JCal: Connecting California students with journalism, newsrooms and their communities

JCal is an all-inclusive, free journalism program that immerses California high school students into the state’s news ecosystem. Students build connections with the journalists covering their communities, learn about the inner workings of newsrooms and gain many of the skills needed to succeed in professional and academic realms. Most importantly, they return home equipped with the knowledge and tools to tell the stories of their communities. Each cohort is carefully selected to reflect the diversity of California residents and serve communities that newsrooms may be overlooking.

For its inaugural year, JCal leaders will select about 25 students who will spend 6 days together in Sacramento. Based in the CalMatters newsroom, the students will learn from journalism and civics professionals from all over California. Students will also produce reporting projects focused on Water and Drought, which will be ready to publish locally.

This innovative program is produced through a unique partnership between the Asian American Journalists Association and CalMatters. 

Application Information

Program Dates: June 20 to June 24, 2023

The application for the 2023 cycle has closed. Please check back next year to apply and stay tuned for our cohort announcement!

High school aged students in California with a strong interest in journalism are encouraged to apply. Proof of vaccination is required to attend the program. 

Students selected for the program have all costs covered including travel, housing and meals.

JCal students visit the state Capitol in Sacramento on June 21, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters


This year’s JCal theme is Water and Drought.

Our workshops will teach valuable journalism skills with hands-on experience. Students will report and produce stories centered on California’s water issues and drought.

Drought has largely defined California’s major issues for decades. Last year was the second driest on record. Key river and lake reservoirs have dipped to record lows, and 50 out of 58 counties have been under emergency drought proclamations. Lack of rain enables unforgiving fire seasons.

Most of the state’s water comes from the north, while most of the residents, and most of the water usage, are in the south. A million Californians live without access to safe drinking water. Agricultural communities have to shift crops and growing methods. Oceans and rivers are forever transformed. Urban residents rip out lawns and entrepreneurs rethink their businesses. Farmers, environmentalists, tribes, legislators and regulators wrestle with the effects and argue for solutions. 

This workshop will enable important storytelling that informs communities and encourages young journalists to reimagine their state’s future. Campers will attend workshops online before JCal and do some initial reporting on water issues in their local  communities. Part of the workshop will be devoted to completing the stories with the help of mentors and fellow students. The resulting stories will be offered to local news outlets statewide. 

Frequently Asked Questions About JCaL 2023

Any high school aged California student may apply. International students may apply, but only if they are enrolled in a California high school.

    • One letter of recommendation
    • Required Short Answer Responses:
        • What stories and/or audiences are the journalists in your area missing? (250 words or less)
        • If you were in charge of a news organization, what would its mission statement be? (250 words or less)
        • Tell us about your upbringing and lived experience in California. Which communities are you a part of and how has that shaped you and how you experience the world? (400 words or less)
    • Reporting Pitch: Each JCal student will work on a journalism project during their time in the program. The goal is for this piece of journalism to be published at the end of the JCal program. This year, the reporting theme is Water and Drought. Examples of story ideas include access to safe drinking water, effects on agricultural and fishing communities, water usage and restriction, changes to landscaping/flora, wildfires and fire safety, evolving relationships between people and the land/environment, etc. In this pitch, lay out in detail the reporting you want to do on this topic: what is the story, who would you interview, what format this piece would take, etc.
    • Work Samples (optional)
    • Introduction Video (optional)

This program is free to apply and attend.

The program takes place at CalMatters’ Newsroom: 1303 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Lodging will be at the Citizen Hotel at 926 J Street, Downtown Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. It is a 5 minute walk from the CalMatters Newsroom.

While JCamp also focuses on journalism and leadership, JCal is specifically tailored to meet the needs of communities in California. The experience and curriculum are curated so that students can build relationships with the news ecosystem in their hometown. The reporting projects for JCal have a cohesive theme, while JCamp students can report on anything.

Not in the same year. If selected, you may attend JCal one year and JCamp another year.

Personal chaperones may not attend JCal. JCal will be have one supervising adult mentor per six youth for the entirety of the program.

No, all students must spend the nights at the JCal accommodations. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided by us via catering to our office and also taking participants out to local restaurants. We will have 1 supervising adult mentor per 6 youth.

The JCal dates for 2023 are June 20-25. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting February 1 and close on March 1, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

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