NBTB Online ends with five publications, 90 stories and a new sense of mission
Newsroom by the Bay’s first-ever online program officially ended on July 10, but as journalism students know, the work isn’t over until you see your byline.
That happened today with the rollout of five student-led publications, including a broadcast, a podcast, a digital magazine, a global journalism website with powerful new stories on racism and schools, the forgotten boy in Black Lives Matter and the right to assemble in Hong Kong, and a global story project that documents how students are dealing with distance learning.
“This is our 10th year as a program, and it was by far our most productive year in terms of publications,” said program director Beatrice Motamedi. “We tell parents every year to let students get some sleep after camp, but this year we really mean that — everybody learned and worked so hard.”
Coronavirus concerns forced the suspension of NBTB’s on-campus program at Stanford University on April 1. Motamedi and NBTB assistant program director Jordan Tichenor decided to do a quick pivot to an all-online program based on Google Classroom, Zoom and Google Meet videoconferencing, while retaining as much as possible of the team-oriented structure and production workflows that had already been tried and tested over nine years of camp on-campus.
It took a village to launch NBTB Online and it was a global one. From the basement of his house in Elmhurst, Illinois, tech leader J.J. Hennessy crafted an intricate online calendar with more than 200 Zooms anchoring nine hours a day of classes, webinars and special events. From her apartment in Cardiff, Wales, where she attends Cardiff University, veteran staffer Macy Quinn-Sears managed a new digital badge program that offered students a chance to earn as they learned. Coordinating editor Matt Asuncion in Vancouver, Canada, kept an eye on three different newsrooms and dozens of stories while teaching students how to use WordPress and research photo credits. Program assistant Claire Chu managed camp communications, kept staff and students abreast of daily developments and helped factcheck the magazine, all from Danville, California.
Students led in often remarkable ways as well. Editor-in-chief Natalie Venable compiled a 28-page magazine while sharing tricky InDesign files from student-to-student across the U.S. Broadcast leader Logan Schiciano created multiple packages of his own while combining his team’s segments into a final show. Global journalism counselor-in-training Grace Sandman wrote the student introduction for WLL while researching an investigative piece about students who are using @dear accounts on Instagram to make allegations of racism at private high schools.
With coronavirus a constant concern, students reported where they could. In California, where COVID-19 cases in July were rising, Tyler Pak captured the here-and-now by snapping photos of in-house Zoom events. In New York, where case counts were decreasing, David Wang ventured to City Hall to capture a protest.
In all, 48 students from across the U.S. and overseas produced 90 stories over the course of a two-week camp, not including creating and coding the WLL microsite. The print version of 650West magazine will be available later this year.
With schools across the country signaling a return to digital learning this fall, many students and families are anxious about online education and how it works — or doesn’t. Research indicates that close human relationships are key to learning. Creating those online often feels impossible. For many reasons, including childcare, families are desperate for students to return to the traditional classroom.
But a June 13 New York Times story by education reporter Benedict Carey noted that an approach called blended learning produces stronger results than either in-person or online experiences alone.
Online, students tend to learn “less efficiently,” Carey noted. “But if they have a facilitator or mentor on hand, someone to help with the technology and focus their attention — an approach sometimes called blended learning — they perform about as well in many virtual classes, and sometimes better.”
Indeed, blended learning was top of mind for NBTB this year. Teachers Sandra Coyer, Michelle Coro, Taylor Blatchford, Rod and Julia Satterthwaite and Scott Silton set the bar each morning by insisting that their classes be interactive, with polls, breakout rooms, question-and-answer sessions and surprise Instagram challenges. Every afternoon, students met in small groups for work sessions, building relationships with each other and their team leaders. Creating publications called for everyone to go off-script and produce something real.
“I believe we did blend the best of what NBTB has been with what we know they’ll need for tomorrow,” said Motamedi. “Our mission has always been to tell stories and to raise student voices. We just had to remember that and find some new ways to do it this summer.”