Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pick me, pick me!

When we were in high school, Newspaper was a big deal. Not so much Yearbook, which was an after-school club, which no one really took too seriously. Our teacher, Ms. J, took a no-nonsense approach, and we all loved her. She had very definite ideas about our responsibilities as members of the Junior 4th Estate. One of the assignments we had to keep current was our stringbooks--the 3-ring binders we kept in file drawers at the back of the classroom, which contained all of our work over successive years in the program, in reverse chronological order. The other thing Ms. J was very definite about was our yearly tryout. We all had to write an essay, whether we were continuing on the staff the following year or not. If we were seniors, we had to tell Ms. J what we had learned over the years, and make suggestions for next year's staff. If we were "trying out" for one of next year's staff positions, we'd best make sure we made the case for why we deserved such an Honor.

The Journalism Cherubs at Our Humble High School are in the midst of Tryout Season. In fact, they turned in their essays on Friday. We collected all 125 essays (more or less--from two Intro to Journalism classes, most of whom are continuing next year, plus the Newspaper and Yearbook staffs) and began the laborious task of sorting it all out.

The senior essays, of course, always scream for attention. And deservedly so. Most of these kids have been in the program all four years of high school. For those of you who don't remember these Trying Times, doing anything for more than four minutes--much less four years--in high school is a humongous deal. Commitment of any kind can send any cherub into paroxysms of terror or glee.

One of this year's Editors (remember, we're trying to keep The Scholastic Scribe somewhat Sanitized, so we will reveal no names here) wrote a Tryout Essay for the Ages. We'd like to re-print most of that gem below, so all of you, Dear Readers, will know what it's like for an 18-year-old to reflect upon such a Huge Life Endeavor. Some of this essay has been edited for the sake of Anonymity.

"[repeat name of publication here, 3 times]. I say your name in my sleep and long for your warm embrace on the lonely nights. You have become more than a class to me, more than a club, more than an extracurricular activity that makes my resume look extremely sexy. No, you are truly a part of me, and I of you.

You [the adviser] wanted us to talk about what we learned. I am about to do so. God, it's been a wonderful four years. Just know that. Damn. I learned that there are mice living in the walls and under the carpets of our school and I learned not to participate in the hiding of chicken nuggets, especially when these particle-pressed chicken wads are hidden in ceiling panels or on clocks. I learned that annoying high-schoolers can and will be mature and respectful individuals when we need them to be. I learned that my best friends are the ones who will stay after with me until the janitors come with Ghost Buster-style vacuum cleaners strapped on their backs. I learned how to really be proud of my hard work. It's a wonderful feeling to see people appreciate our effort and recognize our passion for something. I have met some of my best friends in journalism, and for that I'm truly thankful. I learned how hard it is to be a leader sometimes. It's a pain in the ass corralling obnoxious teenagers (myself included) and making them sit still long enough to have an editorial discussion. You have a hard job. Editor is a hard job, too, and I'm still finding out how hard it is.

That's some good advice for the newbies, whom I'd like to address in this paragraph. It's hard friggin' work running a newspaper. We get really serious about it. Sure, we'll goof off with our friends and be distracted almost all the time, but you've got to understand that there are no small jobs in this business. Everybody counts on everybody else. We're a community whose success depends on all its members.

More advice: Be nice to people. I made a habit of telling people 'Great job!' or 'Awesome!' or 'I don't hate you.' If you're going to be in a leadership position next year, for the love of God be civil. When you're editing someone's story, and they've written something terrific, you need to tell them. Write 'This is so well-done,' and mean it. I'm not saying I want you to spray praise haphazardly like you're marking your territory with kindness. But I am saying be kind. Make an effort to take other peoples' ideas and work with them. Some of our best headlines came from non-editors and underclassmen.

I love you all. Seriously, I mean that I'm going to cry. Peace."

From the mouth of babes. An 18-year-old who takes her job seriously, but makes room for a "Dance Break of the Day" every day, and often plays with her food. Well, we've got to get reading. Announcing the Yearbook and Newspaper staffs May 2! This video is not either one of our staffs, but they could be! :)

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