Day 6 – Looking into the future

Mosaic reporters Jacky Tsang, Megan Robalewski, Sara Ashary and Semira Sherief enjoy some free time in newsroom. // Photo by Mosaic staff

Mosaic reporters Jacky Tsang, Megan Robalewski, Sara Ashary and Semira Sherief enjoy some free time in the newsroom. // Photo by Mosaic staff

By Sara Ashary, Mosaic Staff Writer and part-time clairvoyant

(Editors Note: Saturday is usually a slow day in the newsroom, so we’ve allowed Mosaic staffer Sara Ashary to take a hypothetical look into the future of Mosaic’s 2015 class)

So today I did a lot of writing but the most interesting thing was predicting with my Mosaic squad where we each will be in 20 years. Here we go…

Steezy and Hannah: We decided to put them together because their futures will be alike. They each are going to be with someone that is like a hippie and/or an animal lover. Their families will go to music festivals and take many photos.

Sara: I think I will become an accountant.

Aysha: She will become a successful podcaster and talk about Middle Eastern problems and give a whole new view to everyone.

Joelle: She is going tp be like the next Melinda Gates. She is going to be smoking rich because her husband is like a computer genius. She is going to do yoga in the mornings, wear nice expensive simple dresses. She will do a whole lot of charity work while being super smart. She will be a very influential activist.

Jacky: Jacky is an interesting man, so he will take life as it goes.

Tomas: He is going to manage the Earthquakes with like a bluetooth on his left ear and a clipboard in his hand. AKA Making bank.

Noah: One look at Noah and you will understand: He will be an Anchor Man for channel 4 news.

Rachel: National Geographic Photographer that travels around the world. She will wear khakis and green cargo jackets with red toms.

Kaitlyn: She is going to have a PhD but have no idea what to do with it. She will probably end up alright and make herself a great life, living in Palo Alto.

Semira: Semira is such a beautiful soul. I see her marrying a celebrity (like Chris Pine). There will be pictures of her wearing sunglasses, Starbucks in her hand and yoga capris.

Matt: Famous Novelist, like the next John Green. Touring around the country for his new book.

Adele: She is going to be like a CEO. Like imagine her coming into our reunion and she is wearing a pencil skirt and talking on the phone, screaming at her assistant for giving her the wrong fax.

Megan: Megan is going to live that American life and live that high class life. There be a white picket-fence home with two kids. She will drive a Mercedes.

David: David is going to be doing some freelance photography and live alone in this really boyish apartment.

Shannon: Holy guacamole! I do not even know. Maybe the first Asian-American president. She is independent and smart.

Day 4 – Safety vs. Instinct

Mosaic reporters visit Cream, a popular ice cream  joint down South 1st Street in San Jose.  // Photo by Hannah Chebeleu, Mosaic Staff Photographer

Mosaic reporters visit Cream, a popular ice cream joint down South 1st Street in San Jose. // Photo by Hannah Chebeleu, Mosaic Staff Photographer

By Shannon Yang, Mosaic Staff Writer

Yesterday was pretty eventful.

First, I realized that one of my sources of my story about a computer science summer program bailed on me. Twice. I had to keep bugging him over the phone. I also counted my money from my stipend and apparently, I had already burned through most of my food money for the week. (I probably bought too much pearl milk tea and other indulgences.)

Even worse, my SJSU wifi didn’t work and I couldn’t use my phone’s data because I was running out of that, too. This meant that I couldn’t check my email or my iMessages or work on my story from by phone. Pretty much torture.

Basically, I was stuck.

We had a photojournalism slideshow last night with Togo’s sandwiches. Brian Nguyen and Josie Lepe walked us through their work and major takeaways. Even though I’m not a photographer, it was fascinating and there were things that just applied to all journalists.

After the slideshow, practically everyone decided to stop at the dorms and go get milkshakes. I was really tired, but milkshakes. What could be better?

When we got to My Milkshake, though, many of us decided it looked good… but was way too expensive (we already blew too much of our money anyway). So a group of us went to CREAM instead. But I think we got a little lost, which is why we walked by the corner of First and Santa Clara.

It was a bustling area. There were many homeless people on that street. And when we got to that street corner, there was someone being taken away by firemen on a stretcher covered in white cloth. There was an ambulance: a little blue and yellow Santa Clara County EMS Paramedics truck.

What was going on?

Our journalists’ instincts told us to cover the event. I was dying to do so, to get another byline and report on what could be a major thing.

But our human instincts said, “It might not be safe. And we came out here to get ice cream.” So with that, we crossed the street and went to CREAM.

Standing outside the shop, though, we decided we were first and foremost journalists. Kaitlyn, Adele, and I went back to the scene, but everyone had already left. The blue and yellow truck was still there, but there were no firemen or police in sight. Only one old man in a wheelchair. He wore glasses and a bandana, and his beard was white. His outfit, all black, was supplemented by a black backpack, and he guarded a shopping cart filled with a suitcase piled on several other things.

We asked him about what just happened, and he told us that his friend had gotten a heart attack so he called 911. Then he told us about his life: how he went to prison but soon turned his life around, how he is featured in books and on YouTube, how he has six kids between the ages of 17 and 43 around the country that he was going to visit once he got his money. He recounted the story of scars on his belly and a fight he had.

To demonstrate his point, he pulled out a knife. In the middle of our interview. Kaitlyn gasped. Adele kept calm, held her phone, and kept recording the interview. I squirmed and straggled against the wall of the big building we were next to, trying not to be obvious that I was a little scared.

He kept talking. When he stopped, Kaitlyn and Adele said later, they were ready to leave. But I asked another question: what the moment was that turned his life around. Because it didn’t make sense to me that he had been charged with several murders and went to prison, but he became a drug counselor and now was a homeless guy with a knife. I wanted to know his story.

