Over the past three years, I have had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the West Bull’s Eye team. Today, I can look back on my first day of class and wonder how I developed from an awkward writer not knowing a thing about journalism. I cannot believe how much I have accomplished and how many stories I have covered. I have written on a variety of topics that range from politics, pop culture, school events, and current events. Writing on such a large range of topics has given me the ability to critically analyze, improve my writing skills, and make my voice known. As I publish my fourth and final edition of the West Bull’s Eye, I can now see how our school’s journalism class nurtured my writing abilities, encouraged me to fuel my inquisitive desires, and always seek the truth.
My view of writing changed when I joined the school’s newspaper. Like many students, I used to hate writing prompts and wanted the freedom to choose my own narrative. The writing process is formulaic and frustrating. I quickly learned that journalism writing was something entirely different: students are given the freedom to discuss their passions and develop their own style. If the past year has done one thing right, it has successfully reaffirmed the need for talented journalists to report on difficult topics. Student journalism is necessary, now more than ever. It nurtures the next generation of good, passionate writers while also creating a space for teenagers to express themselves. Participating in student journalism is an invaluable experience that teaches students lifelong lessons.
Here are some lessons that I have learned from being in journalism that I will take with me in my future:
Communication is Key:
Journalism asks students to use critical thinking to formulate arguments and convey these ideas to their readers. They have the responsibility to always tell the truth while being mindful of other perspectives and opinions. Journalism has taught me about inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance. It is important that writers bring the stories, experiences, and opinions of others to light as well as their own. Journalism has taught me how to discuss, peaceably debate, and reach an informed compromise with people who have opposing views. Take the time to explore gray areas and gain a full understanding of their perspective. To begin, ask open-ended questions. LISTEN before making snap judgments. You might be surprised at what you learn or even change your opinion!
No One is Perfect: Embrace Criticism
Do not expect perfection on the first draft. However, like any other activity, the most reliable way to improve is through practice and repetition. Learn to accept mediocre first drafts. Be okay with the fact that not all of your work will be the best. ASK QUESTIONS. You do not know the answer to everything. You always have something left to learn. Think of criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement instead of a failure. Although it is difficult to take criticism, it is worth embracing it. Criticism leads to the improvement of skills and is a form of motivation. Be open to receiving criticism. This is essential for learning. No one is perfect; everyone has areas for improvement.
Journalism is a school activity that accurately simulates a work environment. We all have jobs. We all have deadlines. We all must have accountability and professionalism. In journalism, you cannot afford to have incorrect information. It is important to make sure you use credible sources and research your topic thoroughly. Journalism has taught me that doing research is not as daunting as it might seem. The amount of effort it takes to properly research is entirely worth it if you want to be capable of understanding the world around you. Sometimes, journalism’s need for being timely in reporting the story imposes strict deadlines. This taught me how to be productive and manage my time. My role as Editor has given me the opportunity to collaborate with others and help one another improve our work. My journalism experience has helped me hone the professional skills of producing quality work-product promptly and how to be an effective member of a team.
My English teacher encouraged me to join journalism. This was never something I had considered before. Yet, this choice changed me. From this experience, I branched out into social justice, and this led me to realize that I want to continue writing about topics I am passionate about. One choice illuminated a path I never knew existed. Now at the end of my high school years, I have begun to imagine my life beyond Smithtown West and imagine all the possibilities journalism has opened up to me. Working for my school paper has been one of the most demanding and challenging experiences in high school, but also one of the most worthwhile. To know that what I write and produce has the power to impact, give voice, and change minds in my community, is incredibly fulfilling.