The Weekly Wednesday: Adrenaline Rush
by Joe Dennis, GSPA Director
As a former journalist who worked in a newsroom, I miss the adrenaline rush of doing the interviews, writing the story and getting it published all in one day. Sure it was stressful — and one of the reasons I left the newsroom for academia — but I rarely find something that matches that feeling of accomplishment that I sensed seeing the paper, filled with a day of my work, come off the press.
On Tuesday night, that feeling came back. With another Grady professor we served as editors of a six-person Election Day newsroom. Our team of student reporters were dispatched at 7 a.m. to various polling locations across Athens. Their mission was to get the “stories behind the story” — talking to voters, poll workers and election managers as to why they are there, why they vote, who inspired them to vote, etc. By 8 p.m. we had several written stories, photos and videos posted on a website we created — http://www.athelect.com — and eight student-written stories or videos also posted on the Athens Banner-Herald website.
At the end of the day, that feeling came back to me, but more importantly the six students felt it as well. Working together for almost 13 hours we put together a pretty solid body of work. Of course there were challenges — at times we argued, sniped at each other and had periods of grumpiness. But we also laughed a whole lot, high-fived, shared humorous personal stories and bonded in a way we never could through a typical classroom environment. And we learned, again in a way that we could never learn in a standard classroom.
For example, in teaching video shooting I consistently emphasize the importance of good audio. But still, with every video assignment I have students turning in good clips with horrible audio. Typically, they can just go out and shoot again. In our deadline-driven Election Day newsroom, though, there were no “redos.” So when a student came in with a video piece with horrible audio, we just couldn’t do anything with it. Her hard work was essentially wasted — a tough lesson to learn. But I bet she gets good audio from now on.
This experience got me thinking how a same-day deadline newsroom scenario could be replicated in high school journalism. Perhaps you can open your classroom after hours to have team coverage of a home football game, school event or “High School After Hours,” dispatching students to various events happening on a particularly busy day after school. The focus of stories would be on people — and why they are there — not your standard news story of the event.
Finding a scenario that would allow willing students to get that newsroom rush would be great for staff bonding and morale. And who knows, you might get that rush of adrenaline too.