The perks of being part of a team

By Lavi Ben-Dor, 45Words Student Partner

About a month ago, I nearly had a heart attack.

I am the News Editor of The Spoke, my school’s newspaper, and I was working on a story looking at the recovery process for students who get concussions, as we had been noticing lots of people getting concussions to the point that it seemed that someone new got a concussion every week. It was only supposed to go on front page on the side (we were splitting the front page between two stories) and then continue to the centerspread, where it would share space with lots of neat graphics, most of which were already made.

And then about a week before the paper was supposed to come out, the other front page story fell through when we realized it was not going to be ready for publication. This meant that now we had most of the front page as well as two other pages completely blank.

Of course, I panicked. Concussions was going to have to be the front page, but I didn’t have nearly enough copy to fit on two more pages. I would need to do so many more interviews–talk to various experts on the issue, interview at least five more students, get the perspective of administrators–in short, something that would be impossible for one person alone.And that’s where teamwork kicked in.One of our editors-in-chief and our managing editor volunteered to help write, and we sent an email out to the incoming editors, who had been chosen at that point but do not officially start until the coming weeks asking them to help out. A handful responded instantly, offering to help do interviews and come to our production nights, which take place from after school until 6 p.m. twice during the week before the paper is released.

We split up the sources, with each of us only doing one or two each, and we broke it down so each of the three writers would have their own story with a unique angle (we eventually chose to cover concussions in sports, the rise in concussions, and the recovery process) to make things easier. After working furiously, squabbling over what quotes were there, we suddenly realized that it we’d be able to pull it together–and we did (see the issue below).

The same thing happened this issue, which comes out on Tuesday. Two weeks ago, our tentative front page story fell through, so we decided to cover the Boston Marathon bombings by looking at how it has affected our area (a sort of reaction piece). I, as well as one of the reporters in the News section, was working on the story but then we realized we had a mountainload of interviews, and we recruited our Convergence Editor to co-write with us and got a few of the incoming editors to do interviews, and we were able to pull the story together despite the immense time crunch.

“The more the merrier” rings true when it comes to student journalism. Several reporters and editors working together on a story can at times be essential, because you never know what might happen. And when disaster strikes and the clock is counting down until your paper comes out, sometimes you may need to call on others on your staff to help you with a story.

It’s not a sign that you can’t write well or aren’t a good reporter if you work together as a team–it just shows that you recognize the importance of getting everything done in time and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen.

I’ve come to realize that team coverage is actually a great way to cover an event, especially if what you’re covering is broad in scope or you’re low on time to get the story done. By working as a team, you can do more interviews faster and break the story down so everyone working on it has one specific element they’re working on and then the whole team brings the story together faster and more effectively than any one or two reporters working by themselves could, making this a great technique for us student journalists to utilize.

And if you’re prone to panic attacks like me, having a team of reporters working on your story with you can reassure you and help you realize that with a team, anything is possible.

Faith in America’s future restored at Inauguration

By Jenna Spoont, 45Words Student Partner

45Words Student Partner Jenna Spoont reports in front of the U.S. Capitol building for her high school newspaper, The Spoke, located in Berwyn, Pa. 


Golfer Walter Hagen once said, “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”

From Jan. 18 until Jan. 21, I soaked in the excitement, the beauty and the history of Washington, D.C. Throughout my life, I have visited D.C. to spend time with my grandfather and to tour the incredible college campuses. But this visit was different. This visit I covered the 57th Inauguration of the President of the U.S. for ’Stoga News.

The Inauguration is the Super Bowl of politics. It sets the tone for the next four years. It gives the patriotic citizens of this great nation hope for a better future. And what I love most about the Inauguration is the fact that no matter what political affiliation you choose, the opinions are silenced on this day. On Inauguration Day, we celebrate “the land of the free” and “the home of the brave;” we celebrate America.

As I waltzed down the National Mall to stake out a spot as close as possible to the U.S. Capitol building, I have never seen so many enthusiastic volunteers in my life. Bodies bundled up in thick jackets, hands covered with warm wool gloves, heads embraced by Presidential Inauguration red hats, the volunteers greeted the audience with handshakes, high fives and fist pumps. From thin women with a full set of pearly whites, to heavy-set men with just a few teeth, it did not matter about race, gender, sexual orientation or social class. All that mattered among the volunteers was their excitement to be a part of history in the making.

After I set up my tripod and plugged in my microphone, visitors came up to me asking to be interviewed. I spoke to people of all walks of life, coming from across the country and from around the world; North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Illinois, Delaware, India and Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few. Some were decked out in Obama gear, others looked more like Uncle Sam and many were covered in fleece blankets and fur coats.

