Journalism has its roots and all the same principles apply. What has changed most is how content is delivered and how our readers consume news.
What I tell my students is that they are journalists from day one and in order for them to be good journalists in the future they must consume news daily. You can’t be a journalist and not read, listen or watch the news. Well you can, but you would not be a very good one. You have to know what is happening around you at all times. My students learn how to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to research, find and read news updates and get sources for stories. There is an incredible amount of information out there and news is at everyone’s fingertips. People now feel connected to news through citizen journalism and it is important to be connected with social media to find out what the story is.
3.) You have done your own share of writing and reporting, including a front page story in the Patriot last year. What is your favorite topic to report on?
I love reporting on city government and being a watchdog for the people. When I was at Cerritos College, I was the only one that really wanted to cover Board of Trustees because I found it interesting, there were always stories (good and bad) and it was where I really was able to make connections with the people who ran the college that still last even to this day. It always has been important to me that I cover important government meetings because the impact of the decisions effect how the community lives.
I also love feature writing because I can be creative by telling stories about people, places, objects or anything. Features on people, places or things gives your readers the opportunity to learn, seek and discover new areas of life. Downey has such a rich history, I would love to write about all the interesting people and places this city has to offer.
4.) We have seen a lot of magazines, newspapers and news sites come and go in Downey, but in all sincerity, I respected your reporting the most because it was honest, accurate and unpretentious. What is your philosophy when it comes to reporting?
Thank you, I appreciate your comments. My philosophy when it comes to reporting has been exactly that. I have to think as a reader of news what I expect from a journalist and media outlets, it has been that.
Even living in Downey for all my life, I have my opinions about things that happen here but as a reporter it is not my job to insert my opinion into stories. When I report on events or people, I ask a lot of questions and get as many views of the story as needed because everyone has something to say. I don’t take the easy way out…like many news sites that only talk to the mayor; while the mayor is an important person for the community, so is the people that live and work in the city. I find that most community news sites only stick to talking to the council members and they are not always the most important person to talk to for the story.
Being a journalist is not an easy job. It takes lots of work and many hours but you have to be dedicated to who you are working for which is the community. I work hard on developing my relationships with sources. You have to stay connected with your community and sources.
I take my time before attending events, meetings or interviews to do research on my subject matter because it will matter to your sources that you are well informed and that you can ask questions that many people wouldn’t. Have integrity in everything that you do as a person and a reporter because, honestly, even though you are a normal person you are always seen as a journalist to your sources, people in the community, friends and family.
5.) Any advice to young people interested in pursuing a career in journalism?
Get into journalism courses at a local community college early and learn the basics. Develop a web and social media presence because that is where readers are turning to for news and information and you can distribute your stories on various platforms. Make sure that you are consuming news and know what is happening around you.
If I am being honest, I am a little bias when it comes to finding a journalism program that is great. I graduated from Cerritos College’s journalism program and have worked for the program for the last nine years. I would recommend those interested to check out the program. It is a good place to start and the student-run newspaper Talon Marks is an award winning newspaper and website.
But if you really want to start pursuing a career in journalism, you need to know how to write, design, shoot and edit photos and video, as well as know how to use social media and multimedia tools, all of which you can learn at a local community college or university. The more versatile you can be as a journalist, the more likely you will be able to get a job.
Lastly, I would say practice your craft by starting a blog, going out to events and report on them and get into a college that has a strong journalism program and earn your college degree in journalism/communications so not only will you be ready for the work force but gain some experience working for news outlets.
Published: May 15, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 05