Students learn journalism from pros
Staff members from The Fairfield Ledger are visiting the Fairfield Middle School to give journalism classes an idea of what it’s like to work at a newspaper.
The knowledge the youngsters learn from The Ledger staff can be put to use right away, because the students are tasked with making a newspaper of their own. Eighth-graders may take a class called “Idea” in which they create a series of projects throughout the year. One of those projects is to put together a newspaper complete with photos and stories about local and national events.
The students in “Idea” are divided into four classrooms, each with its own teacher. The four teachers are Scott Mumford, Becky Granneman, David Owen and Josh Allison. Each class will create a digital newspaper and present it to The Ledger for judging. The class with the best newspaper wins a pizza party.
The students in a class are assigned roles such as editor, reporter and photographer. Madison Osborn was assigned to be an editor, which means she is responsible for assigning the stories to the reporters. She said she’s had to reject stories her reporters have done because she found them to be too boring.
Alie Kensett is a sports photographer in the class who has photographed basketball games. She said she has learned the best times to capture her subject through trial and error. For instance, she noticed that photos of players running came out blurry, so she stopped taking them. She found that photos of players while they were shooting or rebounding turned out much better.
Lydia Larsh, an aspiring editor in the class, said she has the most fun telling other people what to do. Osborn said it is fun to read articles by her classmates to see what news they’ve been able to dig up.
The students agreed the hardest part of the job was agreeing with their classmates about what should go in the paper. A few of the editors said it was difficult to get the other students to respect their authority since they are in the same class and see each other as equals in every other setting.
The students must finish their newspapers this week so they can be delivered to The Ledger Friday.
Ledger sports editor Allyus Fritz spoke to the sports reporters and sports photographers Friday about what it’s like to perform those tasks full time. He said he was glad to see young people becoming interested in journalism through a contest.
“The newspaper competition is a fun way to keep the kids intrigued and involved,” he said. “The class that Josh Allison is running seems very interactive and is probably more fun than the more standard and structured classes.”
Fritz said he was pleased with the response he received from the students.
“They were all polite, attentive and asked quality questions,” he said. “They were certainly a little shy compared to older kids, but that’s to be expected. It’s important for kids of this age to learn writing skills and to know what it takes to do certain occupations that will be available to them once they get older.”
Ledger staff writer Diane Vance spoke with the class in November about the day-to-day life of a reporter.
“The students were very attentive and engaged,” she said. “I talked about my 15-year career in journalism, and how even though I didn’t have a degree in journalism, I enjoy writing and meeting people.
“I told students the best skills to grow are reading — to see how others write and get a sense of language and grammar, and that can be any type of reading — and listening well to others. Everyone has a story. Reporters get to tell other people’s stories.”
Vance explained why newspapers report on meetings of the school board, city council and county supervisors. Since all these entities are tax-supported, the public has a right to know how their money is being spent.
She talked about how The Ledger newsroom operates and how having daily deadlines is very helpful to her.
“I encouraged students to be curious and develop abilities to get along with others, like working as a team,” she said. “I told them a little about our sales team, the production staff, the graphic artists and our pressroom, though I don’t know about those departments as much as the people who work there. I wanted the students to know there are a variety of jobs in producing a newspaper.”
The journalism unit is just one of many units students cover in “Idea.” Earlier this year, the students were asked to think of a skill they’d like to learn, such as juggling, and record their progress on a blog. At the end of the unit, the students showed their talent to the class.