2017-04-21 / Neighbors

Longtime Acorn reporter looks back at covering community

She started at newspaper as a college intern
By Stephanie Sumell

Stephanie Sumell Stephanie Sumell I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic last week as I cleared out my desk and sifted through the graveyard of discarded Post-it notes gathering dust around the base of my computer monitor,

This wasn’t one of my short-lived attempts at “kicking the clutter” after reading a punchy article in a parenting magazine at the dentist’s office.

It was my next-to-last day as a writer for the Acorn Newspapers, my first “real job” out of college and the backdrop of much of my young adult life.

And what a journey it has been.

In the spring of 2010, the year of the first iPad and Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress, I was lucky enough to secure an internship at the paper during my last semester at California State University Channel Islands.

Although my background was in fine art, specifically portraiture, my other love has always been writing.

Daniel Wolowicz, the Camarillo Acorn editor, was patient enough to teach me the ins and outs of writing news articles, my first of which was about a teen who planted flags in the front lawn of Adolfo Camarillo High School in remembrance of 9/11.

After graduating college, I started freelancing for the paper and answering phones at its Flynn Road office twice a week in addition to my already hodge-podge schedule of other jobs, which included tutoring middle schoolers and working in a clothing store stockroom.

Then in 2011, a veteran reporter unexpectedly left the paper.

I was hired as a full-time writer for the Thousand Oaks Acorn under the direction of Kyle Jorrey, another great teacher, who has since humbly dubbed himself the company’s “social media czar.”

While starting out was exciting, there is no cute way to say it: Working for a community newspaper is very tough.

Handling the new workload wasn’t easy, and I didn’t win any points for wrongly reporting that Alice Cooper would be performing at Conejo Valley Days.

Still, a few ugly cries in the parking lot were not going to stop me from forging ahead.

With Jorrey’s and Wolowicz’s help, I got faster, better and far less likely to create false hope for those who crave shock rock with their funnel cake.

I was becoming a journalist, and the satisfaction I got from seeing my byline made my hard work feel worthwhile.

Two years into the job I was reassigned to cover the City of Moorpark and later to Camarillo, where I now live.

The scope of topics I’ve covered during my tenure is wide: building projects, Boy Scouts, natural disasters, crime—and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

This past year I spoke to Jeff Rodriguez, a pastor who found his calling while he was in jail, and Jose Luis Mendoza, a college-bound teen who worked picking produce to help his family survive.

I sat in the living room of Harold and Geneva Ferguson, a devoted couple who have been married for 74 years, and spoke at length with Jeff Nordella, a doctor who sued the insurance giant Blue Cross and won.

But the stories that will stick with me most are ones that show this community takes care of its own.

Last year, three Camarillo women lost their lives at the hands of their spouses. Two had young kids.

Seeing hundreds of people line up in at Padre Serra Parish six months ago for a bake sale benefiting the children of one of the victims, Janet Huntington, was deeply moving and a testament to the city I am proud to call home.

So now, three cars, seven years and countless stories later, I will soon clutter another computer monitor with Post-it notes—some habits never die— but I will forever remember the Acorn Newspapers, and I will always feel honored to have served as a writer for your community newspaper.

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