One Chapter Closes, Another Is Begun

Casey Bacon, Co-Editor

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Well, here we are: another year completed, another summer to look forward to, another class leaving behind their high school careers, and another class rising to begin theirs. I’m proud and thankful to be part of that 2016 graduating class, moving into the wider, real world in a simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking leap. (And yes, as a departing senior who has been ensnared in the web of journalism for the majority of her high school career, I’m taking this final article and delving just a bit into the warm-and-fuzzies. Sue me.) As a staff writer for the past three years here at the Imprint, the class and the newspaper itself have left an indescribable impact on my life– it’s given me a platform to speak my mind, to improve my skills as a writer, to meet new people, to venture out and extend the bounds of my comfort zone, and gone so far as to direct me in my decision for what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. I’ve been privileged to witness the paper change and develop each year, and fortunate to be part of a brilliant rotation of staff who delivers the news without fail, never forgetting how to have a good time while doing it. Needless to say, journalism in the first forty-five minutes of my day has become a steady anchor, a period that allows me to begin my morning waking up and pursuing what I want to do at my own pace. Admittedly, it may just be one of the things I’ll miss most after graduating. But as I said, the world continues to spin; as the class of 2016 graduates, the graduating class of 2020 will soon join the ranks of Raiders and make their own mark on this old building in their time here, just as their time will leave a mark on them. For all of the senior staff members leaving, there will undoubtedly be a new batch of aspiring reporters to the LTV and Imprint team next year. So, in the spirit of an end never being an end but a new beginning: hello, staff of the 2017 school year. Welcome to the world of journalism, and welcome back to those who were brave enough to commence the adventure last year. I won’t claim to be an aficionado in any sense, but I would like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in my time here to pass on a few words of advice to you all up-and-coming members joining the team.

