Thursday, April 4, 2013
Fire for journalism
Once a year, for the past several years, I’ve been able to revive my fire for journalism at Ole Miss.
Jonathan Scott, news editor of The Oxford Eagle, and I have been asked time and time again to critique high school newspapers during the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Spring Convention.
Beth Fitts, MSPA director, keeps inviting us back. Hopefully, that means we’ve done a decent job.
She’s retiring this spring, which could mean an end to the team of Burleson and Scott.
Fitts, a former journalism advisor at Oxford High School, has done amazing work for high school journalism, not only in Mississippi, but across the country. She will be missed.
Her enthusiasm is contagious – reminding me of some of my high school teachers who steered me toward a career in journalism.
It was most encouraging this year to talk with some students who actually plan to major or minor in journalism in college. Those seem to be fewer these days.
But like myself more than 30 years ago, they had gotten involved with their high school newspapers and decided to work toward their goal of making it a career.
I still have copies of my old “Aggie Bark” from Hamilton, Ala., that I occasionally dig out and look over. I started as sports editor and advanced to editor and then headed off to college – with full knowledge of what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
Then I got involved with my local community newspaper and started covering ball games, writing stories, taking photos and so on.
That’s something we drill over and over into the minds of the young journalists – don’t just get the degree but get some hands-on experience, too, while in college. Possible employers want to see clippings.
And that’s true, I assume, for any profession.
This year our assignment at the MSPA spring convention expanded a bit. We started Thursday morning with a session entitled – “Newspaper: Things You Should Not Do.”
High school newspaper staff members were urged to bring copies of their papers, share and compare ideas and discuss tips that will make their papers better.
We did not have copies of newspapers, but it was a great discussion, about problems and successes they were having this year. The students and the advisor all contributed.
After that session, Jon and I joined Charlie Langford, with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, for high school newspaper critiques.
Some of the high school students visiting with us, during the session and critiques, came from George County, St. Andrews, New Albany, Madison Central, Oak Grove and Carroll Academy.
We are always impressed with the students and their high school publications.
Most operate with small staffs and limited resources, yet they’re dedicated to producing the best high school newspapers possible.
Participating in the MSPA convention is a very rewarding experience for this “old” journalist. I see students who have the same fire I once had for writing. And these are students who have a lot more demands on their time – like cell phones and Twitter and such.
The future looks good.
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