On air with Wilsonville High School
The lights go off and the journalism class at Wilsonville High School falls silent. The cameras roll as one student from the class interviews two students from the environmental club for their Wildcat Recap show. This is a typical Thursday class for students in the new Journalism and Broadcasting class taught by John Fitzgerald.
There are about 12 students enrolled in the class and it's split into two groups — journalism and broadcasting — although students can be involved with both. If the students have a journalism focus they are also required to write for The Paw Print — an online weekly newspaper publication. And this year, they will introduce a print edition that will come out quarterly.
For the broadcasting portion of the class, students are learning the technical side as well as what it takes to be a broadcast journalist. They have two shows that air on their website and on Youtube: "Wildcat Recap" — which focuses on clubs and school-life — and "97070" — a WHS sports broadcast.
But to get this class rolling took some work and dedication, especially by one student. Fitzgerald said this class wouldn't exist without senior Mary Kimball, editor of The Paw Print.
"We went to a basketball game at one of my brother's tournaments (at Franklin High School) and they had all their newspapers hanging on the wall and I was like, 'This is so cool, why doesn't my school have something like this?'" Kimball said. "I just wanted our school to participate in something like that."
Starting her freshman year, she began talking with teachers and administration about how they could bring something similar to WHS. Through a connection at the Oregon Newspaper Foundation, Kimball helped get a grant last year for enough money to print five newspapers. The online publication — which began last year — would now also have a quarterly print edition to allow for larger, feature stories.
By the end of last school year, students taught themselves layout using InDesign and created their first newspaper to show people what to expect the following year.
"We came in so many times during lunch; it would have helped us so much if we could have a class where we meet every day, get to talk about things and (have) everything we need to create," Kimball said. "So a class just made sense."
The idea was pitched to administration and with the work and motivation from students, it became reality.
"Just to have somebody so excited about picking up something new and learning; they're motivated about what they're doing, so they asked for the class and that alone makes it worthwhile," Fitzgerald said. "The class doesn't exist without Mary."
Fitzgerald added that sophomore TJ Hagen has been a tremendous help with video, the website and figuring out how to get the necessary technology used for broadcasting.
The class brings in guest speakers from different media and communications jobs and teaches interviewing techniques and skills needed for broadcast journalism.
While many of the current student writers are seniors, Fitzgerald hopes the class will gain a younger following to fill their space when they graduate.
"It feels so relieving that we have a chance to do something here that can last for so many generations at this school knowing that the kids will have opportunities to explore if they have a passion in writing," Kimball said. "That's just another outlet for them."