Little paper, BIG names

  • The Mustang Daily employs four paid staff writers
  • Staff writers are required to write a minimum of two stories per week
  • Staff writers have talked to Bill Cosby, Margaret Cho, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Gocong and “Whose Line” comedians Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie

The Mustang Daily staff has talked to many well-known people this year including Bill Cosby, Margaret Cho and former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Photo by Stephanie Murawski

The interview with “Whose Line is it Anyway?” comedians Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood in the Mustang Daily on Jan. 18 got me thinking: How is it that a relatively small college paper is able to get interviews with some pretty well-known people? I think the biggest factor comes down to persistence and having the balls to call.

One thing that people don’t often realize about the Mustang Daily is that we get some pretty good interviews.

As a college newspaper, there is a misconception that we are all student journalists who don’t know what we’re doing or how to conduct a proper interview. Well if you look at our track record for this school year alone, you will see that our reporters have talked to some pretty big names.

We began the school year with a phone interview with a Huxtable. You know him — Bill Cosby.

In late September, Cosby performed two shows at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center to an almost sold-out crowd. Before he came to Cal Poly, our arts editor (at the time it was arts staff writer Kelly Cooper), thought it would be a fun idea to run a preview on his show. We often do these as a way to let our readers know what’s coming up at Cal Poly and in the surrounding San Luis Obispo community. Whenever we do a preview on any event (whether it be a concert, art show or play), it is always our main goal to get in contact with whoever is the main performer. In this case, we figured getting in contact with Cosby was a shot in the dark but we fired anyway.

The reporter (copy editor Sarah Parr), e-mailed Lisa Woske, the public relations specialist for Cal Poly Arts. Parr said she didn’t really expect to talk to Cosby because Woske had said it would be hard to get her in touch with him with such a short deadline. Nevertheless, Woske forwarded Parr’s information to Cosby’s public relations and got an e-mail an hour later from his publicists’ assistant that said Cosby wanted to talk. Five minutes later, Parr got a phone call and was given 30 minutes to do research on Cosby in addition to his personal cell number.

But when she talked to him, Parr said it wasn’t what she expected.

“I expected him to be brief on his answers but he went on tangents, he was real descriptive,” Parr said. “He seemed more interested in me than I thought he would be. I thought he would treat me as just another reporter but he … asked me what I was studying and stuff like that.”

The interview lasted 30 minutes and at one point, Parr was asked if she was Canadian (she’s not), if she was drunk (“I was giggling a lot because he’s a funny guy”) and in the mdidle of the interview, Cosby’s wife called to remind him to do something.

It was a shock — here we are, reporters from a small town on the Central Coast of California and we interviewed a well-known comedian who, with “The Cosby Show,” helped changed views on racism.

But probably our most exciting (and funniest) interview was with the Governator himself — Arnold Schwarzenegger.

News staff writer Amanda Sedo is a kinesiology junior who, although has had no experience writing for newspapers prior to working for the Mustang Daily, managed to get a 30 second interview with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by accident. Photo by Krisha Agatep

Something important to note about the Mustang Daily is that we really encourage students from all majors to get involved. Whether it be writing, designing, taking photos or copy editing — it’s great to have students from all over campus be a member of the staff. On that note, the reporter, Amanda Sedo, who talked to the governor, really didn’t mean to call him.

Sedo joined the staff in the summer as a sports staff writer. She was initially only going to stay for the summer but we enjoyed having her on staff so we shifted some people around and asked her to stay. When she was assigned the story about the higher education transparency bill, she knew she needed to talk to someone in the governor’s office so she just started calling around.

“It was the first big article that I had done so I was just experimenting around to see how far up I can get a comment from,” Sedo said.

After insistently calling the governor’s office, she was put on hold and the voice that answered wasn’t what she was expecting.

“The next thing I know the governor’s on the phone,” Sedo said. “I was kind of such a newb at the time so for him to pick up the phone, I was like ‘Is this a joke?’”

She didn’t speak to him for long, but in our business, sometimes a small comment is enough.

“(Schwarzenegger) was suppose to release whether or not he was going to sign or veto the bill that day so basically all he said was ‘I can’t really comment for your article today but you’ll be receiving a press release later tonight,'” Sedo said.

Nevertheless, Sedo’s unexpected interview caused a stir in the newsroom and what’s even better is she didn’t realize how exciting it is to get even the most minuscule quote from the governor of California. And so, it never made it into her article. It wasn’t until she casually announced it at our weekly staff meeting a week later that the rest of us found out.

But getting interviews with well-known people isn’t a new thing for the reporters and editors of the Mustang Daily.

Mustang Daily sports editor Brian De Los Santos has worked for the paper since September 2010 and has interviewed NFL linebacker and former Cal Poly Mustang Chris Gocong as well as Raiders passing game coordinator and former Cal Poly Mustang Ted Tollner. Photo by Leticia Rodriguez

Last year, sports editor Brian De Los Santos did something he didn’t think was possible until he was out in the real world: grab an interview with a professional athlete.

At the end of last school year, De Los Santos got an e-mail from the assistant of former Cal Poly Mustang Chris Gocong. She said Gocong wanted to talk to the Mustang Daily and De Los Santos jumped at the chance.

But when the day finally arrived, De Los Santos had to battle missed calls and horrible cell phone service in Poly Canyon. When he finally got Gocong on the phone, he had to run down toward the baseball field to get reception. More than six months after the interview took place, De Los Santos is still in shock at snagging the interview news outlets around the county were trying to get their hands on.

“It was nerve wracking,” De Los Santos said. “You train through all of college to try and get to a level where you can talk to these grand scale athletes and here I am as a sophomore in college talking to an NFL linebacker. … It was quite the rush.”

What resulted was a well-written twopart series and confidence that he can talk to anybody just by asking.

And I think overall, that’s the significant detail to note. We’re a rather small college newspaper, but we have the guts to call anybody and (whether it be an accident as in the case of Sedo), get that all-illusive interview.

3 Responses to “Little paper, BIG names”
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