In the Nov. 8 edition of the Observer, editor Tim Manning made the Central DeWitt High School Publications course the subject of his column (Who Needs Journalism Classes Anyway?) and introduced our jointly-concocted experiment: four seniors, four sophomores, and one lone junior will submit a variety of articles and photos throughout the year for publication in this paper.
Any opportunity to produce a very public product and capture an audience outside of the school walls is definitely worthwhile.
While my room doesn’t contain the profanity, ashtrays, and perpetually sludge-filled coffee pots I remember while visiting a somewhat-proximal newsroom in the early ’90s, it does contain the audible buzz of young writers and photographers:
“Can someone cover the basketball game tonight? Girls varsity?”
“We need to reflow the senior portraits. Again.”
“I love this photo!”
“Abby, can you help me with the cutouts on my spread?”
“My spread didn’t save!”
“Is it ‘than’ or ‘then’?”
The 2nd Block in Room 3.162 has a particular ebb and flow not found in any of my other classes, past or present. An issue will come to the surface, considered carefully among editors, pros and cons are discussed, and a decision is made. The excited chatter over a photo recently uploaded to the online gallery can give way to the intense silence of 10 young people focussing on their laptops, searching for the elusive, perfect word.
“What’s another word for ‘chemistry’?” asks senior Olivia Ziegler during a recent workshop.
Senior Ethan Dickey’s head rises from his keyboard, groundhog-style. “Dynamics?”
Dickey and Ziegler returned this year as editors for the yearbook and the Purple Onion news website.
“Being in ‘Pubs’ has really helped me get comfortable talking to people,” explained Dickey.
The new staff members also are seeing the benefits of being in the class.
“It’s helped my writing in other classes, like LA 10,” said sophomore Allie Wainwright.
That’s not to say this is Disneyland. Even the “Happiest Place on Earth” has to deal with an occasional temper tantrum in the snowcone line.
The software glitches out, spreads aren’t saved correctly, eyes roll like Ferris wheels over blurry shots from the game the night before, portraits overflow onto non-existent pages, interview subjects go AWOL, and upcoming deadlines have the potential to panic the calmest reporter.
And that’s OK.
Like a lost bid for a state title or a lower-than-expected grade, life often doesn’t go as smoothly as we’d like during the formative years, but, for the most part, we learn to handle it. It’s about growth. The Pubs’ staff will tell the stories of the school, the camera’s lens will capture the fashion styles of 2020 for future generations to mock (then emulate because of “Retro Chic” trends), and the student body will have a voice.
When Manning invited me to join the roster of columnists, I was hesitant. Will I have the time? Will I have anything worth saying? Can I handle the fame and fortune that comes with writing a column for a community newspaper every few months?
I imagine the 10 student journalists thought the same thing when I told them that writing a piece for the Observer is a class requirement. So, in the interest of fairness, I accepted Manning’s offer.
In the future, students will have the chance to provide feedback and critique my columns before going to press. Hopefully turning the tables will benefit both of us.
Jon Fisher is a language arts teacher and publications adviser at Central DeWitt High School.