By Quinn Western, social media and photography intern
Recipes and cooking tips from senior nutrition and food science major Christina Saschin are published at least three times a week! In the video above, she talks about her cooking show on YouTube and writing for Parade magazine and The Orion while showing how to make healthier orange chicken (recipe below).
By Ben Mullin, Editor-in-Chief, senior, Journalism and English literature major
Ask any journalist what they’re proudest of and you’ll get different answers.
Some will break out their old stories and tell you how they tracked down each breathtaking scoop. Some will regale you with tales about how they stood their ground when some infuriated reader demanded a retraction for a story that was completely true. Still, others will recall a tearful hug from a grieving family or simply recite a beautiful sentence they wrote recently.
But when I look back at the time I’ve spent as an editor at The Orion, Chico State’s student-run newspaper, I’m not proudest of my first interview—because it was probably awful—and I don’t tell grand stories about my first byline—because it was probably about silverware stolen from Whitney Hall. Instead, I’m just happy to have found my calling while getting to know some of my closest friends.
Anyone got some Ritz for this cheese? I know it’s totally cornball, but it’s true.
For those of you counting at home (read: absolutely no one) I’ve been working for The Orion since I arrived on campus in fall 2010. At a student newspaper, where roughly 75 percent of the staff turns over every semester, these three years are equivalent to about 20 millennia, give or take a few geologic epochs.
During those aeons, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, most of them riding around on the backs of brontosauruses. But the people that are still working in journalism mean a whole lot to me. Many of the reporters I’ve worked with have gone on to work at the Chico Enterprise-Record, our local newspaper. Some of our alums have left to work at other daily newspapers or radio and TV stations up and down California. And still others are freelancers, trying to eke out a living by shooting video, writing stories, and taking photographs.
But no matter where they are or what they’re doing, many of them recall the time they spent in the basement of Plumas Hall producing The Orion as some of the most transformative years of their lives.
It certainly was for me. When I arrived at Chico State, I was a biology major dead set on getting straight A’s and going directly to med school. From there, I would become a doctor, which in my mind consisted of wearing scrubs to work and making inspired diagnoses in the space of one hour, allowing time for commercials.
This career plan, of course, ground to a halt after I spent one semester in The Orion’s newsroom. In four short months, I realized that I loved the adrenaline rush that accompanied breaking an exciting story, even if it was about stolen silverware. I discovered that I enjoyed interviewing people just as much as I loved writing and reading. And I found a calling that I believed in, even though it wasn’t as glamorous as medicine looked on TV.
I realized that the world needs people who are willing to bust cheats, investigate wrongdoing, expose corruption, and give a voice to people languishing on the margins of society. It also needs people who are willing to call a grieving family to write an obituary that helps the community mourn. It needs people who will cover Little League games, talk to criminals, and trawl through megabytes of census data.
In short, the world needs more journalists. I’m happy to say that my experience at Chico State showed me that and guided me to a career I’d never considered before setting foot in the basement of Plumas Hall.
Stanford. LSU. UC Davis. USC. Yale. If my esteem for The Sacramento Bee wasn’t enough to make me nervous, seeing my name and “Chico State” on the roster of impressive summer interns certainly was.
And as the sole copyediting intern among 10 reporters to be working at the paper, I worried I would be even more of an outsider.
But once I walked into that building on 21st and Q streets, I was relieved to find that my experience in the Chico State journalism department and on The Orion staff had prepared me to work in that newsroom. And that’s what I did each day for eight weeks, starting on my very first night shift.
I was assigned to the news desk, which comprises the A and B sections that include national, state, and local news as well as the editorial pages.
After getting briefly acquainted with the computer systems and copy flow process, I was allowed to jump right in and work as if I were any other copy editor on the desk.
I edited anywhere from eight to 17 items a day. Yes, I counted. And for each story I edited, I also wrote the headline and cutlines for any photos.
Editing at The Bee was similar in some ways to editing at The Orion and different in others. The basic skills of AP style, grammar, spelling, and fact-checking obviously applied, but I found editing Bee stories to be a lot more subtle, as the reporting was more polished and would affect larger communities.
I touched stories ranging from a front page New York Times piece on al-Qaida’s presence in Syria to a local story about a woman who broke the record for the longest Ferris wheel ride, only to have her record beaten the same week. For each story, the most important part of my job was to ensure accuracy, which a single word can make or break.
I was perpetually cautious as I worked with a surprising amount of freedom. The trust the editors put in me made me feel valued and allowed me to work without being overly fearful of criticism. The feedback I did get was always given with patience and encouragement. And I never once was made to feel like a kid who didn’t know anything.
I did turn out to be somewhat of an outsider in the circle of interns, just because my duties and hours were so different from theirs, but I got to spend time with them at weekly lunches put together by the intern coordinators with guest speakers such as Bee Publisher Cheryl Dell and Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar. We got to ask them about their jobs and the industry, and share with them our backgrounds and ambitions.
When I returned to The Orion and Chico State after two months at The Bee, I was more confident than ever that journalism—though in a period of uncertainty and change—is a vital industry, and one I would be honored to work in, especially alongside journalists like the ones I had the pleasure of meeting last summer.
