Reflecting on the 2015 Summer Workshop: Sarah

This post is part of an occasional series of reflections written by students from our 2015 Summer Investigative Reporting Workshop.

By Sarah Parr, New Jersey

I wasn’t one of those teens whose prime motive for signing up for the NECIR workshop was because it took place in Boston.

While living in a college setting in one of the most historic cities in the USA no doubt has its appeal, I was much more taken with what I was to learn inside the classroom.

Sarah and the Session 3 workshop participants gather at the College of Communication.

Sarah and the Session 3 workshop participants gather at the College of Communication.

True, I did end up going to Starbucks more times in those two weeks than I had in my entire life. I also went on a $1.00 per book “No Fear Shakespeare” binge at the Barnes & Noble on the BU campus. But if it hadn’t been for the people I met and the skills I learned and practiced, I would not have gained what I craved.

One of the most quotable and inspiring teachers I’ve ever had the privilege of having was Mr. Harry Proudfoot. An extremely well-rounded, knowledgeable, opinionated, open, journalist-turned-teacher, this man definitely had the most impact on me throughout the workshop.

He is a man who missed his senior banquet, prom, and graduation to protest the Vietnam War.

He is a man who found out about and covered three fatal car crashes in one morning.

He is a man who, in honor of his late wife, started the Walking With Jane foundation, working to raise money to find a cure for neuroendocrine tumor (NET) cancer.

In other words, he is a man who knows his stuff and doesn’t mess around.

After just two weeks of classes, my marble composition book was full. Classes were intense and demanding, and the first day required a homework assignment right away. My friends and I had to miss dinner in order to finish our first article on time, but we indulged in Cheez-Its and Dominos delivery at 10:00 pm, so it’s all good.

The last day of classes focused on how to run a high school paper, and when we brainstormed characteristics of an Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Proudfoot asked us, “Did we not just describe God?” As the next Editor-in-Chief of my school’s paper, that statement definitely made me feel both proud of my achievements and terrified of what was to become of me.

I take my school newspaper more seriously than some of my classes, and it was nice to focus only on journalism for two weeks. There’s no way I’d be able to concisely describe the impact this workshop has had on me, and how much of it has made its way into my school’s newspaper this year, but I’ll share a few highlights.

Perhaps less favorable to my English teachers, I’m now 100% partial to writing grafs (journalism slang for paragraphs). One or two-sentence grafs are much more appealing to write and read than five, six, or however many-sentence paragraphs, in my opinion.

I like breaking down ideas into sub-ideas. (Plus, as a reader, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot more when I’ve made it all the way down a whole column rather than only mid-page down a gray wall of text.)

Giving the newspaper a uniform and consistent voice; producing reliable articles; and presenting the most current, relevant, and entertaining content in a monthly paper is no easy feat. From meetings to layout to the printed paper, each issue is a treasure box — we never know what events we’re going to cover, or who we’re going to have to interview along the way.

But if there’s one thing I walked away with that was worth the tuition, it would definitely be the method of localizing articles. For example, I couldn’t care less about sports. But I would care a lot more if I learned that my science teacher’s son is a baseball player on a team in the World Series. Then, I just might care enough to read that article.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the NECIR workshop has exposed me to ideas that have never crossed my mind. I’ve been inspired, and I’m prepared for the challenge that comes with being the Editor-in-Chief of a high school newspaper. I’m three issues in, and it’s one of the most time-consuming jobs I’ve ever had. But I love every second of the editing, the stress, giving feedback, and the late nights that come with producing what I like to think of as a great product.


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