This time last year, I was a full-time senior at Cal State Fullerton and working as a part-time sales associate at the H&M in the Brea Mall—a common fate for many working-class, first-generation college students such as myself. Another common experience shared between me and my fellow Titans was that as graduation approached, I had no idea if what I was studying (journalism and film) was even a realistic profession worth pursuing post-graduation—the end of college angst was real.
While I stumbled through my Broadcast Journalism and Radio-TV-Film courses (now called Cinematic and Television Arts), one of my most influential professors, former Orange County Register reporter Jeff Brody, strongly urged me and fellow International Journalism students in his Costa Rica class (a course that no longer exists thanks to budget cuts and questionable funding priorities) to check out the upcoming Excellence in Journalism Day (J-Day) at Chapman University. It was held last year in mid-September and on a Saturday. I remember feeling indifferent about the event at first but after Brody listed off and praised the accomplished journalists scheduled to appear, I reconsidered attending and started texting my co-workers to get my Saturday shift at H&M covered—thanks for covering me, fam, because attending Excellence in Journalism Day was one of the smartest and most pivotal decisions I’ve made in my life.
After grudgingly paying for Chapman campus parking and getting lost on my way to the event, (it was my first time ever visiting Chapman), I finally met up with my CSUF International Reporting classmates inside Argyros Forum. My classmates and I visited a handful of interesting panels with accomplished journalists that day. But only one journalist made me laugh: some quick-witted, Chuck Taylor- and thick-rimmed glasses-wearing nerd named Gustavo Arellano—editor of OC Weekly, according to my classmates. I had never heard of him.
With several copies of my resume in hand (which I quickly felt lame for having after not seeing any other students carrying their resumes; I sure as hell don’t feel lame about it now), I coyly asked my compañeras to introduce me to Gustavo since they were already familiar with him. They made the introduction, I handed Gustavo my resume and I foolishly didn’t follow up with him for another two months. But, that’s sort of okay, because Gustavo lost my resume anyways.
Flash forward to early January. Graduation was around the corner in May and the “what-am-I-going-to-do-for-the-rest-of-my-life” jitters were invading my everyday thoughts. Around this time, I noticed a Facebook post by Gustavo announcing a part-time Clubs Editor position for OC Weekly. After wasting time (2-3 weeks worth) debating myself whether I was qualified enough for the position, I finally brought myself to just fucking apply. After e-mailing Gustavo to remind him who I was, I received a response back from him within the hour telling me that he remembered meeting me at J-Day and that he accidentally lost my resume but was happy that I ended up reaching out to him about the position. The following day, I had a phone interview with Aimee Murillo, Calendar Editor, Trendzilla columnist, and Clubs Editor jefa. After speaking to Aimee for an hour, Gustavo scheduled an in-person interview with me at Cafe Calacas in Downtown Santa Ana the next morning. I remember nervously chowing down on some amazing chilaquiles while Gustavo picked apart my personality for two hours—his way of making sure I was a right fit for the Weekly‘s style of raising desmadre. Gustavo offered me the job later that day, and I began working for the Weekly while still finishing up my last semester at CSUF as a full-time student—easily pulling 60-hour work weeks until my graduation in May.
Now, nearly a year in as OC Weekly‘s Clubs editor and cub reporter, I can say without a doubt that I’ve learned more about journalism during my 10 months at this infernal rag than I ever did in college. Reporting on a presidential election, getting a feel for investigative reporting, breaking a national story, writing my first long-form cover piece, recording my first podcast segment and covering the best and worst of what OC has to offer has made my first year working as a journalist by far the most exciting and challenging year of my life. And it all started by handing out my resume at J-Day. Go, kids: the resume you’ll hand out just might lead to a job.
3rd Annual Excellence in Journalism Day. Chapman University, Argyros Forum 209A, Saturday, December 3rd, 2016., 9a.m-3:30p.m. Free and open to the public.