From high school to college, there are a variety of different clubs and organizations students can join, each of them filling a type of social niche. Yet, other than perhaps the various levels and forms of student government, there is no club as transcendent as newspaper. The lessons that student journalism can teach those that participate in it last a lifetime.
Unlike most clubs and organizations, newspaper, newsmagazine and even yearbook staffs are like microcosms of the real employees in the journalism industry, because they ultimately do the same thing: strive to put out a quality product for the good of the community they serve.
Being structured like real life work environments, the positions available in student journalism pose an advantageous opportunity to those staff members willing to take ahold of it, and ultimately allows for a better understanding of the world around them. The core lessons and skills learned while participating in student journalism can be useful for anybody going into any field.
It is important to note, however, that all staffs differ based on size of the school community served, size of the staff itself, the freedoms that staff is allotted within their school, who the advisor is, who is on staff and more.
Having done newspaper and then newsmagazine all through high school, I know that every staff is structured differently. My own staff was built a little differently every year, based on who graduated or left, who joined and whose talents were specific to what task. College staffs are not too different, considering the varying schedules of college age students, so often times a person takes a position that they won’t have even just the next semester.
The structural changes in staffs encourage adaptability. Whatever changes occur behind the scenes of any given student journalism program will likely not be known to the audience or readers, and they wouldn’t care too much anyway. No matter who’s in charge and how they run the ship, an issue has to go out, and it has to go out on time. As a result, the members of the staff will learn how to adapt to new situations with speed.
Being on a publication staff can also improve some symptoms of social anxiety. Of course, there is a point in the severity of symptoms when unchecked “treatment,” like joining a staff, could do more harm than good.
But, when it comes to natural shyness or minor agoraphobia, the thought that there’s a slew of people depending on you helps you break out of your comfort zone in order to accomplish what you were assigned. After doing it over and over again, interviewing people or going to events alone becomes easier, if at least you’re doing so for the sake of an article.
As to be expected, writing on a regular basis will improve writing skills, but the specific skill set that goes into writing for a scholastic publication is unique, and can be applied in a multitude of ways.
Writing for a high school publication, several of my subjects required research so that I could accurately report and sometimes analyze world, national, state and local news for an audience that might not have been paying as much attention. Writing journalistically helps cut the fluff and makes pieces more succinct.
Succinct and detail-ridden writing can work wonders in the class room, unless an assignment is written for the kind of class or teacher that requires fluff. But even then, the occasional necessity of filling different roles on staff teaches individuals to diversify their writing style and talents, making it more possible to switch between the writing styles required of an English class to a biology class.
As aforementioned, scholastic newspaper staffs are modeled after the real thing, giving a participating student a taste of the real world, that most other clubs and organizations can’t. Part of that is the amount of collaborating done on staff.
From joint articles to deciding what content is picked and how it’s presented in a given issue, there’s an extraordinary amount of collaboration necessary in student journalism.
Almost every step in the process of creating a single issue is part of a group effort. Beyond writing your own article, you’re editing each other’s pieces, giving constructive feedback, helping write headlines, deciding what pictures or graphics look best and so much more. The sheer amount of team work forces staff members to get along. Even if the team disagrees on things, if the staff is running right, it’s easy to put outside differences aside for the good of the publication.
Everyone’s heard a coworker horror story or club gossip. It’d be a lie to say that doesn’t happen in student journalism, but the constant reminder of a goal expected by the public typically keeps people on their best behavior, and thus teaches staff members how to deal with any unsatisfactory coworkers in the future.
That same collaboration forces people to deal with procrastination head on. In almost every group project there’s that guy who does less work than everyone else, and no one wants to be that guy. Imagine being that guy for people day in and day out, for an entire school year at least, as you work together to produce a newspaper. The thought isn’t pretty.
Letting people down is a serious cause for anxiety, especially when the people you could be letting down sometimes grow to be your friends. The desire to avoid that feeling provides a strong drive to solving problems with procrastination. Often, student journalism makes students stop procrastinating or learn how to do so efficiently.
Every person should consider joining their school’s newspaper, and there are usually several sections and positions to accommodate people’s interest if they aren’t planning on being a journalist in the first place.
Maybe you just like sports, or fashion, or entertainment. There are audiences who want to read that. Maybe you want to bypass writing and want to put your hobby of photography to good use. Whatever the reason might be, all the skills that can be gained from giving student journalism a go definitely justify the extra workload.