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BHS students beef up on news skills

The BHS News Crew that went to the N.H. Press Association’s James D. Ewing High School Newspaper Workshop: (from right to left) Christina Morin, Becca Sinclair, Georgia “Peach” Poulin, Rikki Paschal, Bryar Grondin and English/Journalism Teacher Heather Piché. Jonathan Benton. (click for larger version)
November 23, 2010
LANCASTER — The hands were raised and the questions were flying as Berlin students dug ever deeper into the case of the fatal car crash that turned out to be a casualty of the puppy drug ring.

"You want to ask me everything otherwise you're not going to get the story," said Clynton Namuo a correspondent with the Union Leader who played a Police Chief for a mock press conference.

High school students from the North Country were given a taste of what it takes to be a journalist at the N.H. Press Association's James D. Ewing High School Newspaper Workshop held at the Cabot Motor Inn last Wednesday, Nov. 17. There was a good representation of North Country schools with students from Berlin, Groveton, Colebrook, Pittsburg and Stratford.

Heather Piché, English teacher at Berlin High School, also heads a journalism class and brought her students who work on the school paper.

"I've learned you need to ask questions, as many questions as possible," said Bryar Grondin of BHS.

Representatives from daily and weekly newspapers spoke at the start the seminar about why they wanted to be and continue being a journalist.

"I want to be informed..., have the ability to inform others..., meeting new people... and I enjoy writing," said Melissa Grima Editor of the Berlin Reporter and Coös County Democrat. "I like the way you can change one word in a sentence and change the whole meaning of that sentence."

"I am aware everyday that I do my job that in other countries people fight and die for the rights that I sometimes take for granted I have access to public officials," said Meg Heckman Community Editor for the Concord Monitor. "The newspaper that I work for I can write whatever I want as long as it's accurate and the government can't get me, they can't pull me off the street and put me in jail."

The seminar wasn't all just lecture as students were given the chance take part in a press conference on a fictional fatal car crash. All students were given a press release and free reign to ask the "Chief" whatever they could to get the full story. A sordid tale that, started off slow, but as the students asked more questions they discovered the fatal car crash was caused by a police officer accidentally under the influence of LSD. Also that the officer was the mother of the victim, that mayor was involved and the box truck involved in the crash was carrying 100 puppies.

"Crime is always a big story especially if there is a violent incident that for whatever reason in human nature we all really want to know about it," said Ms. Heckman.

Some students were surprised about how inquisitive one has to be in order to cut it as a reporter. "It's a lot more then people expect, you really do get into people's personal life and have to be willing to do that," said Chelsea Simpson of Stratford.

The interview went well, but standard slip-ups that the new reporters fell into were forgetting to ask how each person's name was spelled and taking the press release for granted.

"I can't tell you how often we have names spelled wrong on press releases," said Mr. Namuo.

The students were served lunch by the Cabot and after the meal broke off into groups. Once in the smaller groups they focused on headline writing, lead writing and critiquing the newspaper. Teachers were also offered material on how to start a school newspaper or further their students' journalistic interests.

Groveton doesn't have a school newspaper, but student Vyktoria Boyle would like to change that. "I think it would be wicked cool and It would get Groveton more involved," said Boyle who found the seminar very helpful. "I know what questions to ask, I could walk up to random people get more information and know how to put it all together. This is a good learning experience."

Martin Lord Osman
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