The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Channels editors share highs and lows of covering virtual semester

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN
Desiree Erdmann
From left to right starting on the top Faculty Adviser Joshua Molina, Photo Editor Desiree Erdmann, LTA John Rose, Features Editor Alloy Zarate, Editor-in-Chief Ryan P. Cruz, Opinion Editor Cassandra Wilkins, News Editor Jacob Frank, Opinion Editor August Lawrence, and A&E Editor Rodrigo Hernandez during the last Editorial board meeting of the spring semester on April 24, 2021 over Zoom.

In the second full semester of virtual meetings and socially distanced interactions, The Channels staff overcame the challenges of remote reporting and found innovative ways to provide news, opinion and feature articles. Reporting during a pandemic forced us all to grow and strive for greater coverage and more meaningful content for the campus community. Here, our editorial board will tell what it’s been like to be behind the news during the pandemic. 


Ryan P. Cruz, Editor-In-Chief

Running a news publication during the pandemic has been an eye-opening experience. Our editors and writers were forced to deal with adversity unlike any staff at The Channels before them, and I am so proud that we were able to provide high-quality content for City College. This spring semester our editorial board was more experienced and even with the obvious challenges of online reporting, we didn’t just get by with the bare minimum. We contributed to campus conversations on important issues like race and equity. We provided a wealth of opinion columns, reviews, feature stories with some amazing members of our community and news articles covering every corner of City College. Through trial and error, we locked in an online production schedule complete with staff meetings, editorial boards and two publication days a week—all through Zoom—and I can say with confidence that by the end of this semester we were a well-oiled newsmaking machine. I’m trying to stay in the moment, as there are still a few stories left for us to finish, but as the end of the semester approaches as well as the end of my time here on The Channels, I can’t help but be proud of the work we achieved. I want to thank our team of editors and writers, our LTA John Rose and most importantly our faculty adviser Josh Molina. Our cooperation and communication this semester was something special, and I don’t think I’ll ever have a newsroom experience quite like this year’s.

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Jacob Frank, News Editor

It can be easy to look back at the semester and say it went by in a flash; but when I think about the stories I did in January, it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in just a few months. This was my first semester taking on the role of news editor, and it was tough to stay on top of all City College events, keep up with administrators and draft articles for our website while co-piloting a team of staff writers to help tackle these stories. That’s not even to speak of the entire worlds we all juggle outside of our journalistic roles. Just in the spring, vaccinations were expanded to the entire public, employees battled layoffs, an administrator faced controversy and town halls gathered the college community with a plan for improving the systems of governance and employee relationships on campus. We even got to attend a whole weekend of online workshops, lectures and contests at a national journalism convention. Luckily I had a team of really great people with me who were committed to the vision of The Channels, despite the challenges of our online environment. Everything wasn’t always roses, and we occasionally struggled as a team, but I think the challenges were a testament of our willingness to enter uncharted waters. I’m proud of the work we did, and I just hope our backs will forgive us for their office-chair imprisonments. 


August Lawrence, Opinion Editor 

Returning to a second semester of almost fully remote schooling due to the pandemic has been quite the challenge. I knew from the start that coming into the role of opinion editor was going to be hard. Luckily, I had an amazing co-editor partner, Cassandra Wilkins, and all my close editorial friends were right there beside me. My experience on The Channels has truly been the full package, with high highs and low lows. This semester I won second and fourth place in opinion writing and critical review competitions, respectively, at the JACC convention—which is a huge honor. However, I’ve also had to battle many obstacles and roadblocks along the way too. This semester I had to be in Washington state, making interactions with Santa Barbara news almost non-existent. When I was in Santa Barbara, I could just storm into a source’s classroom and demand an interview. However, Im very proud of our section and all the varied content we were able to produce. This semester, I’ve had to meticulously plan every interview to make sure it fits my subject’s schedule. This year was a real long haul, but it made me mature as a journalist and get my priorities in order. I’m glad I lived through it, and I’m glad my experience on The Channels has prepared me to move on to the next chapter of my life.


