Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bay Bridging with Dr. Robertson

For Intro to New Media

Love Bridges? Love to Bridge? Just want to wander onto a website/wiki about Bridges of the Bay (Area)?

Then log on to

You'll never see bridges the same way again.
Brought to you by Lester Banatao, Aileen Pagdanangan, Christianne Vocal

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Flame That Tested Bay Area News Media

I just happened to be picking someone up from SFO on Wednesday as the Olympic flame took a breather from its crazy day playing stealthy spy before flying off to its next possibly hostile destination in South America. And here is a quick video of the news vans parked outside the international terminal. KRON4's Chris Murphy was the only one set up outside though, and he apparently hitched a ride in the Marina from one of the competitors.

Today was a huge and historic day for so many reasons.

For the news media, it was a test of new technologies allowing them to bring up to the minute coverage of the day's events. Watching coverage on TV, reporters were scrambling to chase the torch as soon as it appeared on Van Ness. KRON4, fortunate enough to have its studio on Van Ness, had not directors and interns out on the streets reporting by calling in and sending back photos. CBS5/KPIX actually had video from a cell phone, not sure if it was streaming video or not.

As the relay route seemed to change by the minute, communicating with reporters on the ground was important to have them be as on route as possible.

Stations and even SFGate were asking for people to send in their own videos and pictures from the day since their reporters couldn't be everywhere. Things were taking place all over the city, from all along Embarcadero to the growing crowds on Van Ness and in the Marina. What better time to test new technologies and the growing participatory nature of the internet and news organizations than today's hectic turn of events.

For me, it seemed to be a pretty successful day for everyone but the protesters even though they still got the chance to get their message across, although not on the scale they probably wanted.
The torch relay was able to still take place, the runners were able to enjoy their time and honor of running the torch, the City and Gavin Newsom are no doubt taking pride in them one-upping the protesters, and KTVU, KNTV, KRON, KPIX, and KGO all managed to still provide complete coverage of the events despite them being completely disadvantaged and clueless about almost everything. CNN also has KRON and KGO to thank for the feeds all during Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room.

It was an historic day, and an crazy one for all involved.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Catholic San Francisco

I remember we started getting the Catholic San Francisco in the mail while I was still in grade school. We never subscribed, so we assumed they sent them to the people registered in each parish.

I never really read the paper, I'd usually just skim through and look for little blurbs about my grade school and high school alma maters. In fact, I think it was last week that my grade school, Holy Angels in Colma, was featured (complete with a picture!) as they participated in the annual choral festival at Riordan.

That's usually the extent of my reading, though a story might catch my eye sometimes. I know the paper doesn't shy away from issues. From my skimming over the years, I'd say it was 50% on fluff pieces about the cute little bunnies 2nd graders made for the elderly and 50% on harder news, from the sex abuse scandals to abortion to the death penalty... I remember seeing those kinds of story.

So when Dan Morris-Young, editor of Catholic San Francisco came to speak to the class, I sort of expected the kinds of possible stories he'd give us. It is definitely expected that any story that will be published in a Catholic newspaper must have some kind of Catholic angle. And really, just like any story can be localized, I think any story can be Catholicized (right use of that?).

Even if it is just getting the opinion of Catholics leaving mass about the election or the weather, being Catholic is another demographic that can help make stories specific.

Of course, Catholicism is bigger than just a demo, so stories around issues like birth control, marriage, the election, the war... they'll have a lot more specific things to say about them. And what could be interesting is the different opinions within the Catholic community on a certain issue.

Dan also gave some good advice on journalism in general, definitely reinforcing a lot of things that have been told to us in many Media Studies classes. Journalism is trying to catch up with the ever-developing world.

For a publication that focuses on a certain community, it is that much harder for them to be able to reach out to the public, find ways to not only attract Catholics, but maybe even people of other spiritual and religious leanings (if any). Many people seek out all sides of a story, different angles to help enhance their understanding of an issue.

There were some tense moments in my Intro to New Media class over independent media. But basically, what I took from the "discussion" was if one side gets to express their opinion, the other side should as well.

Catholic San Francisco can be a good way for the "Catholic side" to be heard, though really, most of the stories I do remember reading in the paper relate to anyone even if you're not a Catholic. And in today's Journalistic world, that's probably a good thing for Catholic SF.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Lucky Getaway

“You must be 21 years old to enter the casino,” says the sign at the doorway.

