Oyster River Hosts 7th Annual Student Journalism Workshop

Students from Oyster River High School, Dover High School, and Pinkerton Academy had the opportunity to question state political leaders as part of the 7th annual Student Journalism Workshop, where they worked with professionals in the field of journalism. 

ORHS welcomed 75 students from the three schools Tuesday, October 1st. Various sessions covering some of the many aspects of journalistic writing and reporting were led by professional journalists from publications around New Hampshire including NHPR, Union Leader, Foster’s Daily Democrat, and the Concord Monitor.

Vanessa Palange, President of the NH Press Association, spoke to the unique opportunity that this event presents each year. “It’s important that you have one on one first hand experience with people who are in the field.” She continued on to say, “it’s a very field heavy profession and you get a lot of experience in the field, and not as much in school.” 

The students were initially split into groups based on their focus for the day. The groups were audio, writing, and photography. The first session included all three groups breaking off and having a short session on the specialties.

In the morning, Annie Ropeik, an energy and environment reporter from NHPR, introduced students to the world of public radio by leading a crash course with a small group of students on how to best convey audio stories. 

Ropeik elaborated on the value of this workshop for students saying, “you’re getting a chance to ask us questions, to see us in action, and for us to give you feedback on your work…you can use these skills to build your own skillset as journalists and learn how you like to do the work, how you might do it differently, and practice asking your questions of real newsmakers in an on-the-record environment.”

Down the hall from Ropeik’s workshop, another group of students had the opportunity to work with Kimberly Haas, a reporter from the NH union leader, as well as Rod Doherty, a retired editor from the Foster’s Daily Democrat, on researching, reporting, and gathering the news. 

Carl Zent (‘20) said the session was informative beyond the basics of journalism, and particularly enjoyed this segment of the day. 

“Rod talked about the philosophy and moral integrity of journalists, which I thought was interesting, and that he didn’t expect all of us to go into journalism but you can apply the morals that go into journalism into everyday aspects of your life.”

Meanwhile, Geoff Forester, a photo editor for the Concord Monitor, held a session with the remainder of students on how to capture the images and videos that enhance stories. 

  Following the individual specialty workshops, the students transitioned into a panel on disinformation in the media. The panel members were Dr. Kristen Nevious, from Franklin Pierce University; Palange, New Hampshire Press Association President; and Joshua Sullivan, a graduate student from the Northeastern University Media Innovation program. 

Lindsey Mount (‘20), spoke about the disinformation panel saying, “I learned what really affects us on a daily basis, like social media and having things you hear from people that aren’t always true. You have to stay aware, and hearing that from a journalistic point of view is very interesting.” 

To wrap up the first half of the workshop, Gregory Sullivan, a First Amendment and media rights attorney, discussed the First Amendment media law, a topic that is necessary for journalists to be well versed in.  

Each year there is a newsmaker event. The newsmaker is the part of the day where guest speakers are brought in, have a topic to discuss, and students are given the opportunity to ask questions and apply the skills they learned throughout the morning. Last year, the newsmaker event brought in Chris Pappas and Eddie Edwards, past congressional candidates, for a conversation. The newsmaker event for this year was Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Raymond Buckley, and NH Republican Vice Chair, Pam Tucker, speaking and answering questions about various current political issues, with the New Hampshire primaries quickly approaching. Students questioned both leaders on various topics such as climate change, youth involvement, and personal journeys in the field of politics. 

Ropeik spoke to the value of the newsmaker event saying, “[students] get the chance to ask the tough questions and are the ones most affected by a lot of the issues these folks are talking about. Learning to do those conversations and then put them to paper in a deadline environment is a rare experience.” 

With the remainder of the afternoon, the student journalists worked with a group of fellow students to curate stories in various mediums. Each group had a professional journalist on their team to help them finalize their stories on the newsmaker event, offer advice, and answer any questions. The end goal of the afternoon was for students to bring all of what they learned into a finished piece of journalism.

Andrew Chase, a Journalism teacher at Dover High School, returned with his students for the fourth year in a row to the workshop. 

“[The workshop] puts it all in context. When I teach journalism, it’s out of a textbook or it’s in the classroom. This way, it forces them to step out of that framework that they’re so used to, and has them be journalists for a day […] it forces them out of that comfortable shell to really see the nitty gritty of this, to be journalists, and that’s an invaluable experience.” 

All students in attendance had the opportunity to meet and learn from statewide political leaders, as well as accomplished professionals in the journalistic field throughout the day. Many spoke on the unique and invaluable opportunity that was presented to students. Next year, more students will be able to partake in this annual event just as the 2020 election approaches. 

–  Holly Reid & Joe Morrell