An estimated 1,400 high school students visited Colorado State University on Thursday for J-Day.
The event, held by the Colorado High School Press Association, unites high school newspapers and yearbooks. J-Day sessions discussed many elements of journalism, including news coverage, publication design and staff management.
In honor of the Lory Student Center renovations, this year’s J-Day theme was “Feels Like Home.”
CHSPA President Justin Daigle opened the ceremony, discussing the roles of student journalists.
“We are the history makers,” Daigle said. “Without us, there would be no history. A school year is empty without [student journalists.]”
To get the crowd warmed up for a day of journalism sessions, Daigle gave a rap about students journalists set to the tune of an Eminem song.
It’s a great feeling to be immersed in a community or people who understand you. #jday14
— flame j (@__heyitsaj) October 9, 2014
Psyched for #jday14! So amazing to see so many students immersed in something they love.
— Ben Reed (@benreed123) October 9, 2014
Daigle was later followed by Adam Dawkins, CHSPA adviser of the year.
“The best journalism gets people to think and gets people committed to a social justice,” Dawkins said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that journalism is dying; it’s not.”
Seventy presenters hosted sessions at the J-Day sessions. One of the first breakaway sessions was hosted by Greg Luft, department chair for the journalism and technical communications department at CSU. Luft’s session addressed covering tragedy.
Luft said Colorado has seen many instances of bad coverage of tragedy, specifically the Aurora theater and Columbine shootings.
“There was a rush to tell the story, but sources weren’t treated well,” Luft said to a full room of students with standing room only. “I remember when Columbine happened. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got home. There were helicopters over the school and cameras rolling talking to people.”
Luft said this was the worst way to cover tragedy because in an emotional moment immediately following tragedy, victims could say anything to reporters, which could impact one’s life.
In order for journalists to act in a responsible manner in tragedy coverage, Luft emphasized being courteous and making the victims comfortable.
Luft said reporters should ask themselves,”Will you regret the way you approached the victims?”
One of the keynote speakers, Cindy Todd, held a session called “What’s Your Story?”
“I promise you, there’s something about you that people want to know,” Todd said. “Journalists have the privilege to tell these stories, but the hard part is finding the stories. It’s up to us to find the stories that matter to people.”
Todd emphasized actively listening and thinking on the spot during an interview to pinpoint an interesting aspect of a person and explore it. Todd said journalists should think of interviews as a conversation.
“‘Tell me about…’ are the most important words in interviews,” Todd said. “‘Tell me about…’ allows sources to say what’s important to them. People want their stories told.”
Students who attended J-Day found the sessions engaging.
“I discovered today that I might actually want to pursue journalism in college,” said Lexie Rodriguez, Thompson Valley High School sophomore.
Others learned new writing techniques.
“In one of the first sessions on sports reporting, I learned new ways to cover stories,” said Katie Schwartz, TVHS junior.”It would be interesting to cover former students who have moved on to play sports in college.”
Collegian Interactive News Team Member Katie Schmidt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KatieDSchmidt.