“Yes, I am 21 years old,” says this reporter, “and I am ready to enter the casino.”

For any child, grandchild, niece or nephew who has had family members make the drive to one of the many casinos that have sprung out almost in the middle of nowhere, being able to legally walk onto a casino floor must be a welcome event.

No longer would you have to settle on the arcade or even Circus Circus-type amusements. Now you have the chance to gamble away what little money a college student may have.

Nonetheless, a trip to Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, 30 minutes outside of Sacramento, can be fun for people of all ages.

Traveling to Thunder Valley Resort is a trip unto itself. Along the way, a good place to stop is at the Vacaville Commons and Vacaville Outlets, a good seven city blocks of department stores, brand outlets, and fast food restaurants.

Depending on who you are with on this two-hour drive from San Francisco, a stop one-hour in might be a necessary, yet fun detour. (And the traffic when driving back to the Bay Area in the evening just might prompt a little stop to re-energize.)

When finally exiting the freeway into Lincoln, you are surrounded by seemingly endless fields with several structures upon the horizon.

Traversing the long winding road, and the signs pointing to “Casino,” you realize the first of the cluster of buildings is Thunder Valley.

After finding a spot in the large parking lot surrounding the building, excitement builds up.
And as soon as you open the doors, you are immediately bombarded with the sights, sounds, and smells of a typical casino you might find in Reno or Las Vegas.

The ringing sound effects and bright lights of the slot machines, the occasional shout of joy from the card tables or a jackpot, and the thick air of cigarette smoke; all things you expect when entering a casino.

Thunder Valley has over 2,600 slot machines on its casino floor and 150 machines in a non-smoking game room. There are also plenty of tables for Blackjack, Baccarat, Three and Four Card Poker, and Texas Hold 'Em.

For a brief and fulfilling respite from the bells and whistles of the casino floor, Thunder Valley has a 500-seat Feast Buffet that features food from around the world. For as low as $9.99 on weekdays, you can sample as many dishes as you like from chow mein to spaghetti to baked ham. The buffet serves brunch from 9:00am-3:00pm, allowing one to have breakfast, then lunch, and a big dessert in the span of an hour.

Also at Thunder Valley, the Koi Palace, a casual dining Chinese restaurant, and a Food Court featuring Starbucks, Panda Express, and Fatburger.

There are often different promotions and special games, such as the slot tournament, depending on the time of year.

Walking through the casino, there is a wide range of players. From young adults to senior citizens, the draw of a fun day at the casino appeals to all ages (above 21, of course).

Unfortunately, the one thing that is lacking from Thunder Valley is a place for children to enjoy themselves. A particularly sad picture on the day was of a young girl sitting in the food court with her Panda Express soda cup looking completely bored out of her mind. She'll have to wait a couple more years for her chance to laugh at the sign on the door.

Thunder Valley Casino
1200 Athens Avenue
Lincoln, CA 95648
Phone: (916) 408-7777
Toll-free: (877) 468-8777

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Home Cooked Dinner... Out

For anyone wanting to taste some exotic, authentic, and most importantly delicious, Max's Restaurant of the Philippines in South San Francisco is definitely the place to be.

With a menu of Filipino dishes, the restaurant is filled with people wanting to enjoy food they have grown up with as well as people ready for something new.

The restaurant has a cozy, warm feel to it with soft lighting and a wall chronicling the history of the restaurant chain in the Philippines. The windows had wooden blinds and lights hung from the ceiling which had one large exposed aluminum vent tube, giving the restaurant a modern yet colonial feel.

Max's menu includes both individual meals as well as platter-style, large servings, which is what most of the diners in the restaurant opt to order.

Max's signature house specialty, and what started the restaurant franchise back in the 1940s, is their fried chicken.

Max's Restaurant began during World War II when Stanford-educated Maximo Gimenez befriended American soldiers stationed in the Philippines and served them their family's own friend chicken recipe.

Another house specialty that people come back for is the Crispy Pata, which is crispy, deep fried pork knuckle served with a special vinegar-soy dipping sauce. And steamed rice is almost always a part of the dining experience at Max's or any Filipino restaurant.

