SPJ students lead
high school workshop


The Elon University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored a day-long workshop in November for the students who work at the newly founded newspaper at Cummings High School in Burlington.

Six Elon SPJ students, Lindsay Porter, Colin Donohue, Steve Earley, Matt Belanger, Ellis Harman and Brittiny Dunlap, reached out in advance to Cummings English teacher Jody Rowan, the adviser for the student newspaper, to find out what the students would like to discuss. Donohue worked with Lee Barnes, the executive editor of the Burlington Times-News to arrange to stage the workshop at the offices of the local daily newspaper.

Rowan arranged with Cummings officials to bring 10 students to the workshop. Barnes led a tour of the Times-News to begin the day, showing students the pressroom and other production facilities, the business office, the advertising department and the newsroom, introducing the friendly professionals who work in these areas along the way and asking them to share information with the students.

The people at the Times-News donated their lunchroom for use as meeting space for the SPJ event. Frances Woody of the Times-News spread out a breakfast buffet of Paul's doughnuts and assorted juices for the students to enjoy, and Brent Lancaster, Nate DeGraff and Peter Schumacher of the Times-News staff talked about why they enjoy their work as journalists at a daily newspaper.

"I get to do something different every day," said Schumacher, the Times-News' chief photographer, who has also worked for the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "And I enjoy the fact that I get to meet new people all the time."

DeGraff owns a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "I like to write and I like to talk to people," he said."If you're inquisitive, this is a great field to be in. No two days are the same. It can be wacky and strange, and it's always interesting."

Barnes said he'll never tire of working at a daily newspaper. "Reporting is a glamour job, like being a fireman or a policeman," he said. "We do important stuff here. We tell your parents how much they're going to pay in taxes, that water bills are going up. No one else out there is performing this service."

Elon SPJ students spent the next three hours discussing various newspaper basics, including writing leads, interviewing, coming up with story ideas, covering a community, layout and organization of a newspaper, headline writing, grammar and style. The student reporters and editors from the Cummings Cavalier Times were engaged in the process, writing headlines, sharing ideas and asking questions.

Cavalier Times adviser Rowan said she hopes Cummings administrators will arrange to move the newspaper from an after-school group into a regularly scheduled class. Many other high school newspapers in the Alamance-Burlington School System operate their student journalism programs in this fashion.

The workshop was staged by SPJ with financial support from Project Pericles, an organization centered on helping the people of universities to foster community engagement to "instill in students an abiding and active sense of social responsibility and civic concern."



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Last Modified:  11/26/03
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