By Kylie Cheng
Around this time last year, The Legend seemed close to death; scheduling for the year 2015-2016 showed that too few students had signed up for Journalism. Eventually, enough willing people signed up and saved the class, and the school newspaper lives for its 50th year.
Perhaps the majority of students still think of Journalism as undesirable. The class includes challenges not everyone may wish to face—but it also provides an environment to cultivate skills that few other classes exercise.
One of the most common objections to taking Journalism is the writing it requires. The benefits from news writing, however, are different from those gained from an A-G English class.
“A lot of people don’t want to take Journalism because they don’t like writing, or they think they can’t write,” muses Copy Editor Michelle Fong. “They think they can’t write good essays, which has nothing to do with Journalism. It’s more like taking facts, putting them on a sheet of paper and then formatting it.”
News writing differs from the academic writing most high school students are used to, as well as from creative writing. The majority of news stories fit an “Inverted Pyramid” that organizes facts from most to least important, while alternating between quotes from the people involved and paraphrases or additional information. This structure relieves the journalist from having to come up with original content. Furthermore, it focuses on accuracy and clarity, not on writing flowery sentences to impress the English teacher.
“It’s easier to get away with style anomalies because there’s a clear format, like the news story format, the multifeature format, even the opinion format,” says News Editor Tiffany Lee.
The editors appreciate a writer with above-average flair, but as long as students write with care and make the suggested edits, basic English skills work just fine in Journalism. And with enough practice and effort, one’s writing skills can improve.
“It’s helped my factual writing for sure,” asserts senior Seline Ting, former artist for The Legend. “It’s helped me analyze what is fact. It’s helped me on school reports as well: how to deduce, how to find right sources, how to report accurately.”
Granted, everyone does need to write. The class is so small that everyone is a reporter on top of performing another job. Anyone unwilling to write, even for the noble purpose of reporting, should not join Journalism; the consequences would go beyond a hurt grade.
Think of the newspaper as an entire-class group project. If everyone does what they’re supposed to do, the process goes smoothly; but if enough people miss their deadlines or don’t do their work, the rest of the staff suffers. As stories, photos and graphics come together, students get to experience teamwork in a context not unlike an actual job.
“You really understand how to work with other people,” states Layout Team member Michelle Lin.
“I really like how social it is,” mentions Artist Emilie Chau, “because in other classes, like English or math class, you don’t get to know everyone in your class. But in Journalism, you really get to know every single person, because you’ve worked with them at least once.”
Aside from the collaboration within the classroom, Journalism also builds communication skills through interviews. Often a reporter has to talk to strangers and learn to overcome the initial awkwardness.
“Sometimes when you’re reporting on a team or something like that, you don’t really know the players, so you have to really search for who you’re trying to interview or who you should be interviewing,” comments Sports Editor Sommer Fowler.
Senior Grace Cheung, a former Business Team member for The Legend, had the additional step of interacting with companies off-campus to secure advertisements in the paper.
“In Journalism, I definitely learned how to communicate with businesses a lot more efficiently,” she reflects. “Just the way you write emails and things like that, and how you organize your information is important.”
The overall workload varies with the job. Some people, such as the senior editorial staff, are frequently busy. Most others find time to help out further after finishing their stories, or to simply relax.
“This class is better than most of my other classes because it’s fun,” remarks Layout Team member Angel Palomino. “It’s not as exhausting as my other classes, it’s not as repetitive; there’s always something new every single month that we try to do.”
At the start of production for each issue, the class brainstorms for what to put in the newspaper. An opinionated or creative mind will find an outlet for expression, be it writing the editorial, designing the centerspread or drawing a graphic to fill up that dreaded white space. All sorts of talents mesh into something people all over the school want to read, and it’s hard not to feel a certain pride in seeing our ideas come to life in print. AP classes can’t give that satisfaction.
“I’m pretty sure everyone’s tired of taking all these serious, hard classes, and I’m like, just take a class to have some fun,” says Design Editor Patrick Trieu. “Take the class; have fun. You learn a lot from it.”
And what have I personally learned from Journalism? I’ve learned to gather up the courage to talk to people, to take action shots with a fancy camera, to co-write an assigned-late article in one afternoon, to help and be available for helping others and to distinguish a single space from a double space in nine-point Times New Roman font. Most of all, I’ve learned that, despite every challenge it presents, Journalism is worth saving.