Other dishes include several kinds of pancit (egg or rice noodles with vegetables, pork and shrimp) and Kare-Kare (beef oxtail in a sweet peanut sauce).

Dining at Max's is usually problem-free with your food arriving within minutes. On this night however, giving our orders was not as easy as it should have been.

To our surprise, the waiter told us they were out of Crispy Pata, as well as their appetizer sampler and bulalo soup.

Max's appetizer sampler, Max Teasers, includes fried calamari, lumpia (spring rolls), and crispy tentacles. Each of which can be ordered separately as individual dishes. Bulalo soup is beef shank in onion broth with fresh cabbage leaves.

Instead, we ordered Beef Tadyang, fried sliced beef ribs served with fried garlic rice and Sinigang na Tiyan ng Bangus, a tamarind-based seafood soup of bangus belly and vegetables.

After a minute or two, the waiter returned and asked us if we still wanted the crispy pata and the bulalo, which apparently they now had. We said yes and replaced the wonton soup with the bulalo.

The food arrived another couple minutes later and it was smooth sailing from there. As we ate, the conversations of about 10 tables filled the restaurant. Families, couples, and friends around the restaurant enjoyed their dinners with the clang plates being passed around joined the conversations.

We too enjoyed the dinner and finished the night with scoops of mango and ube (sweet yam) ice cream.

Overall, despite that very rare occurrence of running out of house specialties, the service was very good and the food was delicious.

As diner Alwyn Dee said, “It is a fun and interesting experience to go out to eat dinner, yet still feel like you're eating in your own Filipino home.”

Max's Restaurant of the Philippines
1155 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, CA

Open everyday, 11:00am-9:00pm. All-day breakfast. Accepts all major credit cards. Private lot and street parking. Take out available. Casual attire.

Suggested dishes: Max Teasers, Crispy Pata, Max's Crispy Chicken, and a must have... Rice
Suggested dessert: Halo-Halo
Beverages: Sodas, coffee/tea, several Filipino drinks, no alcoholic beverages.

Overall: 3 (out of 4) sporks
Food: 3 and a half sporks
Service: 3 sporks
Atmosphere: 3 and a half sporks
Prices: Ranging from $2-$15; A meal for 4 (with plenty to take home) would cost around $50.

Friday, February 8, 2008

An Early Morning

The church was filled with more people than usual, especially for a 7:30am mass. There were still open spots in the pews however, separating parishioners from one another. Sitting in the 5th row from the front of the church was a middle-aged married couple.

As the priest finished reading the Gospel, the loud thunder of people taking their seats on the wooden pews flooded the church. The husband made himself more comfortable as his wife sat in attention to the priest as he began delivering his Ash Wednesday homily. A little more than a minute later, the wife nudged her husband who had apparently been falling asleep. She whispered to him, prompting him to sit up almost as straight as she had been.

The priest finished his homily and prepared to distribute the ashes to the parishioners. The church congregation stood as the husband sat with his eyes closed, his head slowly tilting to the left until his wife put her hand on his arm. He immediately stood, looking around him as parishioners, including his wife, responded to the priest's blessing.

Row after row began emptying out into the center aisle. The wife gently nudged her husband to walk to the aisle and they made their way to the priest at the altar.

Back at their seats, they kneeled and both closed their eyes with their hands folded. The wife nudged her husband again, but he looked to her and said something that seemed to ease the annoyed expression that was on her face.

For the rest of the mass, the wife seemed to want to check on her husband as she occasionally looked at him out of the corner of eye. He would sometimes turn his head to look back at her, who looked satisfied with a small smile on her face.

As the mass ended, the husband took a huge breath and they walked out of their pew and towards the doors of the church.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


For many Filipino immigrants in the United States, the most common motivation for leaving the Philippines and settling here is family. And it is certainaly no different for Lorenza Madamda.

I was lucky enough to have talked to her a few days before and on the day of her flight back to the Philippines, her first trip back since officially immigrating to the US in December 2006. The photo above is of her waiting in line to enter the departure gates as SFO.

For the main interview on Monday, we talked about how she obtained her first emergency visa, then having her niece and nephew arrange for her immigrant visa which turned out to be easier than most people's efforts at obtaining the elusive authorization.