Cassandra Wilkins, Opinion Editor

In 2019, after my academic counselor suggested I take an introduction to Journalism class, I enrolled and I was instantly hooked from day one. Since then, throughout my year on the staff with The Channels I have learned about journalism but most important I have found my niche. Through my storytelling and writing, I have had the opportunity to learn more about others and find myself along the way. I have most enjoyed being able to tell the stories of those who don’t have a voice in our society. As the opinion section editor, I was also able to start the conversation of serious topics that matter to me. Throughout this journey, I have met amazing people and created lifelong friendships. I am thankful to have been a part of the journalism program and City College and to have been given a platform to learn and share my voice. I will follow my work at CSU Long Beach in the fall and will continue to grow my knowledge as a journalism major. Thank you to my family, parents, teachers, and peers who have made these opportunities possible, and I hope to be able to use my skills to better the lives of others.


Alloy Zarate, Features Editor

I expected this semester to be smoother than our first online semester. It wasn’t. This semester made me realize that reporting fully virtually, while possible, isn’t sustainable for me. Physically and mentally, I felt like I was deteriorating a little more every week. It got a little monotonous and overwhelming at times. All of us took on more responsibility this semester with more reporters but fewer photographers on staff. Keeping a few things in mind pushed me through some of my intense moments of self-doubt. The first is that all my peers were in the same boat, and they were making it work. I always look for role models in my life, people that I can aspire to be like. My advisors and fellow editors were my role models this semester. All of us encountered new and unique challenges and watching everyone get through it gave me confidence that I could too. I loved hearing the ambitious ideas my classmates would get excited about during our Zoom meetings. The second thing that kept me motivated was that I am never going to work through a semester quite like this ever again. Knowing that, I strived to make the most of every word I typed, every idea I pitched, and advice I gave, etc. There are tons of places where I fell short of my goals, but I created a lot here at The Channels that I’m immensely proud of. 


Rodrigo Hernandez, Arts and Entertainment Editor

This year of online learning passed in the blink of an eye while simultaneously feeling like it was never going to end. Reporting and learning from my bedroom is a vastly different experience than being able to do so in-person. Although I adjusted and soon got used to working from home, many challenges presented themselves throughout the year. Besides the uncertainty of waiting for a sense of normalcy to return, the challenges of learning completely from my bed is something that I wasn’t ready for. My schedule was flipped upside down, and having to log on to Zoom everyday was a drag. That being said, I had one of the most eventful and memorable semesters even if I wasn’t able to be on campus. From going to the San Marcos Foothills Protest at 4:30 a.m. to covering the 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, every week had an opportunity for coverage and experience. I missed being able to be on campus with my fellow classmates, reporters and editors and all the potential opportunities that could have been. I wouldn’t trade that for the once-in-a-lifetime experience that I had this semester. Being the Arts & Entertainment Editor was one of my goals when I first started reporting at The Channels, and I’m grateful for the events I was able to cover and the time that I have had as a writer and editor of two sections here. The only thing I’m looking forward to is going back on campus next semester—hopefully.


Desiree Erdmann, Photo Editor

Last semester I believe I wrote in the end-of-semester editors list that it had been hard—and it was—but this spring was just as difficult, if not more, for different reasons this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to come off as ungrateful for the opportunity to be the photo editor again because yes, it was filled with more in-person story opportunities, bigger stories, more experience, and more confidence in what I was doing. But like most of the other editors, sitting at home day after day in four-hour-long Zoom meetings, along with the work I had to do for other classes, chipped away at my mental health. Some weeks receiving one email back from a source felt like the biggest win of a lifetime, while other weeks we were publishing 20 well-written stories with amazing images that we all felt so proud of creating. It was a rollercoaster of new experiences we all went through together, and I am proud of it. This one day at the beginning of the semester, I remember confessing to my fellow editors how worried I was about possibly letting them down because I couldn’t photograph 6 stories a week. Our LTA John Rose said something along the lines of “we will figure it out, we are flying the plane as it is being built.” Anytime I was having a moment over being the sole photographer this semester, as well as the photo editor I would remember him saying that, and everything was okay. I can’t say I would relive this semester but I can say I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other staff. I love these people and will cherish my time here for the rest of my life.

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