When I met the students of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, located in Dallas, I could easily tell that these kids were more than proud to represent their school at the Inauguration. They are well-raised, well-spoken children with spectacular moral values. I even had the opportunity to hear them sing their school song exclusively for ’Stoga News, with a chant at the end, “Believe, Achieve, Succeed!”

As over 800,000 visitors filled up the National Mall, I watched thousands of American flags soar and wave through the diverse crowd. From the little boy resting on his father’s shoulders, to the woman juggling four American flags in her hands, they got to witness the second inauguration of the first African American president of the U.S.

When the ceremony concluded, it was as if the Exodus had happened all over again. I trailed through the day’s clutter; bags of Chips Ahoy, cans of Red Bull and cups of Starbucks coffee. And the thought of even riding on the Metro within the hour was impossible to fathom. But walking at the speed of a snail made me admire what was occurring right before my eyes. Street vendors sold “Obama pretzels,” which looked like any ordinary soft pretzels. Other vendors stood in the middle of the streets selling Obama buttons, t-shirts, bumper stickers, bobble heads and commemorative Inauguration tickets. And what I saw before my eyes was humanity coming together, supporting one another’s’ causes, celebrating another day of being free.

Tragedies throughout President Obama’s first term like the Sandy Hook massacre, the shooting in Aurora, Colo. and the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens, made me lose faith in humanity. I questioned how such tragedies could possibly happen when our country is supposed to be the strongest in the world. But attending the Inauguration restored the lost faith. The day reminded me that Americans can and will continue to come together for the sake of freedom and for the necessity of safety in our nation. And the theme of the Inauguration, “Faith in America’s Future,” was perfectly fitting for my restoration of faith.

In four years, I encourage you to step out of your living rooms and travel to Washington to witness the next Presidential Inauguration. I know that the television stations put on a phenomenal program of the festivities. But standing in the biting cold, speaking to patriotic people and listening to the words of our country’s leader in person, can certainly not be felt in the comfort of your own home.

The use of anonymity

By Jenna Spoont, 45Words Student Partner

As the Managing Editor of my school’s newspaper, The Spoke, I coordinate and oversee the content of the newspaper. At The Spoke, we choose to cover hard-hitting, controversial stories because it is our obligation as journalists to report on what is happening in the community and what people can do to change problems.

For the December issue of our newspaper, I wrote a story called “World Wide Watch” about the dangers of sexting and the spread of inappropriate images across the Internet. Originally, the angle of the story was to report on technology addiction among students. As I walk through the hallways at my school, it seems as if everyone’s attention is focused on who texted them during the last class period. But the angle did not pan out, because as I was writing my budget for the story, a nearby high school faced a sex video scandal involving students. It was as if the new angle for my story had jumped right in front of me.

I talked to The Spoke’s Editorial Board regarding the new angle on sexting, and asked them if they think it should be covered. We decided that the spread of inappropriate images and videos is not just happening at that local high school; it’s happening at my school, and most likely every school. There has been an increase in the spread of inappropriate images across the Internet in the past decade, according to Dr. Rob D’Ovidio, a professor of Criminal Justice at Drexel University, who I interviewed for my story.

As this story is a sensitive issue, I decided that I was going to take anonymity into account when I quote sources in my story. There were many questions that I had to ask myself during this process. Will using a pseudonym for my source lose my credibility as a reporter? Will the story be believable? Should the source own up to what they did?

Ultimately, I decided that using pseudonyms for my sources would be the only way to get them to talk. As most of the students are verging on their college careers, they did not want their legal name to appear in an article where they admit to an illegal act. And as a matter of fact, I felt that using a source’s real name would transform the article into a gossip column, rather than a serious news story.

In the past, I have written front page stories on U.S. citizenship, adoption and tanning, but I have never written a story as pressing as “World Wide Watch”. I hope other student journalists cover controversial issues such as this one, because the community, no matter where you live, needs to know what is happening. Our job as student journalists is to report the facts. No matter what your opinion is on an issue, always remember to simply report the facts. If you want to show both sides of the story, interview a plethora of sources. Although I did not use all of the sources in my story, there were approximately a dozen people interviewed so that I could see all of the perspectives on this controversial topic.

Covering this story taught me how to work with sources that want to remain anonymous. The co-editors-in-chiefs and I are going to change our newspaper’s policy on anonymity in the coming months. We want a universal policy across the paper so that all of the reporters know when to use anonymity and how to use it.

Student journalists, if you ever have any questions about the use of anonymity, or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact 45Words. Also, the Student Press Law Center was extremely helpful in guiding me through the legality of anonymity.

To read “World Wide Watch,” CLICK HERE

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