Lorenza is a very happy, upbeat, and optimistic person. Even while talking about her sister and her family, she remained composed, yet comtemplative. In her story, I could see a lot of things that are common to all Filipino-American families, including in my own.

Writing the story and looking for different things online, it made me think about immigration in general. There has been a lot of talk, especially lately, about the different immigrantion reforms that both incumbents and candidates want to bring to the table and then there are the arguments from the people who are directly affected, whether they be immigrants' rights groups or immigrants (legal or illegal) themselves.

Knowing my family's own struggles and hardships in immigrating here to the US in the 1970s and 1980s, and their years of hard work, literally under the scorching sun and the 100 degree Philippine heat, that enabled them to just get to Manila and eventually here to the Bay Area... as well as hearing stories from people like Lorenza... I've always held the belief that if they can do it all legally, then why can't others?

By no means was my family well off in the Philippines, especially living in the northern coastal provinces of the country. So being able to immigrate to the US was a huge deal for them (my grandparents, parents, and uncle & aunt). It meant that they now had the opportunity to help those left back home a little more. But it also meant they'd have to start all over again here in the US, working low paying jobs and in my grandparents' case, working in the all too familiar scenery of the farmland of the San Joaquin Valley.

And for that I am grateful. Without their hard work here and in the Philippines, I probably wouldn't have the means or resources to blog about anything today.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Beat Sources Are Great! (Beat, Week 2½)

Finally got to talk to some people invovled in my beat, St. Ignatius Church. And I was very pleasantly surprised, and grateful, at how helpful they were.

They were very nice and actually gave me more information than I needed.

I talked to Father Charles Gagan, S.J. and SI Sacristan Raymond Frost about the memorial altar for the month of November and they gave great insight into my story.

I then talked to Patricia Gagan and Theresa Bell about the brand new Lending Library of St. Ignatius. They were very informative as well.

So I have a ton of information, great notes... all I have to do is write my stories now, which is easier said than done, unfortunately, considering everything I have due in the last few weeks of school.

But I'm sure this is just a small, small taste of what it could be like in the real newsroom.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Random Father Privett Quotes

These quotes just couldn't fit in my story...

or I just thought they were funny.

"[USF is] not anti-alcohol. We're for responsible use of alcohol. We're not abolishonists."


"I've never watched [TV]."

"I can't wait 'til I'm 65."


"[Republicans] are right-wing kooks."

"You've got to be an idiot not to figure out how to work the system."

"...increase revenue."

Father Privett is great, and here I thought he was going to be mean and unfriendly. Quite the opposite. I definitely enjoyed Monday's press conference, it was fun.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Beat, Week 1

I am going to be covering St. Ignatius Church.

I had a story in mind when choosing SI as my beat, but I found two other stories I think might be a little more interesting and "beat-like."

I am hoping to talk to Father Gagan about the church creating a memorial altar in which parishoners can place pictures of their loved ones for November's month of remembrance.

And I happened to stumble upon flyers at the church announcing Sunday's grand opening of St. Ignatius' new Lending Library which has various theological books, videos, and audio cassettes. Its grand opening will be Sunday, November 19 from 2:30-4:30 and the first ten people to visit will be given free books and bookmarks, so you might want to check that out ;)

Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Interview

Hmm... my first, full-length news interview.

I had no idea what to expect... sitting down and actually asking someone questions about their life. It was a little easier though since I interviewed a professor that I know and have had a class with.

The interview was more like a conversation. Even though I had prepared questions, the interview flowed as questions sprang from things that he said and things from even my own experiences.

It was very insightful. I was a little nervous going in, but I felt more comfortable as the interview went on.

Like the press conference, I didn't know what to write down. Even though I had a tape recorder, I still had to take notes.

Sitting down with someone for a one-on-one interview is definitely different from going out and asking people a few questions about a certain topic.

All in all, it was good experience, and I know I'll be ready for the next time.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Who cares about virginity pledges?

Example of a different "pledge."

Apparently, not many people even know what it is.

Of the six or seven people I asked, they didn’t really know what a VP was until I explained it to them. “Oh, that… is that what it’s called?” is what I first received as their response before asking them other questions.

