A farewell from the editor-in-chief ‘I will miss The Chaparral’

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When I was introduced to The Chaparral newspaper at College of the Desert, I was at our college library on a quest trying to find a computer to finish my homework assignments. What caught my eye that day was the stack of newspapers neatly placed by the self-sharpener and other advertisements from the college.

I immediately was drawn to the newspaper’s quality. I thought it was amazing to have a team of student journalists at the college who focus on writing about our college community, events and truly showing what the Roadrunners are all about. As I read the stories, I decided I needed to join and be part of this team one way or another.

I took my required media classes first and fell in love with going to classes in the KCOD newsroom across the street from the college on Park View.

I met my professor, Laurille Jackson, and she truly motivated me to do my best in her class. When I was in her reporting and writing class, she told us about The Chaparral and the opportunity students had to write, publish, get hands-on experience and start building a portfolio.

I took this opportunity to do my own reporting. From the lectures, work and knowledge that I have gained from Jackson, I created my first student life article about my COD friend who did a recent fitness competition in the summer of 2018 and won.

My story was published as a student contributor in the fall, and it became a front-page headline. I was astonished. I knew this was the right step to show my work and be able to join.

When I finally joined the team, I remember I took on three stories because I felt driven and knew if I wanted to represent The Chaparral in the best way, I would have to step it up 100%.

During the fall of 2019, I did not feel intimidated by the current editor-in-chief, Melissa Espinoza. In fact, I appreciated her strict, ready for business attitude and leadership qualities. I have taken the advice she gave me to this day and learned a lot from her during my beginnings with The Chaparral staff.

I have always worked hard. I do not think there was ever a rest day for me because I loved my job and was always thinking of the next topic to add to our paper. I was never afraid to ask questions or bring up new story ideas.

There were many late nights. I would stay up till 2 a.m. some days writing my stories, scheduling my interviews ahead of time, creating questions for my interviews and repeat. Jackson always told us it’s important to stay informed, get in the habit of checking the news, read what is currently happening and master all media platforms.

Every day at The Chaparral, I always learned something new. I would communicate with the KCOD radio station team including Alex Rosales, KCOD’s station manager in 2019 and learn media skills from Alex Zatarain, the lab tech specialist.

One of the main things I learned being in this team was having strong communication with others and continuing to learn from those above you.”

— Estefania Moreira

I became an assignment editor in the spring of 2020, and then everything changed on March 11 as we headed into our first pandemic shutdown worldwide. College of the Desert closed its campuses on March 16 and The Chaparral newspaper went fully online for the first time.

As we worked on becoming accustomed to this new type of media/reporting journalism over Zoom calls and no socializing face-to-face like before, I knew that by the time spring semester would end, I would have to lead the team as their new editor during a pandemic in fall 2020.

I never suspected this turn of events. As the saying goes, life is unexpected.

I will be honest. I was more nervous and concerned about how I would lead our team in such dark times. I felt downhearted, knowing I wouldn’t be leading the team in our newsroom like before.

Friday lab mornings before the pandemic were long and fun for everyone. This was the day for layout and designing the printed paper. We’d have donuts, pizza, laughs and many frustrations, but we worked as a team and learned how to collaborate and understand how the industry works.

We had deadlines. The paper had to be done by the end of the day and sent to the Desert Sun for print how I missed that! And worse, I felt even sadder knowing our new students joining in the fall wouldn’t get the full face-to-face experience in the newsroom.

I had many thoughts to think about when the spring semester ended. With Espinoza, the former editor passing on her title to me, I knew I had big shoes to fill.

The fall 2020 semester came, I was ready to give it my all, and I sure did. Being in charge during the coronavirus pandemic was not an easy task, but I managed to help my teammates emotionally and mentally during intense times.

I communicated with my team full-heartedly. I made sure that their work mattered and was appreciated. I let them come up with ideas for stories even though it was tough reporting about our college since the campus was shut down. Finding people to interview and stories to write about was difficult. Getting photos was even more of a challenge.

I reminded them when stories needed to be finished, I was strict yet joyous to them when I needed to be, and what was important for me as their leader was to make sure they felt valued, loved and accepted in our team.

I needed to make sure our new students would stay in The Chaparral because every one of them survived 2020 and pushed through during the whole pandemic without giving up. Yes, there were tough days, some more than others, but there were also joyful times in our Zoom meetings. We stayed connected.

The Chaparral class has three sections. The J004A students come in as new writers and reporters, the J004B students are section editors and the J004C students are the management team.

I loved how I could focus on our website and have our new students learn with the managers. We have created a strong website with various stories this semester. I am grateful the college shared many of our stories on COD’s social media sites. We got noticed campus-side.

I am blessed to know professor Jackson and the editor before me Melissa Espinoza who led the team. Thank you, professor, for your smile, inspiring attitude, devotion and love towards your students and The Chaparral. You have been a wonderful professor who I will never forget, and one of my beloved mentors.

I want to thank KCOD’s broadcast consultant Steve Kelly, who I missed seeing during the semester, for always giving us new ideas, bringing us donuts on lab days and being super helpful to our team in the past. I want to thank Alex Zatarain for being patient with us and teaching us more about multi-media usage and WordPress during the pandemic.

Thank you to our digital editor Omar Romero for always checking the little details on making our online newspaper better. Thank you, Julio Camacho, for being the sports editor who endured a tough injury this semester but still wrote stories.

Thank you, Yaelin Ramirez and Sarah Andrade for working hard as staff reporters. Thank you for the fundamental research, meeting deadlines and for producing quality writing.

I want to thank Trisha Valdez, who will be The Chaparral’s copy editor spring of 2021, for taking the title of social media editor in the fall, showing care for The Chaparral and delivering great stories. Lastly, I want to thank Andrew Yzaguirre for his work, humor and silly personality. He always made us laugh. Yzaguirre will be taking the role of editor-in-chief for the spring of 2021 semester.

Yzaguirre is a great writer, a hard worker and has good ideas he hopes to implement in the spring. I leave The Chaparral in his hands, and with him and Valdez taking the lead, I know The Chaparral’s future will be bright.

I will miss The Chaparral and the entire team dearly. Thank you for the journey and the opportunity to learn and lead.