Students participate in national high school journalism conference

By Catherine Kim '16, Bailey Holmes Spencer '16 and Edward Sutelan '15

Norfolk Collegiate journalism students and advisers traveled to Washington, D.C., Nov. 6-8 to participate in the National High School Journalism Conference sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. They joined more than 6,200 student journalists from across the country for workshops, publication critiques, competitions and lectures led by legendary media figures including Bob Woodward, Jay Harris and Christine Brennan.

“It was an amazing experience because I was able to meet these people whose work I have read or seen on TV,” junior Catherine Kim said. “I even got a chance to interview Christine Brennan, which was a great honor.” 

Students spent most of their time attending in-depth sessions that focused on different skill sets required in journalism. From explaining how to write intriguing articles to demonstrating the newest layout trends, media experts encouraged the aspiring journalists to “think like a pro.”

“The best part of the conference was that we got to pick the sessions we wanted to go to,” Catherine said. “We could either chose sessions that were in our areas of interest or try to learn something entirely new. I decided to challenge myself by attending design sessions since that’s my weakest area.”

In the keynote address, Bob Woodward, who broke the Watergate story as a reporter for The Washington Post, encouraged the students to become active reporters. 

“Too much of the work is done by email,” he said.  “We don’t show up enough.”

After Woodward’s speech, he held a book signing at which the Norfolk Collegiate students got to meet him and pose for photos.

“Being able to meet a living legend like Bob Woodward was incredible,” senior Edward Sutelan said. “He is not only a key figure in journalism, but also a profound figure in American history.”

As a member of the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers board and the convention’s local committee, Oak Leaf adviser Judy Davis had the honor of introducing USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan at the beginning of her session on women in sports journalism. 

“If you are a female athlete,” Davis said in her introductory remarks, “thank Title IX.  If you are an aspiring female sports journalist, thank Christine Brennan.”

During her session, Brennan gave students insight into what it was like for a female reporter to work in a male-dominated field. Currently the most widely read female sports columnist in the nation, Brennan was the first female sports reporter at The Miami Herald and the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins, in addition to reporting from seven Olympic games and breaking the figure skating judging scandal during the 2002 Winter Olympics.  

“The session on women in sports was really empowering,” junior Bailey Holmes Spencer said. “It made me believe that if professionals like Christine Brennan can work and succeed in a male-dominated work force, then so can I.”

Other sessions focused on stories currently dominating news headlines and broadcasts, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Bailey said the session she found most interesting was led by a Missouri journalist who was injured while reporting from the site of the first night of protests.

“It really hit home for me,” Bailey said.

English teacher Meg Dalrymple, who also is teaching journalism and advising The Oak Leaf for the first time this year, called the convention “an incredible experience.”

“The energy and ideas were really exciting,” Ms. Dalrymple said.  “I enjoyed networking and sharing ideas with students and advisers from around the country.”

The Oak Leaf is now online. Read the latest edition, as well as more school news here.