Eliza Caisse ’18
On Friday, April 8th, teacher Monty and five Friends’ Central students had the honor of attending an all day “youth press day” conference at the WHYY headquarters. WHYY, the flagship National Public Radio station in Pennsylvania, was originally the first station in Philadelphia devoted solely to educational programming, but now produces an abundance of various television and radio programs such as You Bet Your Garden and NewsWorks. During this innovative conference, a crowd of students from several schools within the greater Philadelphia area had the chance to assemble and attend three different journalism workshops and seminars throughout the day.
When signing up for the conference, students were required to pick one of the many journalism based sessions for each of the three different time sections. Each session focused on a specific aspect of journalism including how to work cameras and green screens, turning ideas into stories, and much more. Some of these session’s names included How to Land Your First Job in Journalism, Finding Your Voice on Air, Editing Video for the News, etc.
My personal schedule for the day contained three quite different workshops. My first workshop, “Making an Idea Into a Story”, featured a news journalist who spoke to my group about both the positive and negative aspects of turning an idea or concept into a factual and compelling news piece. Upon entering the room, the speaker handed each student a news story regarding a recent train derailment and gave us three minutes to not only read the entire story but also summarize the most important details of the story into only two sentences. This activity then lead into a discussion on the difficulties of turning an idea into a story in such a short time frame, and how the speaker has dealt with this issue in his own occupation.
My second workshop was based on Narrative Storytelling, a form of storytelling in which a story is spoken or written to account connected events. The speaker, a journalist and the head of the WHYY department of education, had the students listen to a few of the stories he had recorded for the radio and then discuss how each of these stories incorporate narrative storytelling, and how this positively or negatively affected the piece. For example, one of the speaker’s stories featured a father who’s son had committed suicide due to his immense depression caused by sexual abuse he had experienced from a priest at his catholic high school. After hearing this story, the group discussed how, when reporting on clergy abuse, including a story of someone who, as an individual, was greatly affected by the issue, helped people to synthesize and connect with the victim and therefore better-raised awareness on the problem as a whole. One thing I found particularly fascinating about this workshop was how the speaker explained that he had chosen this specific story on the father affected by clergy abuse due to the fact that he had attended the same Catholic school as a child, and therefore felt an immense personal connection to the story. Because of this, he explained, producing this story was extremely personally rewarding to him.
My last workshop, “Food Writing and Photography”, was very different to my first two as it did not resemble a lecture but rather a sort of art class and atelier. During the workshop, the speaker, a food journalist and photographer for WHYY, asked the students to take pictures of an assortment of donuts from Federal Donuts, an acclaimed donut shop in Philadelphia. Then, without any prior knowledge of the actual flavor, students were asked to take photos, taste, and review the unusual donuts. Through this, many other students and I realized the immense detail one must put into their pictures and descriptions of food in order to write a proper review and promote a food for someone who has never tasted it themselves.
Towards the end of the conference, the students all gathered in one large room where they were able to display their own school’s blogs, newspapers, and other various projects they had worked on, and express how their own school works to incorporate news reporting and journalism into their student’s lives. This was also very beneficial to us as Friends’ Central students as it helped us to gain ideas and take advice from other students to include in our own school’s magazine. I highly recommend that everyone attend the WHYY youth press day next year. Not only will you certainly be able to find workshops that caters to your own journalistic interests, but you will also gain an unforgettable experience in which you met with incredibly fascinating speakers and children who share similar interests to your own. Next year, I hope that many more students will attend this wonderful conference and bring back many more ideas and expertise for our Focus team.