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Responding to COVID-fueled challenges, LA Valley College journalists extend tradition of excellence – Daily News

Despite the pandemic shutting down the campus, journalism students at Los Angeles Valley College continued their craft and was awarded “Best College Newspaper” by the Los Angeles Press Club in a competition among more than a dozen community colleges and four-year undergraduate and graduate institutions in Southern California.

The student-run newspaper also placed 3rd for “Best College News Website” recently at the club’s 63rd annual awards night.

The journalism program has won top awards in the past.

Part of the Valley Star’s award winning issue. The Valley Star is the independent student newspaper of Los Angeles Valley college that won the Best College Newspaper award at the Los Angeles Press Club Banquet Awards. (Courtesy The Valley Star)

For these awards students wrote, designed and photographed accompanying images to the story.

“This staff is the first staff that reported on the pandemic; this is the staff that was essentially sent home, like all students across the country …but they happened to be in the newspaper staff or the newspaper’s production,” said William Dauber, a professor and faculty advisor. “What they decided to do was cover all elements of the pandemic and not only what science was saying about the pandemic, but more importantly how it affected the students, their community readers.”

During the pandemic, hard copies of the paper were not printed because no one was on campus. Instead PDFs were created and used to upload them onto the competition site.

Dauber said one of the individual award stories was a vignette of several media-arts students attending online classes with expectations of producing a short film.

It centered on the old adage, “The show must go on.”

The headline read: “The show must go on…line.”

Dauber said the recent awards recognize the students’ ability to write, design and photograph at a quality level.

“This award rewards the students for the grit they showed during some difficult times in reporting during a pandemic,” he said. “I just think that they really sort of displayed the type of skills and determination you need to be a reporter at the highest level at the most difficult times, so for me it’s like having a big piece of chocolate cake on your birthday. It’s fantastic.”

The student-run Los Angeles Valley College news website placed 3rd for “Best College News Website” on Oct. 16 at the Los Angeles Press Club’s 63rd annual awards night.

Dauber sees a lot of optimism and hope in today’s journalism students despite how the media has been portrayed and bashed in recent years.

“It’s neat to see; it’s infectious,” he said.  “I also think in terms of writing that there’s a big reward for them; to see that their work is published, to see their name in print.”

Los Angeles Valley College, established in 1949, is a public, two-year community college in Valley Glen, serves 20,000-plus students and offers 100-plus associate degree programs and 62 certificate programs in in-demand career fields.

Cassandra Nava, the current editor-in-chief of The Valley Star, was the online editor for the winning edition.

She was on staff for about two weeks before the pandemic shut down the newsroom.

The Los Angeles Valley College campus in Valley Glen (File photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

During the shutdown, the 22-year-old sophomore sometimes spent as much as eight-plus hours a day in Zoom meetings, which can be very tiring on one’s eyes and stressful.

She didn’t experience meeting sources in person or hashing out story ideas with colleagues in the newsroom until this semester, which started Aug. 30.

“I didn’t know until this semester how fast-paced and way more interesting it is to all be in the same room,” Nava said.

Nava started as an English major because she liked writing, but didn’t know where it would take her. Then she got the journalism bug.

During the pandemic, she and her peers dealt with complications from the deadly coronavirus including finding sources and getting in touch with other students to round out the stories.

That was accomplished mostly by word of mouth, or emailing students from the college’s class roster with the hope of a response.

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