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Westlake journalism students earn accolades

By Nicole Hennessy

Westlake

Most of the time when speaking to younger journalists, the conversation inevitably turns to the media trend toward Internet publishing.

The common outlook is optimistic.

So when Laura Miller, who advises the staff of Westlake High School’s newspaper, The Green & White, mentioned that a lot of her students enjoy and appreciate traditional publications, it was unexpected.

Between print and online publications, she sees more interest in print, to which readers can subscribe for just $5 per year.

“I think it’s kind of cool that they’re still able to do things the old-fashioned way, and that it works for them,” she said. “But I think we’ll probably start to do things more with Twitter and just try to incorporate Facebook and things like that to promote the organization and newspaper itself.”

The organization to which Miller is referring is the Ohio Scholastic Media Association, of which The Green & White is a part, though it is independent and completely student-run.

Having recently won six individual OSMA awards and second place overall, the paper has been around for nearly 100 years.

Caitlin Smith, last year’s co-editor-in-chief, is just a few days done with her senior year. She worked on the paper all four years of high school.

She says she’s not going to study journalism in college, but she hopes to be active in her college newspaper at The University of Alabama, where she’ll major in English and Spanish.

“Getting to actually have a print copy of what we’ve published instead of it just being online is really cool,” she said, agreeing with Miller’s observation.

At OSMA, Smith received honorable mention for a feature page layout. She explained that each editor gets their own page to edit and lay out; though, off the top of her head, she can’t remember which of her designs won her recognition.

Taking the experiences of being responsible for portions of The Green & White with her to college, she said “Being on something as big as a newspaper is a really useful experience.”

It helped her feel like she was part of something. Plus, the experience of being in a leadership role was something she valued about her role as co-editor.

To freshmen coming in next year, she advises them to stick with it. Despite it being “really hard work,” Smith maintains it’s worth it.

Miller, who has been supervising the paper for six years, stresses creative writing and having the confidence to take risks to the student journalists, something Smith feels is best highlighted in the opinion section.

Also, “how to be ethical,” Miller says, is another area she stresses. “Those are things students can use regardless of if they go into journalism.”

Though a journalism class is offered to Westlake students, all newspaper activities are extracurricular.

Students come after school, work for hours and go out and interview people in the school or community.

Miller said the stories they come up with — some funny, some sad, some serious and profound — “shows that a lot of our young people are really deep-thinking and mature.”

Maybe they have a little more going than what we give them credit for, in terms of what kind of thoughts they have, she ventured.

For her, it’s refreshing to work with students rather than professional journalists, who, after years of stress, can sometimes forget why they started writing nonfiction in the first place.

“(The students are) doing it because they really love it,” she said. “And they have fun, and they laugh and they challenge each other.”

For this reason, she believes that the most ideal environment for journalism is student media.

“They’re doing it because they want to,” she continued. “And I think that’s something that every professional could be reminded of.”

The March issue of the paper is laid out with cutout photographs of students in prom wear scattered throughout content.

On page four is one of Smith’s stories: “Latin students triumph in togas.”

“On Friday, February 24, a group of Westlake High School students boarded a bus headed for Columbus,” it began. “Their destination?  The 62nd annual Ohio Junior Classical League Convention.”

What precedes and follows this feature are incredibly well-written stories, and not just by high school standards. This Smith attributes to Miller, who she says works as a great guide while being comfortable with remaining in the background.

 

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