The year that was and will be: Turning the page with NBTB Now

An orange-tinged sky hovers over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Sept. 9, 2020. The unusual event was the result of smoke accumulating from multiple blazes across Northern California and came during a year that witnessed five of the six largest wildfires in the state’s history. Photo by Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0.

History happened and our student reporters covered it: From youth organizers who turned out an army of poll workers for the presidential election, to young women creating the fifth wave of feminism, to surprising approaches to protecting forests and creating political peace after a divisive presidential election.

NBTB Now, our first fall program, ended on Dec. 18 with an updated global journalism website, a new issue of 650 West magazine and stories that reflect a determination to turn the page on the constant crises of 2020, from COVID-19 and a suicide spike in Japan to the death of a Supreme Court icon and her controversial replacement.

“It’s safe to say we’re all sick of hearing 2020 described as ‘difficult,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘troubling,’ ” wrote magazine editor-in-chief Natalie Venable, in her editor’s letter. “(A)s much as we’re tired of hearing the word ‘unprecedented,’ we’re also tired of living in fear.”

Venable noted the higher-than-usual number of reported opinion pieces and first-person reporting, reflecting strong points of view and a desire to actually do something about social problems.

Student Margaret Redfern produced a diary of her day as an election judge in Colorado, while Devon Lee wrote about high school athletes in California who are taking a pro tip from players such as soccer star Megan Rapinoe to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Redfern’s reporter’s notebook, pencil, and election judge badge with notes from her first day as a poll worker. Relatively few voters came in on the first day of voting, which gave Redfern the opportunity to take lots of notes about the process. Photo by Margaret Redfern/NBTB Now.

“There’s a little hope going into (2021),” Venable added. “We’ve had to grow up so much this year that maybe we can handle what comes next.”

In addition to Venable, the team behind 650West included team leader Claire Chu, who shepherded students through the editing process, and page designers Lee, Paige Mays and Shruthi Narayanan. 

Team leader and web designer Matt Asuncion led the push on Global Student Square, the global journalism website, creating this special section for fall 2020 work and a new landing page for 650West, all while working intensively with his student team of reporters and writers.

Macy Quinn-Sears oversaw NBTB’s expanded digital badges and awards program, including new badges in opinion writing, magazine design and layout and digital portfolio creation. Several students have submitted work for awards that will be announced in 2021.

Though 2020 was a year of crisis, writer Grace Sandman sees it as a call to action for peers impatient with the status quo.

“From police brutality to presidential politics, many of the adults in our lives have failed us. We know change will happen only if a younger generation steps up,” Sandman wrote in “Resolution for a new year,” which took aim at what Sandman described as performative efforts by private schools to persuade others that they are serious about diversity.

“Gen Z is ready for the lip service to stop,” Sandman wrote. “In the stories we tell here, we represent the voices of teens of every color, gender and belief. They may not have had a chance to speak out.

“But we did.”

—Editor’s note: Please stay tuned to our homepage for news and updates on summer 2021.

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