Student journalism workshop worthwhile
Decades back, in some hotel conference room in some city, a guy who owned the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press lectured to our newspaper management seminar about the Ten Rules of Success.
The rules made so much sense I appropriated them as my very own over a period of more than 20 years straight when I taught at the annual New Mexico Press Association summer journalism workshop for high school students. My favorite of the 10, one that occasions the dreaded eye roll among my grandchildren, is Bloom Where You Are Planted.
During the latter years of teaching my memory started to dim just a bit so that I began forgetting the rules. When the presentation was finally listed on the program as the Six Rules of Success, I figured it was time to hang it up.
The summer workshop has flourished without me, as you might have guessed. While the hints for success stand the test of time, much of what I taught no longer seems relevant. Print journalism and social media have become entangled. If you think “hashtag” is something listed on the menu at a rundown diner, you have no business teaching journalism.
One lecture still appropriate concerns what elements make a news story a news story. I lifted this one verbatim from a presentation by Dr. Sean McCleneghan, top notch journalism professor at New Mexico State University.
Using Dr. Sean’s points, I had fun over the years with a lesson plan that took a news story through the various elements, gaining momentum as it started to incorporate more of the McCleneghan story keys. So we might start with an ordinary guy like me stealing a six pack from a convenience store in Podunk, N.M., earning me a listing on the Podunk Press police page (Conflict — me against the system.)
The story builds when Prominence and Impact are added to the mix. The guy arrested with a six pack of Bud under each arm is the Podunk mayor, throwing the town’s leadership into disarray. Now it is front page in the Podunk Press and maybe published as a news brief by newspapers around the state.
More newsworthy yet when we add two other elements (Sex and Bizarre). An accomplice is the mayor’s mistress who has disrobed to distract the convenience store clerk. At this point, New Mexico newspapers slot front page stories and state TV stations come running. And so on. When the mistress shoots the mayor, Anderson Cooper shows up.
Many fond memories come from those teaching years and the bright kids who sacrificed a few summer days to learn journalism from active newspaper writers, editors and photographers, as well as university professors and high school journalism teachers.
This year’s session will be held Sunday, June 9, through Wednesday, June 12, at the University of New Mexico. I highly recommend it to incoming juniors and seniors. I never met a kid who wasn’t glad he or she attended. If interested, call Philip Lucey, executive director of the sponsoring New Mexico Press Association, 505-275-1377. The cost is $150 for the seminar, room, food. Can’t beat it. Workshop enrollment is limited to 30, so don’t dawdle.
If you are strapped for cash, you might call your local newspaper and say you would like to make an appointment to discuss journalism education. The editor might smell a rat but these are good folks. Chances are you will get some financial help.
When you go to the summer workshop, please see if you can find the missing four rules of success and shoot me an email. It’s never too late.
Ned Cantwell welcomes response at firstname.lastname@example.org.