Ismael Estrada, a field producer for Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, was a guest of the Valley Middle School broadcast journalism program last week. Here, he discusses coverage of the El Paso shooting. Steve Puterski photo
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VMS broadcast program gets advice from CNN producer

CARLSBAD — For years Doug Green has cultivated and created two broadcast journalism monsters, one at Carlsbad High School and the other at Valley Middle School.

Each has garnered dozens of regional and national awards for their broadcasts and approach to journalism. So, it was a bit of surprise when a journalism veteran and field producer for “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN reached out to compliment Green on his middle school achievements.

Ismael Estrada, visited the students at Valley Middle School several times including Oct. 8, showing them clips of Cooper’s show and stories, giving them tips and insight into producing and practicing journalism. Estrada’s youngest daughter is also part of the program.

He moved to Carlsbad recently and spoke to Carlsbad High School’s famed CHSTV several times before, Green said. But this audience was a bit different.

“I was noodling around the website and found CHSTV,” Estrada recalled. “I clicked on it and was like, ‘Holy crap, this is amazing.’ When I walked into the studio, the stuff they had was more than what I had in my first job.”

Eighth-grade students Allyson Vandersechaaf, 14, and Jacob Clarke, 13, said Estrada’s advice and experience left a mark on how to approach news gathering, storytelling and being prepared for any situation.

However, the two budding journalists also took away more nuanced approaches, such as how hard to press with an intense story. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways the students learned from Estrada was to always have two cameras at the ready.

“He told us how far is too far when it comes to an intense story,” Jacob said. “Those stories where it involves real-world situations and how to deal with that.”

As for Cooper, they said he has a great presence on camera, relates to the viewer and is always searching for ways to bring more depth to a story. Additionally, Estrada said Cooper also thanks his staff after each show, noting they are just as important to the team as he is.

Estrada also showed the class clips of stories he worked detailing the nuances not seen on camera. From natural disasters to conflict zones, he explained the situations and how it is critical to have awareness.

“Ismael must find these great people from these terrible situations and he really wants to take their story and make it into something to show other people what they are going through,” Allyson said.

One example was after the El Paso shooting, which hit Estrada hard as he is originally from El Paso. He and another correspondent interviewed a survivor in the hospital.

The woman was at the El Paso Walmart for a fundraiser for her child’s soccer team and was shot twice. Estrada was able to dig out the story to put another human connection on the shooting and draw the audience in on an emotional level.

As for the students, they peppered him about how to conduct such work during a crisis, and how to package a story on the spot.

“They’re not asking questions about being an anchor or a reporter,” Estrada said of the middle school students. “They’re asking questions about how to shoot, how to produce, and how to write and how to tell a story. That is pretty rare. The ability these kids have to tell a story, not only in writing, but in shooting, and tying the shooting and writing together is a testament to Doug’s instruction.”

Green, meanwhile, said the experience reinforces what he’s been teaching his students. He said it helps when professionals come in and relate to the students, while also giving them real-life examples of a variety of stories and situations.

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