About CSPA

Graduates of the California Scholastic Press Association workshop do more in 13 days than most people do all summer.

But whether you’re an experienced student journalist or simply interested in improving your writing, the workshop will make you better. You’ll learn to think analytically, compose your thoughts quickly, improve your time management skills, and work with others in a professional setting.

Our curriculum covers a wide array of skills important for journalism, including reporting, writing, photography, audio and television production, and social media. We also take a trip to the beach (no work required there!).

The workshop is a non-profit organization that is run and taught by volunteers who are current and former journalists. Many got their starts at CSPA.

Our courses change slightly each summer, but here’s a sampling of the classes taught in a typical summer.

PRINT, TELEVISION AND ONLINE PRODUCTION: You’ll work with Fox television producer Josh Kaplan to produce a news website and a 15-minute television broadcast. All workshop classes will teach skills necessary for digital media outlets, including accuracy, analytical thinking and concise writing.

BREAKING NEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Americans are increasingly getting their news through phones and tablets, and stories go viral within minutes. That makes it critical for journalists to be fast, succinct and connected to their communities. Jessica Davis, online guru for The Tennessean, will take you through a fun and fast-paced intro to reporting using social media.


ON-THE-SPOT NEWS: There’s just been a breaking news event on your campus or in your city. Where do you go? Who should you interview? In this hands-on class with Orange County Register staff writer Rich Hammond, you’ll leave the classroom to interview sources and write a story for online and print.

RUNNING MATTER: The justice system is the bedrock of local and investigative reporting. Larry Welborn, who spent 40 years as a reporter for the Orange County Register, re-enacts a courtroom trial and teaches students how to take notes, cover testimony and synthesize information for readers on deadline.

PHOTOJOURNALISM: A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s even more true in the digital age. In this class, taught by award-winning Associated Press photographer Chris Carlson, you will learn the basics of photojournalism, including how to approach subjects, compose a shot and capture the moment. Students take pictures around campus, then learn to edit them and write captions.

ENTERTAINMENT REPORTING: Saba Hamedy, a CNN political reporter who previously covered digital entertainment for the Los Angeles Times and Mashable, teaches you how to cover Hollywood and celebrities in an ethical, engaging way.

UNTANGLING A BREAKING NEWS STORY: How do you report a big, complex story in a matter of minutes? Reporter Laura Nelson, a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Los Angeles Times, teaches students to use investigative reporting techniques to report a comprehensive, accurate breaking news story.

CSPA students in the classroom

INTRO TO SPORTSWRITING: You’ll learn to cover basketball and football, but it all starts with this introduction by Todd Harmonson, the senior editor of the Orange County Register, who will teach the basics of writing a sports story and interviewing an athlete.

THE POLICE BEAT: When news breaks, some of your first calls should be to your law enforcement sources. Kim Minugh, the former longtime crime reporter for The Sacramento Bee, will walk you through how to talk to the cops, avoid their jargon and separate rumor from fact.

PUBLIC RECORDS: Who does the digging to get the gritty details of the story? It’s the reporters who dive into public records. We visit the San Luis Obispo government center for a hands-on exercise in researching records and discuss why they are relevant to journalism.

LEDES AND INTERVIEWS: What you ask someone, and how you start your story, is one of the most important parts of journalism. A bad conversation or an unclear, inaccurate or boring lede will cause readers to look elsewhere. You’ll learn how to talk to someone and how to start your story the proper way: tight, bright, and accurate.

OPINIONS AND EDITORIALS: It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s another to write a compelling argument that will sway your readers. You’ll learn how to express your thoughts on a controversial topic and back them up with facts.

DISTINGUISHED GUEST INSTRUCTORS: You never know who will surprise us with a visit. Coworkers from our instructors’ newsrooms drop by for group discussions.

CSPA Workshop 2016

OTHER FUN STUFF: It’s not all work! We take time off for recreation most afternoons, spend an afternoon at beautiful Avila Beach and enjoy a picnic at a local park. We also go to the famous San Luis Obispo farmers’ market.