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Speaking to a high school class about journalism

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Bob Loblaw Law Blog, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. The editor of the local high school newspaper has asked me to come in next week and speak about sports writing. I'm not a particularly good public speaker, so I figured it probably wouldn't be a good idea for me to go in there and just "wing it." Instead I'm opening the floor to suggestions from you guys and girls.

    Any ideas or suggestions on things I should talk about? I've read the school paper and it isn't very good. It's clear they don't have much training in journalism (or writing, for that matter), so I could focus on the basics of writing and, more specifically, writing about sports, but that seems boring. What else should I focus on?

    This isn't a recruiting seminar. I'm not trying to pitch these kids on becoming sports writers. I think they just want a little guidance on how to write about sports and what the business is like. I have my own experience to draw from, but would like some input from the masses of SportsJournalists.com. What say ye?
  2. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    I had to do this once and it scared me half to death.
    I just talked about the basics of game stories and doing more features than result-driven stories since most high school papers are once a week or even once a month publications.
    I also did a question and answer time which everyone really seemed to enjoy.
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I've done a lot of this. Talk to their teacher first, get an idea of where the kids are intellectually. Did one at a school in which the student paper won many national awards over the years. Those kids were freaking sharp.

    Last year when my niece was a high school freshman taking journalism, my sister, who edits a union newsletter for work, was showing it to me. I was starting to critique the design in a roundabout way and her daughter pipes in with, "I told ya, Mom, you need dominant art!" I laughed so hard, I about peed my pants. Sometimes they know more than you might think.
  4. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Good one, Frank. Good one.
  5. I just did this myself and most of the questions had to do with the process of writing, personal experiences, getting into the business and what the job is really like. I had good students, so it went by very quickly.

    We also had a good laugh when a soft-spoken girl asked if I had done yearbook at all and I thought she asked if I had done Europe.
  6. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Probably explained the quizical look on her face when you said "I like the Greeks very much..."
  7. Flip Wilson

    Flip Wilson Well-Known Member

    Spoke to a high school class today and the last question I got:

    "How much money do you make?"

    I told him enough to live on, there's more to life than money, I've got lots of flexible time (I teach college), blah blah blah. But I thought it was a pretty ballsy question, which I could appreciate.
  8. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I did this a few months back, fortunately the high school teacher was a former writer at the local paper so she had the kids prepared. They each had to write down a question, and almost all of them were excellent. One asked if I thought college athletes should be paid, and that turned into a class-wide debate for 10 minutes. Several were very intrigued by my life as a stay-at-home freelancer, and I got to explain about how to pitch stories and work for yourself.

    Just take them through your daily routines and sprinkle in a few stories about famous athletes. I talked about interviewing Warren Sapp in the locker room for the first time and how he spreads a towel at his feet to catch the tobacco juice, and how you don't dare stand near that if you value your shoes.
  9. I spoke to the journalism class at my former high school last year. The teacher is still the same one I had.
    He had a pretty good point. He told me, "Most of these kids are not going to be doing journalism in college, much less professionally. Tell them more what they should have learned this year and how those skills will help them in college and in the real world."
    That approach made my job a lot easier. I told them what I learned in high school journalism and subsequent journalism that was universal — things such as writing skills, being accurate is important, people will lie to your face, question your own biases, consider the source, etc.
    I think that meant a lot more to the students than if I said, "I work late nights and take notes at games."
  10. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    As playthrough said, anecdotes are always good. A little "story behind the story" will make the kids feel like they're privy to insider knowledge.
  11. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    One word: Plastics.
  12. sartrean

    sartrean Member

    I did this once, and don't be surprised to find the majority of kids bored out of their minds.

    Perhaps I started the speaking off wrong by asking how many would like to write for a living. Most raised their hands, then I informed them that 99% of those with raised hands would live a long life in poverty, pointing out examples of average annual income of writers in various fields.

    During Q&A, the kids wanted to know why papers did certain stuff and didn't do other stuff, i.e. 'why did today's paper have a story on Archrival High School, why couldn't they do one on us?'

    One other time a while back, my boss at the time made me go with him to a high school career day. Only two kids came through our little booth.
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