A Story of Rain interview

That’s the good thing about journalism. You can use your words to inspire people and to bring awareness. And that’s what I hope to do. --Rain Stites

Journalism has been the throughline of Rain Stites' life. "Journalism’s the only thing I’ve really stuck with forever," she says--whether that was her high school dream of following the bands in LA while living in her car, revitalizing Access Magazine, or just writing to make the world a better place.

At SJSU

SJSU's iconic bell tower appearing in Access Magazine.

Even with her lifelong love of writing, Rain wasn't sure she wanted to pursue a four year college, or even major in journalism. But she ended up applying to San Jose State, and she's glad she did.

Rain started out writing for the Spartan Daily, but her heart has always been in magazines. So when her professor Scott Fosdick advised her to go into Access Magazine, she jumped at the chance. Rain says, "I feel like for me the reason why I went into journalism is because I wanted to tell stories. Obviously a feature piece in a newspaper is going to do that as well, but I feel like in a magazine you can really capture somebody’s personality or you can capture the essence of the story you’re writing, really involve not only yourself in it but involve your reader in it as well."

A spread from Access Magazine

In fact, after her semester as a staff writer, Fosdick approached her again and asked if she would like to be editor. However, she had some reservations. "I didn’t want to take on the top editor position," Rain says. So she asked her friend Rachel for support. "I was like, 'Rachel, do you want to do it with me? I think we would work really well together.' And she’s like, 'Yeah, let’s do it!' So her and I just took it on, and I’m really glad we did because—not to toot our own horns—but I think we did improve it a lot."

Rain (left) with her co-editor Rachel

Access definitely came with its own challenges. Unlike the Spartan Daily, there's very little oversight. Rain says, "The challenge of Access I think is it doesn’t really have specific guidelines of how to do it because I feel like every editor team kind of takes it on in a different way. Whereas the Spartan Daily, you get trained and you kind of do the same thing every semester."

Access only comes out every spring, so each team often works without the benefit of guidance from the previous teams. On the other hand, Rain appreciates the hands-on learning experience. She says, "We made a lot of mistakes and there’s a lot of things that I wish someone would have told us, 'Hey, you should have done this,' or 'this would have been easier route,' but we kind of had to think on our toes a lot and I think that’s what journalism is too."

After Graduation

Like many newly-graduated journalists, Rain has started out by freelancing for the local newspaper--in her case the Campbell express. To earn extra money, she works at Shoreline Lake in Mountain view, assisting with boat rentals.

However, local isn't the same as "dull." in once of her favorite assignments, Rain got to go up in a B17 bomber with a 92-year-old World War II veteran who himself had been a bombadier in his day and flown 25 missions.

Bill Hermann, a WWII veteran, flies in the Madras Maiden, a B17 Bomber

Rain also feels the financial pressure of trying to live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. "My mom’s letting me live at home. I have the opportunity to be able to take a journalism job that doesn’t pay as much, " she says. "The amount I’m working at freelancing and my other job, I would be able to afford rent, but that’s it. And I was doing that when I was in school...But my paychecks were literally, I would write a check to my landlord, slip it in a slot in the door, and that was it. that was my livelihood pretty much. I could barely afford food either."

Rain says, "Once you graduate that self-motivation needs to kick in. every day I’m either working at my other job, or I’m writing an article for the CE. So I feel like I want to do all these things and apply to all these places, but then before I know it it’s 9:00 at night. Like, I’ll do it tomorrow. And then tomorrow happens."

One of Rain's favorite projects is a story she did on Standing Rock for the Campbell Express. She and two friends drove out to the cold, windy protest site in North Dakota to get their own story of what was going on.

Rain says, "There’s a lot of journalists out there and I didn’t want to go just as a journalist. I mean, I cared about the issue as well but you kind of have to walk that fine line as someone who cares as an activist and someone who’s going to cover a story." Instead of focusing on the protestors standing in the cold and holding signs, Rain was drawn to the kitchens where women cooked the food that would keep everyone going.

Outside it's fiercely cold...

That's why getting a warm meal is crucial!

Rain says, "When you look at the pictures of standing rock you see violence and you see cold and you see all this stuff. Yes I saw those things as well, but it was so warm and welcoming, and humbling to see all these people just quitting their jobs and going up there because it was something they cared so deeply about and felt was the right thing to do."

Wherever Rain's career takes her, she will continue to produce heartfelt human stories. She says, "Yes, I’m a writer and a journalist but I’m a human also.…because I made that human connection I feel that I was able to put it in my words as well…that’s what journalism should be."

All photos used in this Sparkpage were taken by Rain Stites.

Rain poses at Standing Rock.

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