By Ben Mullin, Journalism and English Literature major Managing Editor, The Orion
When The Orion news team convened for the first meeting of the semester, I told them all to take a deep breath and close their eyes.
Some raised their eyebrows. Some cracked hesitant smiles. But they humored me while I began my speech:
“I want you to imagine you’re all big shot reporters for the New York Times,” I said, eliciting genuine smiles from the group. “Suddenly, you get the call: the Empire State Building is on fire. You rush over to the scene and talk to the police, who tell you the building could collapse at any minute.”
I paused for dramatic effect. It’s possible one of them yawned.
“Suddenly, you’re confronted by a mother who’s out of her mind with worry because her baby’s stuck on one of the floors. When she asks you about the situation, what do you do? Tell her everything you know right away, or ask her to wait until tomorrow morning for the print edition?”
It may sound like a no-brainer, but there are still a few news organizations who operate using the latter method: they report the news all day and put their stories into the next day’s newspaper, just in time for it to be outdated and irrelevant.
Up until about last year, The Orion, Chico State’s student-run newspaper did just that, even though we’ve had a website since the late ’90s. A few stories inevitably found their way online between weekly editions, but the majority was posted Tuesday night, right before our print edition came out on Wednesday.
This semester was different. The majority of news writers made Twitter accounts for The Orion and posted brief bulletins whenever they noticed something interesting or newsworthy happening on campus. When we were notified that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson went missing during the annual Labor Day float, we posted it to Twitter immediately. When we heard that Governor Brown was visiting campus to promote Proposition 30, it was online within the hour. And when Chico State president Paul Zingg suspended the Greek system, we had a videographer, a reporter, and two photographers on the scene, with coverage to match.
On Halloween weekend, reporters and photographers stayed out until 2 a.m. capturing images and stories for publication the next day. I would routinely get called at O’Dark Thirty from staff writer Pedro Quintana, who slept during the day so he could listen to the police scanner at night.
The Orion isn’t the first collegiate newspaper to attempt to bolster its online presence through Facebook, Twitter, and a neverending stream of online stories. In many ways, we’re behind the times. But this year, the Associated Collegiate Press acknowledged our efforts by naming TheOrion as a finalist for an online Pacemaker award, widely regarded as the Pulitzer Prize of digital college journalism.
When the awards were announced last semester, The Orion wasn’t among the winners. But most of the editors saw our failure to clinch the award as inspiration to try again next semester, with a focus on delivering news to Chico State’s students in real time, with text, photos, and video. We’re also launching an app which students can use to get their Chico State news from their smartphones.
Chico State, welcome to the future of journalism. We’ll see you all on the other side.
By Liam Turner, Senior, Major: Communication Design — Graphic Design, Minor: Photographic Studies
The Orion is unabashedly my life. During the semester, from midday Sunday until Tuesday night, I spend about 14 hours sleeping and what seems like the other 46 in The Orion offices in the Plumas Hall basement. With a couple more hours thrown in throughout the rest of the week, I spend about half of my waking hours at The Orion each week.
You may call it insanity, but I call it passion. I became the art director at the end of the fall 2010 semester, and the spring was a whirlwind. The Orion quickly defined my life with a meeting or task every day (except Saturday). I was rudely awakened early on more than one Wednesday morning to help distribute the paper. Sunday night work shifts rolled into Monday morning often, and with an 8 a.m. class, that’s hell. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
I was hired a little over a year ago as an editorial designer, someone who helps lay out the stories, photos, and other content. Then I was paired with a first-time editor, Almendra Carpizo, on the features section, and the two of us have moved up together. Almendra will be The Orion’s editor-in-chief this fall.
This is my Chico experience. I get to be a part of this community while at The Orion. I have the chance to learn how to be an art director and a leader. I get the opportunity to build my own staff and train my designers. And we all get the privilege of putting together a high-quality product and seeing it in the hands of students every week.
This is a pretty rare opportunity in college, too. To lead fellow students and really create an environment of development and design is something I wouldn’t have expected. I’m grateful, though.
Even after all the stressful deadlines, all the late nights and long hours, and the toll a full-time job (plus a 15-unit schedule) takes, this is still the best job I’ve ever had. There are three reasons for this.
First and foremost, I’m able to work with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. Secondly, we get the opportunity to hone our respective talents in a professional environment with real consequences and real rewards. Finally, the work we do has a real effect on the community, and we operate on a relatively large stage.
The people, of course, are incredible. I’m very, very proud of our staff, from the upper management to the section editors to the staff writers and the business staff. We’re learning, but we’re still doing a great job. In fact, The Orion has historically been a very successful college newspaper. This last year, we again won the national excellence award at the annual collegiate newspaper conference—for the fifth straight year.
The Orion also provides an important voice for students and organizations on campus. While we use campus facilities (visit us in Plumas 001), we’re independent of the school and pay for our printing and distribution expenses entirely through sales of advertising. We strive for excellence, and we try to be as professional as possible.
You won’t see much of my writing in the fall, but you will see a fantastic and still developing video department as part of The Orion. It’s a great opportunity for students to get behind and in front of the cameras. You’ll also see Chico State’s award-winning student newspaper enter its 72nd semester.