Thursday, April 16, 2009
It always rekindles my love for journalism when I’m around enthusiastic high school students.
I spent much of the day April 2 as a guest of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Convention, thanks to an invitation for the second straight year from director Beth Fitts.
Jon Scott (of The Oxford Eagle) and I critiqued several high school newspapers – including those from Marshall Academy in Holly Springs, Tupelo High School, Oxford High School, Oak Grove High School, DeSoto Central High School, Madison Central High School and Hernando High School.
The work of the teenagers was impressive.
Technology at the high school level has advanced greatly since my days 30 years ago of editing my high school newspaper, The Aggie Bark. We still used typewriters and those cameras with film. We dummied where we wanted the photos and stories to go, but we didn’t handle the actual layout. We left that up to the company printing our newspaper, and then we gave it a final proof.
Most of the high school newspapers we reviewed two weeks ago are being produced totally by high school students, except for the printing portion. They’re using computers, digital cameras and the appropriate software.
Of course, some are farther along than others technology-wise.
But beyond the technology, I told the students and their advisors how much I appreciated their writing efforts.
I worry about writing becoming a lost art. Maybe it’s because of this text-messaging craze and the abbreviating that goes along with it. There are just too many other things interfering with good writing these days. Hurrah to those schools and parents who are placing emphasis on writing.
Whether choosing a profession such as journalism or not, writing skills are so very important. They are needed to be successful in most any profession.
We also quickly learned that some of the best and brightest students at these high schools are involved with the newspaper staffs.
Good grades are great, but there’s no substitute for hands-on experience through extracurricular activities. They teach many things – like discipline and teamwork.
The journalism students (newspapers and yearbooks) attended sessions throughout the day and received awards that afternoon for their work throughout the year.
Sessions focused on things like new trends in yearbook, newspaper design, reporters’ rights, preparing students for career success, interviewing coaches and athletes, feature photography, politics and the media, and writing for news and feature stories.
Closing the day was keynote speaker Bill Frakes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Ole Miss graduate and Sports Illustrated photographer.
Ole Miss, the MSPA and Beth Fitts are to be commended for their work with high school students. I only wish I would have had this opportunity when I was taking a leadership role with The Aggie Bark (Hamilton, Ala.).
Last week it was a pleasure for me to visit with Chevonda King, a teacher at Holly Springs High School. She wants to start a newspaper at Holly High, and I’m looking forward to helping the staff in any way possible.
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