The school newspaper was once an essential part of any educational campus. It was where students, parents and community members went to see what was happening on campus. In the past several years as school districts across the state have struggled with budget cuts, school newspapers have been reduced to just a shell of what they once were.
At Pitman and Turlock high schools that is not the case. In fact, the journalism programs are growing and more students are learning about the future direction of the journalism and mass communication industries, as well as the benefits of traditional journalism.
Pitman High journalism advisor David Jack said the school’s paper, The Roaring Times, moved to an online-only format in 2008 as a cost-saving measure, a move that is reflective of the professional journalism industry. More importantly, the move to an online format gave students increased opportunity to write more stories.
“The goal of the journalism class is ultimately to improve students’ writing ability. In journalism the kids are in a more relaxed environment than in English class and they are allowed to experiment and find their writing voice,” he said. “Before, some of the weaker, less aggressive writers would kind of fall by the wayside.”
Roaring Times general editor Angel Garcia, a junior, appreciates the journalistic freedom.
“Writing for the paper is different from writing for English class. There are pretty much no limitations and no strict formats to follow. I like to write about politics and opinion pieces,” he said.
Garcia plans to major in political science in college and he might minor in journalism. He hopes to become an attorney.
Article topics at both schools range from fashion to campus hard news and opinions, and some video game coverage.
“We definitely cover all ends of the spectrum, this is truly a student-run and operated newspaper,” said Jack.
Grades for the PHS journalism class are distributed based on production and quality. Previously, The Roaring Times was published once a month but now students routinely publish articles, videos and photos.
Over at Turlock High, journalism students still publish a hard copy named The Clarion. Journalism advisor Virginia Barr said plans are in place for revamped online presence in the coming months.
Students at both PHS and THS are learning that the journalism industry and many aspects of the old news gathering model have changed.
“Talking with industry professionals, I’ve learned that they are looking for people who don’t just write but they want people with photography, layout design, html and Internet capabilities,” said Barr.
Both schools have combined their yearbook staff and journalism programs into one hybrid class, allowing newspaper staff to have more photography and layout assignments. With the diversification of assignments Clarion staff learn software commonly used in graphic-based industries.
Despite the changes, newspaper journalism students still learn the value of traditional journalism and the role it plays in a school or a community. The Clarion news editor, junior Avery Wooldridge, enjoys the old-fashioned journalism stand-bys.
“I like having to research a story and informing the public and community about campus news. It’s fun taking a national story and showing people how it will impact here,” she said.
Roaring Times co-editor-in-chief Samantha Trout, a senior, has served the PHS community all four years of high school.
“Writing has always been my thing; I like putting stories together,” she said.
Trout plans on studying journalism at Boston University next year.
Fellow Roaring Times editor-in-chief Leanna Jasek-Rysdahl has also served PHS throughout high school. She said journalism is her favorite class and her experience has taught her about leadership and how to tackle challenges. Under Trout and Jasek-Rysdahl’s leadership the Roaring Times has withstood the growing pains of transitioning from print to the online format.
“We are getting better every year and there are more and more readers. Before students had to read the paper because it was given to them in class so everyone read it, now we have to direct them to our site,” said Trout.
The exact same scenario is being played out in professional newsrooms across the country. Just like many professional newspapers, The Roaring Times has launched a publicity campaign to encourage readership. Sophomore Bree Wheeler has been tasked with getting the PHS community to the Roaring Times online.
“I like the advertisement, creative side of newspapers. We are trying lots of things like flyers in classrooms, bracelets and video announcements to get people to the site. We definitely have more this year,” said Wheeler.
At THS, The Clarion is still handed out the old-fashioned way and to keep it that way journalism students have used various methods of fundraising to help pay for the printing costs.
For The Clarion fundraising activities are seen as a fun time for journalism students to bond. Editor-in-chief Caitlin Callaway, a senior, praised the family atmosphere at The Clarion.
“I love it; it’s like a big family. We are all really close and everyone steps up to help. There is a lot of teamwork going on here,” she said.
Just like in the professional industry where newsrooms have been gutted by staffing reductions, teamwork has become paramount to any newspaper’s survival — online, hard copy or both.
At THS The Clarion is looking to adapt to modern times with the re-launch of an improved website but Barr said the paper will never go away.
“Turlock High has had a student newspaper for a hundred years. It is a tradition and we wouldn’t ever let it die,” she said.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.