  1. Write and direct what you would want to read or see. If you’re not interested, why would anyone else? This is a great rule to keep in mind when you’re brainstorming ideas, whether it be for an article you’ll be writing or for a feature you’ll be producing. The news may be typecasted as a dull, repetitive, and monotonous, but the wonderful thing about journalism is that the term’s meaning cover such a broad scope: current events, politics, sports, the latest drama of pop culture. Oftentimes, most people find their niche after joining the staff, and the topics you chose are made all your own by the style of reporting you utilize. Will it hold a highbrow tone to bring readers and viewers up to current events, or a lighthearted atmosphere that’ll bring the laughs? Chances are that if you find it to be a captivating story or angle, someone else will, too, so take the time when planning to think about what draws your interest and use that to guide you in your own pursuit of great journalism.
  2. At the same time, remember you’re writing for a school paper. One of the great things about Leonardtown’s journalism program is the freedom it grants students in choosing what it is they’re reporting on. A story I’ve always loved from the program’s history is that of the “gossip column” we had years ago, in which the antics and rumors around the school were published for all to read, animity kept for the sake of those involved. I’ll let you take a guess at how long that venture was able to go on for. My point being, that which garners readership may not always be what’s suitable to publish. As a journalist, you must keep in mind that with this freedom comes a responsibility. It’s still expected that you’ll carry out this duty, we’ll call it, with a respect and maturity. You’re still writing for a school paper, and although that’s not to say you must curtail your creativity, understand that what you’re writing is out there for ALL to see.
  3. Put yourself out there. It’s well understood that with broadcasting, you’re essentially forced to reveal yourself to the camera. But, as a class, journalism anticipates a bit more: not only are you going to see yourself on televisions across the school delivering daily reports, but you’re also going to have to venture out into the field for those special features and article interviews. If you’re anything like the rest of us, the thought of approaching and interviewing people you’ve never spoken to in your life about issues that have never been relevant to you prior to can be more than a little daunting. But remember, as the interviewer, you have the power to control the conversation– somewhat of a welcome thought if it’s not so out of your control. Oftentimes, the features that are the most interview-intensive give you the ability to partner up with a fellow staff member, easing some of the worries you may be holding. And truthfully, the people you’re talking to want nothing more than to help you with your product. The more interviews you conduct, the more comfortable you’re bound to get, so my word of advice: fling yourself out there, even if it does terrify you, because you’ll be broadening your horizons for the better when you do.
  4. Due dates are there for a reason, but accept that 50% of the time, you won’t meet them. In my three years as a staff member, there’s been many a shift in the time constraints on articles. In my first year, the expectation was that you would have a set amount of articles in by the end of the quarter; my third year shifted over to the expectation of an article being cranked out every week, while features were brought on and expected on a weekly basis. As for the structure next year, we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, you’re bound to quickly learn to love the sound of deadlines; that is, “the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Unfortunately for the class, the news moves much faster than even the best of staffs can capture in a single period. And it’s understood that despite being a top-notch reporter first period, you’re a student in at least six other classes once that bell rings at 8:45. Needless to say, life happens, and that week-long period will blow by before you realize it’s gone. The key is to stay as focused and structured as possible while simultaneously keeping in mind that you aren’t perfect, and you’ll have to give yourself a bit of flexibility in submitting articles and features. Quality, after all, is far superior to quantity.
  5. Stay organized. In that same breath, leniency requires you to have a fair amount of discipline. In translation: you’ll want to stay on top of that which you do owe for the class. In a class that’s as accommodating as this, you’ll quickly find yourself three weeks behind if you’re not keeping track. Ideally, the bulk of the work due can be kept within the confines of the classroom, but realize that certain tasks will require some outside work. I’m not saying you need a newspaper-specific agenda booklet on you at all times, but make sure you know what you need to be doing. Pro-tip: the calendars you fill out for the class–Perfect mode for this. Plus, you know, they’re also a grade. Quite the win-win.
  6. Get to know your “bosses.” Your journalism teachers are often your best resource for the material. Journalism is no different. Mrs. Hager is a media hurricane day in and day out– only a mild exaggeration there; I don’t think there’s a morning that I see her off of her feet– who knows all there is to know about each piece of technology in the LTV room, and then some. Mr. David provides not only the English prowess for the Imprint, but takes his own extensive experience in broadcasting to stand as the ideal source for help behind the camera. Not only that, but they’re pretty great people, as well. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation: they’ll not only be able to help you maintain the best grade you can in the class, but they’ll provide a wealth of knowledge for you to further take from the class.
  7. The spotlight isn’t as terrifying as you think. One of the funniest things about this course is the polarization of students in the class: you come in either primed and ready to throw yourself in front of the camera, or you approach it with the firm idea that we’ll quite literally have to drag you in front of it. As someone who adamantly fell into the latter group, I can tell you with honesty that the more you do it, the more comfortable you’re going to get. Yes, initially seeing yourself on TVs around the school is atypical, even weird, but you’ll be surprised at the amount of cheers and applause you get from your third period class at your premiere. Yes, I can tell you now that unless you’ve got a silver tongue, you’re not going to get every word of the script right on the first read. But that’s where the magic of editing comes into play, and believe me, it’s a real asset to our news team. As the cliche goes (with mild alteration), your journalistic life begins the moment you step out of your comfort zone, and the further you push yourself will prove the further extent to which you’ll succeed.
  8. They call it a news “team” for a reason. As an elective class, the course is, for the most part, filled with students who opted and applied to get in; these applicants all have that interest and drive for mass communications, in whatever form, that brings us all together. While there are both students who join for a single year and students who renew their enrollment through the years, that pursuit of journalism and the time spend together day after day act as the glue that holds us in the close-knit team we are. These are the people that will act as your soundboard for ideas, your collaborators on projects, your teachers in some respects and your mentors in others, your support throughout the year. Just like any sport, your progress would be nonexistent without the team effort put in. And seeing as you’ll be working with this group for a solid year, make the effort to extend a hand and get to know your team: not only will it help you out in the class, but you may find friendships that’ll last long after the class ends.
  9. Don’t stop writing. The way to become a better writer? Write more. I know it sounds like the least helpful piece of advice I could offer, but it’s the truth: practice makes perfect. The more you put thoughts to paper– or computer screen– the more you’ll see your syntax evolving, diction improving, and language control refining. Though there are students who, respectfully, join the class for the sole purpose of participating in LTV, don’t think that this aspect goes without elements of writing. After all, how do you think the script happens each day? Developing a strong voice is important to your credibility, others’ perceptions of you, and your persuasiveness in the field– all paramount in your time as a journalist. Whether preferring the written or broadcasting side of the class, actively developing your writing is crucial, both to your grade and your future career.

Finally– yes, I swear this is where the advice ends– if I could go back and pass on a piece of advice to my sophomore self before beginning my time in the class, it would be to make the most of the experience as a whole. The ultimate triteness of the phrase will prove true: the years are going to go by fast, and you’ll be in my shoes, typing your last article or signing off of your last broadcast before you know it. You have 45 minutes in this class every day to write, direct, or anchor the daily ins and outs of Leonardtown, Southern Maryland, and world news. Those broadcasts and articles don’t disappear after you graduate, either; you’re leaving a mark– your legacy, if you want to take it a step more solemn. In short? Write what you love; keep yourself on track; step out of your comfort zone; speak your mind; use the time you have to your advantage, and do your best. Best of luck to the seniors that are graduating, and wishing you the best and brightest from your lives here on out. To all incoming students? Welcome to the news team.

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