Monday, October 7, 2013

Owens Outlook newspaper student staffers have heart, guts

  Every time I walk into an Outlook student staff meeting on Thursdays, I am filled with pride at the dozen or so eager faces sitting around the table.
   They don’t have to be there. Consider the following obstacles these student staffers face:
·      Only the editor-in-chief and managing editor are paid
·      Most don’t get class credit for the extracurricular task of working for the school online paper
·      Most are inexperienced and untrained writers, photographers, designers, and editors who aren’t connected by a strong journalism curriculum
   As the new student media adviser, I consider the latter issue to be a big problem. It’s a shame Owens doesn’t offer a journalism course anymore. I often daydream about the pool of talent we could draw from if we only had a strong journalism major that offered basic print/broadcast/social media/digital journalism courses, as well as classes on media law/ethics, and newspaper design.
   With that said, we should at least be taking advantage of what we do have: business, English, commercial art (CRT) and photography courses. But at this point there isn’t a system in place that allows the Outlook to collaborate with these diverse courses.
   One of my primary goals is to get as many instructors of these classes on board as soon as possible. The business classes could help with advertising; the CRT students could design both the hard copy and online editions; the English students could write something for a real-world publication. All of these students could pad their portfolios and be more employable in the long run!
 The Owens Outlook newspaper, completely created by student staffers.
   It would be a great help if the instructors were willing to provide training through lesson plans, or at least offer incentives, like extra credit.
   At this point, I’ve been reaching out to Toledo Blade staffers and other area media to be mentors and trainers. Blade writer Matt Thompson shared writing tips during one meeting; and Blade sports reporter Don Emmons and art director Wes Booher has agreed to help.
   I am also training the students on a chosen topic every Thursday. Last week we covered interviewing sources, and this week we’ll go over writing lead sentences and how to put a story together.
   Despite all of these obstacles, our mission of going back to print is not insurmountable.  The editor’s have done a wonderful job recruiting their friends and classmates from the photography and commercial art departments.
   Currently, the small staff is cutting their teeth on the online edition. Yes, mistakes are plenty. Deadlines pass by. Stories are missed. But there is no doubt these students are willing to work together, and learn from their mistakes, which will allow us to move forward with our plans to publish a hard copy of the Owens Outlook beginning in Spring 2014.

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