A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student’s Perspective

By Zhenwei Gao

Greetings from Zhenwei Gao! I’m a junior at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. This summer, I attended the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Academy in Washington, DC. I joined a diverse group of students from around the country to produce a youth-related video within four days. It was one of my most amazing, rewarding experiences ever!

A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student's Perspective

I made friends from around the country. And, we met PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff. Through her stories, I gained more admiration and respect for her as a strong, independent, professional woman, and am also even more inspired to chase after my dreams. We also worked with William Brangham, an award-winning journalist and producer on NewsHour. He was an amazing mentor to us, helping us to perfect our video with his insights.

A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student's Perspective
Gao and team map out their story with guidance from NewsHour correspondent William Brangham.

Our assignment for the week was to produce a complete PBS Newshour story. Before production, we learned how to operate a C100 camera, improve our interview skills, sync-in a more complex audio device, and lighting techniques. We also practiced pitching our stories and learned the specific elements that make a story great.

A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student's Perspective
Learning and production in progress.

During the production phase, my group’s biggest challenge was determining how to arrange the storyline in the video. Each person in the group had their own ideas, and we were running out of time. Frustrated, another student and I gathered our group during a break and talked about how we felt. We all knew that each of us wanted the best for the video, but being too opinionated was stopping progress. We agreed that we should assign different responsibilities to each person, and trust each other’s decisions.

As a result of this experience, I better understand the importance of assigning roles in a team and the significance of having trust and patience for each other. Most importantly, I realized that working with others and enjoying the process is almost as important as the final product.

A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student's Perspective
Zhenwei Gao with teammates on a panel as part of NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs Academy.

At the end of the week, my teammates, mentors and I introduced our video during a student panel where we discussed what journalism and media mean to the youth journalists. I am extremely proud of our hard work and how my own skills improved while making this video and that I had the opportunity to share my opinion.

Our story is about the impact of mental health issues on teenagers, and the ways teachers can help students cope with these issues.

Completing a story in one week seemed an impossible task. I was stressed and our group had challenges, but in the end, we got up from where we “fell.” I am truly grateful for the opportunity to bring my interest in covering students’ mental health into this story. No words can express my appreciation towards every single one of the fellows, mentors, and staff at the SRL Academy. Thank you, thank you so much!

A Week with PBS NewsHour: A Student's Perspective

To a great week, great stories and great people! I love you SRL ♡!

Zhenwei Gao