Thursday, April 3, 2008
My fire for journalism was rekindled Friday.
I spent the majority of the day critiquing high school newspapers at the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Convention. Beth Fitts, director of MSPA, invited me several months ago.
Jon Scott (with the Oxford Eagle) and I talked with advisors, editors and other staff members from various high schools about their work. We visited with representatives from newspapers such as The Patriot Press at Marshall Academy, The Student Press at George County High School, The Charger at Oxford High School, The Pitchfork at Germantown (Tenn.) High School, The Terry High Times from Terry High School and the Tupelo Hi-Times from Tupelo High School.
We saw so many good things. And we offered some suggestions for improvement.
Overall, we were wowed by the graphics, the color, the stories, the photos and the amount of advertising. Most high school staffs are versatile, like the weekly newspaper, with everyone doing all tasks.
Most of all on Friday, we enjoyed talking with the students about their love for journalism and their future goals.
It was rewarding to see and hear their excitement about what they are doing in high school. It was rewarding to hear them talk about their future goals, the colleges they plan to attend, the careers they hope to pursue.
The students we talked to were impressive.
Our discussions with the newspaper staffs immediately took me back to the love I developed for journalism while still in high school in Hamilton, Ala.
Some of the students talked about their teachers and those teachers’ guidance.
I recalled Mrs. Palmer and Mrs. Weeks – two of my all-time favorite teachers who steered me into newspapers.
Mrs. Palmer, my English teacher, thought I had a knack for writing. She was tough. She pushed me. She urged me to go to work on the high school newspaper staff. Mrs. Weeks, the newspaper sponsor and business education teacher, was a great encourager, too. She gave me many responsibilities my junior year and then even more the next year by naming me editor of the Aggie Bark back in 1978-79.
I was really having fun. My college major was set in stone. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I soon met Rubye Del Harden, then owner of a new newspaper in town, The Hamilton Progress, and editor Les Walters. They let a high school student hang out around the newspaper office and even start covering some sports. I was really on “cloud nine.”
Then it was off to Northwest (Ala.) Junior College and the University of North Alabama for three – major in journalism, minoring in English and also working for my hometown newspaper as time allowed and writing for the college newspaper at UNA, too.
My journalism teacher at UNA, Mrs. Hurt, kept that love for journalism flowing.
At the luncheon Friday on the Ole Miss campus, Laura Schwab with Jostens Publishing Company talked to newspaper advisors and complimented them on their dedication.
She called teaching “a calling.” She talked about teachers’ commitment, their tremendous love for what they do and their great concern for their students. She urged the teachers to continue to exemplify their excitement in the classroom. Teachers have such a great influence on young people.
Thank goodness for dedicated teachers like Mrs. Palmer and Mrs. Weeks.
Largely due to them, I’m making a decent living and providing for my family doing what I love to do.
Tuesday morning, I dug out an old copy of the Aggie Bark. It stirred more special memories of the way I got my start.
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