Great Oak High School senior and Valley News intern Stephanie Lai took to the stage during Tedx Temecula to discuss “Media on the Brink,” Saturday, Sept. 30, at The Old Town Temecula Community Theater.
For Lai the decision to take part in the program which is designed to help communities, organizations and individuals to spark conversation, was not a difficult one. She covered the event last year for Valley News and had some insight into how the event was run, so when the opportunity to speak arose, she decided to take it.
“I saw the impact it had on the people that were watching last year and I thought it was just incredible,” she said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to spread my own ideas in that type of environment.”
Lai, who has no background in public speaking, said she was nervous before attending the first speaker meeting for the event. She took a copy of her speech and powered through the meeting, walking away with so much more than the chance to talk about something she is passionate about before a sold-out crowd.
“The only thing that I really knew was that I was speaking about something that I am interested in,” she explained. “I had to learn all these new skills and take on new lessons that I never expected to learn out of this whole experience.”
Lai said at times she doubted herself and wondered if they chose the right speaker.
“I didn’t really think I was qualified,” she said, adding that it turned into “this beautiful thing,” where the other speakers were willing to do so much to help her to succeed.
During her speech, Lai addressed the importance of credible news sources, reliability and fair and balanced content in articles.
“We are surrounded with instantaneous streams of knowledge, and that has redirected readers from large firm papers to Facebook,” Lai, who is also the editor for the Great Oak High School Gazette said. “After years of listening to strings of unfounded information, I realized what my school needed and what the world at large needs is a sustainable field that focuses on reliability and credibility.
“This is what I would like to convey to you today, not that we can stop the dramatic shift in journalism, but how we as individuals can combat a reliance on non-credible sources of news. And that comes from understanding credibility. The difference here is that professional journalism is not the clickbait we find online. Professional journalism focuses on fair and balanced content, while sensationalist articles lure you in for a click.”
Lai said the answer to the problem is a simple one.
“You can’t get your news from 15-year-olds on Twitter. Yes, anyone can point a camera and publish a video, but journalism creates a filter of truth. Without this, we are all just 15-year-olds sharing on any platform that will listen to us,” she explained. “Point being, we all see something when sharing a story. And that story ends up having millions of faces, but for journalism, there’s only one. It’s giving not the story you want to hear, but the facts you needed to know. All else is an interface of rumors.”
Lai said that while it was scary and required a lot of training on her part, working on TEDx was, “totally worth it.”
“For myself, the experience was really transformative,” Lai said. “It was more than just going up there and talking about something I was interested in.”
She said that it was an amazing feeling afterward as people came up and thanked her for sharing her thoughts on the media and news.
“Having those dialogues with the people I was talking to, it was amazing to have people realize that journalism is important.”
Other speakers at the event included Temecula Councilman Matt Rahn, Dr, Jerry Hinson,Patrick . Murphy, Adam Rideau, Aaron Hardin and Rachel Mason.