A Journalisim Experience
By: Danielle McC., Grade 11, Booth Memorial High School, St.John's, NF
Future Pathways is a program set up at Booth Memorial High School and is much like the Co-op program at most schools. You and your teacher spend an allotted amount of time evaluating yourself; your aptitudes, weaknesses, and so on, through a number of assesments and discussions. You then come to a conclusion about what type of career you would be suited for, and your teacher tries to secure a seven week job placement for you at a business in that field. The objective is to learn whether you would want to further pursue that particular career.
For my placement in the Future Pathways program I worked as a student journalist for SchoolNet News Network (SNN),
a website that allows teenagers to explore the field of journalism by reporting events and writing articles.
I am interested in all types of writing especially journalism and creative writing. My dream is to become a published writer. So this was the ideal place for me; a situation where I could learn how to advance my overall writing skills.
As a side note, back when I attended IJ Samson Junior High in St. Johnís, my grade nine English teacher got our entire class involved in something called The Mentorship Program, which is offered by SchoolNet News Network. It provides students with their very own mentor - a professional journalist that would answer any questions you could shoot at them. Each student in my class was assigned to write an essay on any subject we wished. We were then placed with a professional writer or newscaster that we could contact by e-mail if we needed help writing our piece.
For seven weeks of my placement, I was a busy little bumble bee!
Before I even started my placement, my supervisor Carmelita Joy-Bolger invited me to observe an interview with David Walsh, a teacher with the Irish school Christian Brother School Tramore, that was visiting Booth for a project in connection with STELLAR Schools. I took notes on the interview, and even got to ask some questions of my own. Afterwards, I was given a digital camera and asked to take pictures of some of the Irish students. Once I was done that task, I was looking forward to beginning my work placement.
My first day of work was on November 9, 2000. I was feeling a little nervous, but excited too. I didnít know what my supervisor or co-workers were going to think of me. A million thoughts raced through my head at once. What if it turns out I am a horrible writer? What if everyone there was mean, and didnít want to help me? What if it turned out I was just going to sit at a desk for 3 hours a day? Although I had already had some professional writing experience, for the Avalon East Drama Festival Newspaper, and school newspapers, this was a bigger league than I was used to, and presented me with a chance for greater exposure.
Well all my anxious thoughts were dispelled quickly! When I arrived in SNNís office in the Education building at Memorial University, my supervisor Carmelita put all my worries to rest. We discussed many things. My interest in writing, where I wanted it to take me, previous writing experiences, her ideas for projects I could work on, and other ways I can become recognized in the field of writing. Since then, daily talks about updates on articles, projects and life in general became a tradition.
My first week was basically getting initiated with the environment and the people. One task I had to do was to research the SNN web site, and take notes on the aspects of it such as About SNN, SNN in the Classroom, and SNN in the Newsroom especially the Reporters Toolbox.
The Reporters' Toolbox gives you tips on writing, how articles should be written, copyright information, how to incorporate video and audio clips into articles, etc).
After that, I started the big stuff. I was assigned to write an article on the Irish school CBS Tramore, and a profile on YOUCan - a youth organization that deals with issues of conflict.
For the CBS Tramore piece, I used notes from the interview with Irish teacher Pierce Walsh. I interviewed students from Ireland and their Newfoundland billets, and also Wade Gillard, teacher from Booth who was instrumental in the Ireland - Newfoundland connection. In the interview with Mr. Gillard, I learned how to conform the video of it into he computer, and transport it to Real Player so it can be seen on the Internet.
I also learned how to use a digital camera. There was a few days in one week, where my supervisor would send me out with the camera and I would go exploring practising my steadiness, panning, and basically just getting used to the machine. I was also shown how to burn off Compact Discs from the Internet and programs such as Napster. Before I came to SNN, I was almost technologically impaired, but now I think I could get by on a video recording career.
In writing the actual articles, I was grateful for the Reporterís Toolbox, because I turned to it quite frequently when I was in need of writing guidance. I had to do a great deal of research both on my own, and with my supervisor, who was gracious enough to print off information for me. I now know more efficient ways of finding what you need in terms of doing research.
I had a great deal of practice with editing articles, both my own and other peopleís articles. For some strange reason, I got a kick out of pointing out other peopleís mistakes, and inserting my own way of putting words together. When my typed work was completed to my satisfaction (which took a great deal of time, Iíll tell ya that!), I handed them in to Carmelita, and she showed me the next step in getting published on the web - coding.
HTML code is a funny thing. The first time you look at it, youíre left with a throbbing in your head. But once you get used to it, itís not that difficult as long as you have a basis of what to work with. There are many different programs for using HTML code, but the one I used was Microsoft WordPad. Using an already formatted html file, I was able to use that file and copy into Wordpad my Word document and then saved it under another file name. In formatting my file I had to ensure there was be a < p > at the beginning of every paragraph and a < /p > at the end. If you want features like Bold, you put a < b > before the word, and a < /b > after it. The same goes for Italics and Underlining, except with the appropriate letter between the pac manís. Links and pictures also have special codes that you put in order to be viewed on the web.
My work for the November issue was done! I may sound like a geek here, but the rush you get from seeing your own name and words in ďprintĒ, is enough to get high from. It gave me the feeling of being useful, and now I can list another accomplishment on my list of goals.
I also got used to doing a lot of e-mailing and calling people trying to get contacts that would help me write and research my articles. At the same time, I was working on a collaboration piece with another student journalist on The Image and Effects The Media Has On Teens Today, and an article on Improv - An Educational Trend, and my own essay on What Is The Meaning Of Christmas.
For two days, my supervisor arranged for me to spend some time in the VOCM newsroom with Audrey Whalen. I wrote a news bite (which Audrey stated was really good for someone who had never done it before), answered phones, took messages, ran a couple of faxes from place to place, got a tour of the building (which includes a number of stations besides VOCM.) I also witnessed phone interviews, and learned how to record them, watched the newscasts being recorded and observed the newscasters going out to research possible stories. Basically I learned a little bit about how every aspect of journalism on the radio works. Every form of journalism is important to learn because it can teach you how to be a better writer, and discover more styes of writing.
The staff at SNN were really friendly and helpful, and they didnít make me feel stupid when I asked a question. Everything went really smoothly with the exception of a certain incident with the bus driver, and occasionally having to miss lunch in order to get here on time! But that was no problem, because in those cases I was allowed to visit Roasterís for lunch or a snack!
Overall, the work placement experience at STEM~Net was definitely a positive one. The work was not difficult at all, but that could be attributed to the fact that itís something I really wanted to do, so I donít really consider it work, as much as fun! Iím just the type of person who is excited learning new things, and ways of doing them.
This job placement presented a lot of opportunities for me. Not only to learn about journalism, but to expand my expertise in all areas of writing. It gave me suggestions on how I can get further in my career as a writer. Hopefully, one of these days youíll see my name on the Best Sellerís list, next to a front page story in the newspaper, or on television for winning the Pulitzer Prize.
See you in the news!