CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts

They told us to stay in… so we went out: Being a teen reporter on the front line

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2016 interns interview Snoop Dogg, who is leading the peaceful demonstration outside of the LAPD headquarters.

“Try not to spend too much time outdoors today,” my dad warned as he dropped me off for work this morning at the Los Angeles Times building on Spring Street.

His worries stem from the fact that I am one of seven high school interns spending my summer in the Los Angeles Times newsroom, in the heart of downtown LA. Today, in the wake of recent police-related violence across the country, a peaceful protest took place at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, which happen to be directly across the street from our offices.

I had barely reached the elevator when two of my fellow interns dashed past me. With camera in tow, I watched as they ran determinedly across the street to the LAPD headquarters, where the police recruit graduation was occurring as the demonstration grew larger.

As quickly as possible, I dropped my bags off at my desk, grabbed my ID card and as much camera equipment as my 5-foot frame could carry and followed them across the street, where dozens of protesters were interspersed with officers and the press behind metal barriers.

As teen journalists, we are presented with exciting opportunities to report on the youth happenings in our communities and schools. While wonderful practice and often great fun, these are not typically the hard-hitting stories that we dream of one day reporting.

The chance for the seven of us to spend our summers with our own badges and cubicles in the newsroom at the LA Times is something of a dream come true. We have spent our high school careers hoping to receive the opportunity to report from a youth angle and witness our voices be heard, which is suddenly a reality. And today, despite our parents’ warnings, we jumped at the opportunity to be out in the field, doing what we love.

We flashed our LA Times ID cards, and were swiftly ushered over to the “press” side of the metal barrier. We were surrounded by print and broadcast journalists we have viewed as role models, and had the opportunity to interview officers, citizens, supporters and famed rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game, who worked together to orchestrate the non-violent demonstration.

There was limited screaming and shouting, but a fair amount of pushing and shoving. It was really an opportunity for passionate members of the community to congregate and peacefully stand up for their rights. As a young person, it was intriguing to see these interactions between people of various colors, shapes, sizes, and occupations. The overarching goal, between the officers and protesters, was evidently finding a peaceful common ground. Listening to what everyone had to say about today’s youth, and their hopes for our future, was remarkable, as nearly everyone – from a wide pool of interviewees – had the same response.

We were treated as respectable and experienced journalists, which was somewhat astonishing. We took advantage of the opportunity to provide a youth angle, but we were never looked down upon because of our age. We were there to tell an honest story, just like every other journalist battling the heat and the crowds.

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At one point, in between fast-paced and powerful interviews, I turned to my fellow intern Rebecca and pondered aloud “How many high school journalists do you think have been presented with a reporting opportunity like this?”

She laughed, and after thinking for a moment said “Well, probably just the five of us!”

We continued hustling, knowing that we had a responsibility to involve and inform the teens and young adults of LA on the happenings at the LAPD headquarters. When we got back to our offices, amazed by what we had just experienced, our boss asked us if we had been scared for our safety.

Truthfully, we had not been in danger, and were so focused on our goal that we had long forgotten our parents’ concerns.

Although I’m sure we would all prefer not to have to share such tragic stories of unnecessary shootings and their aftermath, today, we had the rare opportunity to be on the “front-line” of journalism. We had the chance tell a story that we feel needs to be told, which is the reason that most of us chose the school paper over the soccer team in the first place.

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