Through the short interviews though, it seems as though they do care one way or the other. A few, who had been raised in Catholic families, supported the idea of a VP. They may not have taken one themselves, but they do agree with it. Many of them said they don’t need a ring or a certificate to not have sex until they are married.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people thought the idea of a VP was stupid and useless. They wanted to be free and open, without any kind of restriction. Many of them associated the pledge with a religious belief.

Most of those interviewed felt that it would be “okay” to be asked if they were a virgin, as long the ones asking them were their friends. They would be comfortable in that situation. If it were a stranger or even a professor, they wouldn’t be as comfortable.

Is it rude to ask? It really depends on who you’re asking. There may be people who are proud to be virgins, or not ashamed to say they have had sex. There are then people who may be embarrassed that they are virgins, or others who may not want people to think they were “sluts.” So one should be careful if asking the question “Are you a virgin?”

When asking USF students about the virgin population of the school, it gets you a sense of what people think about their fellow Dons, while also possibly getting an accurate estimate of how much of the USF student body are sexually active. In a Catholic, Jesuit private school that doesn’t allow members of the opposite sex to sleep over, sexual activities might be a concern.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The News Conference

The news conference can be an interesting thing.

There is a sense of urgency in taking notes, one must listen and look engaged in the speaker, try to stay interested in the speaker, be able to ask good questions, and later feel disappointed in the fact that you didn’t get enough information for your article

A news conference can be very hectic in the sense that you want to get every single detail right, but also pick and choose what is or is not important. Is a tape recorder the answer to everything? Well, yes and no. A tape recorder will come in very handy when putting the down an exact quote. However, the importance of a point may seem unimportant after the fact or out of the context of the actual “news conference.”

Is it possible to get bored by the speaker or the topic being discussed? Yes, there is a possibility. But it definitely a courtesy to the speaker and others around to at least try and stay somewhat interested in what is going on. It is always good to remember that an article needs to be written about that very experience.

And of course, the information that needs to be obtained. One must be ready to ask good and thought provoking questions or questions that demand an answer. If you don’t ask questions, how will you know what to write about?

Even after taking great notes, recording the whole news conference/speech, being very interested in what was being discussed, and asking some really hard-hitting questions, the sense of disappointment may set in. You just didn’t get enough information. It is possible to follow up on the speaker, but when that is not possible, you just have to work with what you have.
News conferences aren’t always going to be the same. Sometimes they can be exciting, other times boring. Sometimes you will learn a great deal of new information, other times… not so much.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/12 Front Page Headlines, Too Much? or Accurate Sentiments

American was shocked the morning of September 11th. Within hours, newspapers across the country and around the world were rushing special editions reporting the horrific events of the day. The late special editions on 9/11 and the 9/12 morning newspapers never looked like they did since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor almost 50 years before.

"ATTACKED!" "TERROR,” “WAR,” even a phrase many relate to Pearl Harbor, “DAY OF INFAMY;” Those words were present on most of America's newspapers. But a few newspapers, including the San Francisco Examiner, had a different headline; one huge word in bold: “BASTARDS!”

A word that many Americans rarely say freely in public was the lone headline in a major American newspaper.

Five years later, that headline may seem a little too harsh, especially in a journalistic point of view. However, after the horrific shock of that morning, it can be said that most Americans felt the exact same way.

Grief, shock, sadness; those were probably the first feelings that immediately came to mind when the news was reported. Then, anger… the thought that someone may have planned, intended, and wanted to intentionally murder thousands and thousands of people. Words can not express the feelings of Americans, and even people around the world, in the days after September 11th.

But the San Francisco Examiner did something that not many other newspapers did. While other newspapers’ headline reported the fact of what happened, the Examiner’s headline stated what many Americans felt.

Was it the right thing to do? Was it responsible for a major American newspaper to print such a headline? As the devastation was still setting in, it was probably one of the best things a newspaper could have done. America was banding together, uniting against a now common enemy. “BASTARDS” … what else could describe the people that would go through the effort and trouble of hijacking four airplanes to crash into major American political and economic centers.

While a headline like that would probably illicit outrage and disgust now, on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, it was the perfect headline.

For more, click to

Friday, September 8, 2006

Journalism I: Reporting

Lester Jeff D. Banatao's blog