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March 6, 2014 Portfolio of pre-professional work

Dear Ms. Amaya, Thank you for asking me to review your body of work. I’ve examined the news and feature articles you’ve written for the Orange County Register (including our Latino Link blog), The Chimes and Biola Magazine. I also looked over your photos and video. I’d like to begin by saying I’m impressed with the range of coverage. Your portfolio is replete with strong profiles, interesting issue stories and even breaking news. The quality here is easily comparable to that of a beginning-level professional reporter – and in some cases, a journeyman reporter. Your strengths as a reporter and writer are most apparent in your feature writing. Your craft of composition in the stories on a local teacher, an alumna working in Paris and another at Facebook is detailed and topic-specific. You bring these individuals to life, capturing the essence of the topic while avoiding areas of their lives unrelated to your focus. This is a lesson I strive to teach not only to my college students in advanced journalism classes, but to many of the reporters I’ve worked with professionally for the last 25 years. I found different elements in each of the stories that spoke to me – as a human interest story should: the challenge of teaching students to read, the love of reading; the difficulties of navigating a foreign country; and understanding that even the kind of job you may not want can lead to a fulfilling, challenging career. The stories communicate a sense of excitement for each subject. My favorite lead was in the story about the two alums who started the program for brain injury victims. The lead is compelling: On an early September morning in 2011, Steve Grove strapped on his bicycle helmet and set out for a familiar ride around the Illinois farm where he’d grown up. He hadn’t gone far when the speeding driver struck him from behind. Ten days later he awoke in an Indiana hospital room, not knowing where he was or what had happened. “My skull was cracked, my helmet was in eight pieces, I had multiple broken ribs and I was bleeding internally,” Grove said. “I have absolutely no memory of that day or the actual event or the day before, but I’ve been told they didn’t think I was going to make it.” That lead finds the perfect balance between your story telling and his passion. Your news stories, appropriately, speak in an altogether different voice. First, you clearly work diligently to keep yourself out of the stories. Your articles for the Orange County Register includes pieces on a program that helps students get to college, one on an organic produce company, a vigil held for a community icon and a new exhibit at the local zoo. The stories range from in-depth treatments to briefs. In each, you do a solid job of capturing the key facts and background data to support those facts. In fact, there are few reporting gaps evident -- a strong performance for a student reporter. Occasionally, you stray into grammatical challenges, an issue

possibly stemming from the speed needed to meet deadlines. I would suggest adding a layer of self-editing to your writing process. Your articles for The Chimes reflect your good reporting practices while also showing some room for growth. Take, for example, your story about the accidents at Biola's entrance. You give a good collection of statistics from the current year and cite specific incidents. But you would do well to compare those numbers to previous years’ figures as a way to clarify whether the cluster of accidents represents the norm or a deviation. I’d also advise you to consider more direct approaches to presenting your reporting conclusions in your leads. Occasionally, you begin your leads with dependent clauses, delaying the articles’ main thrusts. Sometimes – with features, especially – this can provide essential context; but other times, it can soften a story’s impact. I would like to call out one other strength in your reporting: your adept presentation of the voices of students and other community members. You incorporate a variety of perspectives from stakeholders in each story, a practice that should help you significantly as you prepare to transition to full-time reporting. As I noted, I also examined your photography and video. Each skill is critical to reporting, these days. Your photo composition I found to be strong – good central images or subjects, although most are less animated than a news image would demand. I especially enjoyed the Huntington Beach pier shot, with its reflection captured in the foreground shoreline; I also liked the framing and colors of the flower market. I would recommend your continue building your photo strengths with some more aggressive events, such youth basketball games, which would demand a critical, quick eye to capture dramatic moments. Your art show video presented an interesting combination of still images and video. I found the most dramatic element to be when your subject began darkening her print. Video is a great tool for capturing that kind of detailed action. In fact, I would advise you to approach video storytelling the same way you approach word-based story, rather than presenting as it unfolds. Grab the most dramatic moment to open, use voice-over narrative to link topical elements, and guide us through the story from beginning to end. Your still shots of her tools would then arrive in stronger context and her greatest passions would manifest immediately. Ms. Amaya, thank you again for the chance to review your work. Please feel free to contact me again if you desire additional feedback. Regards, William Diepenbrock Editor, Education, Databases, Internships The Orange County Register 909-214-6909


Bill Diepenbrock  

William Diepenbrock Editor, Education, Databases, Internships Orange County Register