Meet Christiana Stephens and Zuleika Martinez, a pair of Sacred Heart Catholic School students who picked a heck of a week to job-shadow Anniston Star journalists.
Stephens, an 18-year-old senior who is headed to Jacksonville State University this fall, and Martinez, a 16-year-old junior, arrived at The Star on Monday, just as weather forecasters were warning us about the potential for nasty weather. That night, the worst was realized as a tornado caused massive damage in Jacksonville and surrounding communities.
So while many times our job-shadow students from local schools spend a week observing us go about the mundane aspects of the job, Stephens and Martinez watched us operate in the chaos of a huge and unfolding news event. In fact, they even contributed; careful readers will notice they earned a contributor credit on a Page 1 story Friday (“Volunteers anxious to lend a hand”).
We enjoyed getting to know these students, who were brimming with energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, three qualities that make great journalists. They are both looking at careers in physical therapy, but I predict they will be a success at whatever they do.
Friday morning, they allowed me to ask them a few questions. (Answers have been lightly edited for context and length.)
What was the highlight of your week?
Martinez: “Getting to go out with the reporters like Kirsten [Fiscus] and Tim [Lockette] and getting to learn about their beats. It was really interesting.”
Stephens: “Mine would be the same, but I think my favorite was when we went with Tim and we actually got to interview people ourselves and got to talk to them about what was going on. I liked that.”
Given that you’ve spent the week at a news organization, I’ve got a question about sources of information. Where do you get your news?
Stephens: “My mom. She has the news on every morning on Fox 6, and so I listen to that. So, my parents or social media.”
Martinez: “The exact same thing. My mom either has the Spanish channel news on or the English, which is Fox 6, every single morning. … And also The Anniston Star, because we have a subscription.”
What are the social media platforms you use and which ones do you stay away from?
Martinez: “I use mainly Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. I have a Facebook, but I don’t really use it as much as the other three.”
Stephens: “The same for me, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter and then I have Facebook, but I’ve only started using it because JSU, like the roommate thing and all that, that’s what I use it mainly for now.”
Do you keep up with politics?
Stephens: “I love government. When you’re a senior, you take government one semester and you take economics, so our first was government and that’s how I got into really liking politics. When [December’s special U.S.] Senate election was coming around with Doug Jones and Roy Moore, I was very into that. Me and my mom went to one of the Doug Jones [campaign events] and we saw him and I got a sticker. I gave it to my teacher and he put it on his little board.”
Martinez: “I’m really not into politics at all. I try. When the news is on or when there is a huge debate going on, I’ll sit down and watch it, and I’ll be like, ‘OK, OK. I don’t agree with that but I agree with this. You’re crazy,’ shouting at the TV. I’ll do that sometimes.”
What concerns you about your community?
Stephens: “I feel like we’re not together. I see Jacksonville, and I feel like they are one of the united cities and I just don’t feel like we are.”
Martinez: “The environment. I feel like we should focus on the environment and not try to build so many companies that end up destroying trees and stuff like that.”
What is the biggest misconception people have about your generation?
Stephens: “That we don’t pay attention to anything.”
Martinez: “That we don’t understand anything about anything. People will be like, ‘You don’t understand, you’re too young.’”
Have you noticed anything about the student response to the Parkland shooting?
Stephens: “It’s so amazing what they’re doing. It’s amazing to see teenagers get together and try to get something passed, but we can only do so much. [Adults] have to take what we say and put it into action.”
Martinez: “Words are just one thing. Actions are another. If we combine those two together, I think we could have the possibility of a solution. We have to put our words to use. Just by saying something it comes in one ear and out the other.”
Are you optimistic about the future?
What career paths are you considering?
Stephens: “Physical therapy.”
Martinez: “Physical therapy. I’ve always thought about going into communications and I speak another language, so that would be a bonus. And I like to talk a lot. A lot.”
Stephens: “Yeah, I’m an opinionated person and I let my opinions be known.”