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Reflecting on the 2015 summer workshop: Tommy

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

By Tommy Gillan, Massachusetts

Tommy and fellow workshop participant Sarah interview each other on move-in day.

Tommy and fellow workshop participant Sarah interview each other on move-in day.

Coming out of the NECIR two week high school investigative journalism workshop, I became a better writer, reporter, and was better prepared for the intense responsibility my future college years will entail.

As far as the academic portion of the workshop goes, the days are jam packed with enough journalistic instruction, activities, and investigative project work to inspire and engage journalists from all walks of life. A typical weekday will start with a morning class. Our group was divided into two separate morning classes in order to develop a close relationship with our teachers and get lots of individual instruction and attention in these small classes. We got tons of handouts, a style book, and diligently filled our papers with notes; there were enough golden journalistic nuggets to make our heads spin.

We then typically headed to the Boston University dining hall to eat lunch, and then returned to a short presentation in a lecture hall. We had many accomplished journalists including Brooke Williams, a reporter for NECIR and contributor to the New York Times, Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, and many others come in to discuss their journalistic experience and secrets to success.

Later in the afternoon we separated into even smaller groups to work on our big project for the workshop, an investigative story of our choice. We were free to pursue our stories however we needed to during this time. I was researching e-cigarettes and their marketing techniques, so there were times during class where we walked down to interview a smoke shop owner, or talked on the phone with e-cigarette experts in the medical field. These afternoon investigative workshop groups were a flexible, student-driven environment which was ideal for mimicking the process of a real investigative reporter.

That would wrap up our classes for the day, but after dinner we would usually have an exciting evening event planned. From shopping on Newbury Street to seeing a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park, we really got to see all Boston had to offer.

The staff and instruction I received at the NECIR investigative journalism workshop was truly top notch, and I would like to especially thank Helen Smith and Stephanie Hanes who I worked so closely with in my morning and investigative project classes respectively.

There’s no doubt the workshop provides incredible journalism instruction, but a less obvious aspect of the workshop is the invaluable experience of living in BU dorms and living the “college life” for two weeks. I for one was absolutely terrified to spend two weeks of my summer living with absolute strangers when I had rarely stayed away from home for more than a few days, but it turned into two of the best weeks of my life.

There was so much diversity, with students from less than an hour’s drive from Boston like me to kids who came all the way from China; it was such a thrill to meet so many different kids from so many walks of life – all with the same passion. I initially worried I wouldn’t make many friends, but the opposite occurred. I became friends with and even stay in touch today with many of the kids I met at camp.

I dreaded going to the dining hall at first, drawing from my traumatic experiences with high school lunches, but discovering the all you can eat ice cream changed that really quick. I arrived in Boston knowing where Boylston Street was, but now I can navigate the entire city with ease (preferably not on the T).

The NECIR investigative workshop strengthened my writing and reporting skills, but more importantly gave me a sneak peek to the college lifestyle that I cannot wait to experience.

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