Each weekend, “Local Lens” in the Voice of OC features photo essays by Wilkinson journalism students who have covered and engaged with a wide swath of Orange County life, from civic engagement events such as The Great American Write In, to walking Orange County’s coastline.

People cross paths at one of the intersections of the newly opened trails at Saddleback Wilderness, part of OC Parks’ Irvine Ranch Open Space. Credit: Jack Sundblad/Voice of OC.

Recently, Visual Journalism student Jack Sunblad published Orange County Debuts News Wilderness Trail, which received more than 240,000 page views.

“As working journalists, we know how hard it can be to obtain your first “clips” to show prospective newsrooms your work,” said Professor Julie Leopo (English Department). She structured her photojournalism class “to be a photo workshop in which students can create a portfolio of work they have made in the class for Voice of OC.”

Aside from teaching the photojournalism class, Leopo is also the director of photography at Voice of OC.

“We report and photograph anything that may inform our readers to make decisions that impact their quality of life. The merit of work is what carries any professional along in the industry. For students in my class, they get to start at Voice of OC through “Local Lens.”

Leopo is hoping to redraft journalism education. She wants her students discussing the difference between soft news vs. hard news, ‘getting to the core of the visual narrative.’

Leopo hopes to instill in her students that visual storytelling is a huge responsibility and teach how historical events, or portraits of people, are represented and captured with a camera. She’s teaching her students how and why you click the shutter to capture a specific moment.

“Working with Professor Leopo has been an amazing and insightful experience. I have always had a passion for writing and photography, but her class truly put my skills and interests to work in the field of journalism,” said senior Visual Journalism minor Erika Taylor.

The 72nd annual swim at the Huntington Beach Pier. Credit: Erika Taylor/Voice of OC.

Taylor, a Voice of OC summer intern funded by the Marshutz Endowed Journalism Fund, has published photo essays illuminating Juneteenth, Celebrating Freedom on Juneteenth, the everyday heroes combating illiteracy, automobiles art created by formerly incarcerated students, OC Black Culture and Pride, a courageous community challenging racism in OC schools and the 72nd annual swim at the Huntington Beach Pier—one of the county’s oldest traditions.

“Writing for the Voice of OC has given me a deeper appreciation for the people and culture of Orange County. I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to participate in such important work. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me thus far in journalism,” said Taylor.

The community partnership with Voice of OC and Wilkinson College’s journalism program has expanded the Collegiate News Service, giving students unprecedented opportunities to publish on an award-winning professional nonprofit daily news site.

“Using a teaching hospital model of journalism education, we’re building M.A.S.H. units on the frontlines of democracy, improving the health and well-being of Orange County’s diverse communities with unbiased, nonpartisan local civic news,” said Professor Susan F. Paterno, Journalism Program Director.

(Pictured above: Student Erika Taylor working out in the field with a reporter.)