After the interview, it felt like something was off in our souls. We didn’t even end up going to CREAM. We went back to the dorm and consulted Joe, our dorm dad, to talk about what would have been the best course of action. By this time, we were pestering ourselves with questions.

Should we have covered the event at all? Should we have left when he pulled out his knife? Should I have asked another question?

I didn’t suspect this at all until it was brought up, but through our conversation we concluded that this man may very well be mentally ill or crazy. His story might not be credible. He suggested that if we find more people, we could do a story on that street corner.

But the three of us, coming from very sheltered communities, were still fixated on safety, and that knife. Adele lives in Fremont, Kaitlyn lives in Pleasanton, and I come from the “Grand Duchy of Palo Alto,” as Joe calls it. And another story idea came out of this fear: the need for homeless people to carry around knives in order to defend themselves. Joe told us to just walk in downtown San Jose, go to St. James Park, and we’ll realize that homelessness or a crazy story isn’t just in one guy. It’s everywhere.

This incident was scary. I will remember it for a long time. It’s about how to stay safe and find the balance between being a journalist and being human. It’s about credibility and craziness. And it’s about learning from our mistakes. So last night, I learned a lot. It’s more than anything I could learn by staying in the classroom. Even the newsroom. It isn’t traditional learning, and this week I have called several people to write a real story, but you can go one step further. The incident has made me think about privilege, about the untamed world of “the streets,” about how we can help people like the man we met.

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone.

Day 4 – Shady business

Adele walks toward the supposed location for her interview. // Snapchat by Megan Robalewski, Mosaic Staff Writer.

Adele walks toward the supposed location for her interview. // Snapchat by Megan Robalewski, Mosaic Staff Writer.

By Adele Shen, Mosaic Staff Writer

The talk to text function saves my life. It’s how I write my blog posts, it’s how I group-chat with my friends, and it’s how I keep my thumbs from cramping up. On Tuesday morning, I made the mistake of trying to message 40 people over Facebook (alumni of a my school who were relevant to my story) and I somehow, stupidly, did not expect or foresee that many of them would reply, and soon. I had planned on taking Tuesday to contact and email all my sources but I ended up taking the whole morning making a list of alumni to contact on Facebook, copy-pasting the same message to them 40+ times, and then replying to their replies and scheduling interviews. I knew we only had until Friday to finish our first draft, and I didn’t want to use all of that time interviewing, so I crammed every confirmation into Tuesday and Wednesday with half-hourly or hourly intervals. I spent 5 to 9 PM Tuesday interviewing people over phone and skipped dinner. I was the last to leave the Spartan Daily building and gave people the impression that I was working super super hard when actually, I had made some bad life choices.

The first interview I had was so disturbing because this guys point of view to me was so sheltered and unreasonable that I just wanted to lecture him right then and there. I thought the sheer awfulness of his interview would drag my entire stories angle of course. When the interviews were over and my head was spinning from the students’ not-completely-coherent points of view, I started to send out emails to professional organizations. Emails have something weird about them, in which they seem like they would only take a second to write but in actuality they are hard to start and painstaking to judge the formality with which you should contact other people (especially when they are professionals and you are a high-schooler). Even though I knew this fact my exhausted brain chose not to acknowledge it. Kaitlyn, the mom of Room 121, made me eat Cup Noodle at 11 PM that day. Without a fork. We didn’t have a fork so I had to eat with a very specific process of shaking noodles into my mouth and simultaneously not slapping it onto my face.

Both on Tuesday and Wednesday, I had asked texted different friends to pick me up some Philz coffee even though, yes, I was awake enough to text, but no, I was not awake enough to get up and walk maybe 10 yards out of campus to pick me up some Philz.

On Wednesday, I only had four student interviews but a lot more emails to send. Many of the emails I had sent the other night gave me the automatic responses that they were on vacation. Wednesday was not as stressful as Tuesday, and Thursday was even more chill.

Except when a certain prep center sent me “on location” for an in-person interview. Creo, Megan, and I were driving to drop me off at my interview first and then Megan’s. I was texting Brian about taking me from my first interview and driving me about 20 miles away to my second one while referring to a printout of Google Maps for directions (we only made one wrong turn). We were cutting it close and arrived at the street minutes before my appointment. But then we spend some stressful, critical minutes circling around the randomly clustered, badly labeled bunch of office buildings, asking construction workers and guys in suits. By then I was cussing violently and frantically emailing my interviewee an apology for being late.

Finally we found the building we needed. It was behind caution tape. Had some gaping pits on the side. No inner walls. No people. Just a bulldozer.

It was an empty shell of a building. Apparently, this center had moved recently and accidentally sent me their old address.

Change of plans then. Megan still had to go to her interview, so we dropped her off there (in another confusing cluster of office buildings that no one bothered designing or labelling logically), and Creo was going to take me directly to my second interview. I texted Brian again, saying that I actually didn’t need him, but Megan will.

And this whole time, an organization that would be a vital source for my story was emailing me about phone interview times. Was Friday 10 AM ok? Actually, was 3:30 to 5 PM Thursday ok? My second interview was at 2:45 and a 40 minute drive away, so I asked for the Friday. Unfortunately, that time was already gone.

In the turmoil of completely scrapping my first Thursday interview, Creo and I tried to figure out if the 3:30 to 5:00 worked while driving to Fremont to the second interview. We decided that I would most likely finish my interview by 3:30, and then I could conduct the important phone interview at 4 in…… Creo’s car.

Shady? Maybe, but it works. No one has to know. Luckily, my second interview ended up taking me early, and Creo and I made it back to the newsroom long before 4. I could conduct my interview in peace… on a bench in a questionably quiet hallway outside the newsroom.