Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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Archives
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Archives

    SF Chronicle journalist visits Laney, talks shop

    Kale Williams, a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and former Laney student, visited the introduction to journalism class on Nov. 19. 
    The class had previously read Williams’ story about a drifter, Jeremiah Kaylor, who squatted in a historic San Francisco mansion. 
    The story paints Kaylor as a clever loafer who stayed in the dusty mansion on and off over a period of months. After being chased away the first time by the real estate agent then returning to find the door unlocked, Kaylor let himself in and made himself at home calling it his “thug mansion,” hence the story became known as “the thug mansion story.” 
    With a quote like that, Williams explained, “you know the readers are going to keep reading.” Although Williams writes mostly hard news stories, he said “The thug mansion story was one of the more interesting ones that we’ve had recently.” 
    The article was written after a three-hour interview with Kaylor. “This was, I will admit, my very first jailhouse interview,” Williams said. The story is unique in its own way and “had everything you want a silly viral story to have.” 
    Kale WilliamsIt started with a press release about the arrest of a man who stole and sold over $300,000 worth of artwork from the mansion. Williams went into the interview with more questions than answers and got more information than he anticipated. 
    “The dude literally told me his entire life story in the course of about three hours,” Williams said. Written in only two hours, the story is fresh and entertaining. 
    But Williams didn’t always want to be a writer. “I got my start here (Laney),” he said. “I started as a political science major.” Williams switched to creative writing but realized he “wasn’t creative enough to make things up to write about.” Williams describes his journey leading up to writing as a string of mentors and teachers “bullying” and “punking” him into taking the next step forward. 
    After attending Laney and writing for the Tower and becoming the opinion page editor, Williams transferred to SF State, where he worked on the school paper and later got an internship at the Chronicle, where he has now been for two years. 
    “Writing, unless you are doing it for yourself, is kind of a torturous processes,” Williams says. “It is the type of thing you learn by doing. Just like any other job, there is no magic switch.” 
    Williams’ writing may seem effortless yet there are stories he’s had to write that have been very difficult. “I used to apologize like 15 times a day.” 
    Before enrolling in journalism classes, Williams was a house painter for 10 years. His advice to aspiring writers includes having campus publication clips. “You have to be able to show people what you can do.” 
    Albeit it is helpful to have school publications to put down on your resume, “it pretty much comes down to experience — you just have to keep doing it.” Williams went on to say that not treating journalism assignments as homework but more as “notches on your resume” is something he wishes he would have done more. 
    Not receiving his AA has had little effect on Williams’ career. “I know some people who are successful journalists who never got their degree at all,” he said. Yet he does recommend staying in school, noting that “it is easier to land an internship if you are in school and publications are much more likely to hire you if you have had an internship.” 
    Though Williams did not obtain his AA, he did earn a BA in journalism from SF State and, as far as the class can tell, he is a successful writer.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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