Nearly 700 Oregon middle and high school students recently spent a full day on the UO campus learning what it takes to become communications and media professionals.
Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics Chair Jose Antonio Vargas — a Pulitzer Prize winner who ignited controversy with his Time magazine cover story about life as an undocumented immigrant — opened the day with a keynote address about what he has learned as a journalist who is openly gay and living in the United States illegally.
“You are a human being before you are a journalist,” Vargas said in front of an Erb Memorial Union ballroom full of aspiring young communicators.
Following the address, the students had their pick of more than 30 sessions led by industry experts and School of Journalism and Communication faculty members. Attendees got a sneak peek at college-level instruction while learning and practicing skills they will need in the rapidly evolving communications and media fields.
Instructor Lori Shontz has led Fall Press Day workshops on sports journalism for the past four years. Her session, which drew a standing-room-only crowd, addressed how to cover sports events without using clichés.
“The idea was to think about ways to cover the sports and the teams and the athletes at their high school that didn’t sound like the most boring part of ‘Sports Center,’” Shontz said.
Ethics was also a major topic of the day, with sessions including “Truth and Justice: A Primer for Mild-Mannered Reporters” with McMinnville News-Register business and religion editor Tom Henderson, “Covering LGBTQ+ Issues in High School” with media studies doctoral student and instructor Bethany Howe, and “Online Student Speech as an Evolving First Amendment Challenge” with Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair Kyu Ho Youm.
Other workshops covered approaches to multimedia storytelling across communications disciplines, including design.
“One of things that always interests me about Fall Press Day is learning new things specifically about layout,” said South Salem High School junior Mackenzie Wolf, who came with a goal of building design confidence for her new position as opinion page editor for her school magazine.
Between sessions, some students proudly picked out their school yearbooks among those decorating tables in the hall, while others checked out their peers’ work.
“I like meeting people from other schools who have the same goals,” said Lizzy Palmquist, a South Salem High School senior who returned to Fall Press Day after attending last year. “They all work on newspapers or some form of media outlet. In your own school, you don’t necessarily have anyone else who relates to what you’re doing, so it’s cool to meet other people who can relate to you.”
One of the goals of Fall Press Day, which will become Fall Media Day in 2018, is to introduce Oregon high school students to the School of Journalism and Communication. The school launched a similar event, Portland Media Day, at the UO’s Portland campus in March.
Chaela Barnes, a UO pre-journalism major who attended Fall Press Day every year in high school, said the event helped her decide where to go to college.
“The first time I stepped on campus was for Fall Press Day,” Barnes said. “And just coming back over and over again solidified this is where I want to go, this is what I want to do and this is who I want to become.”
Anthony Whitten, NextGen Media outreach coordinator for the School of Journalism and Communication and executive director of Northwest Scholastic Press, said his main goal for Fall Press Day was to teach students something new. He also encouraged those whose interest was piqued at the event to attend Next Generation Storytelling, a summer residential program that immerses students in a full week of skill-building on the UO campus.
But he also sees the annual media day as a way to change how parents view their children’s professional prospects in the journalism and communications fields.
“Parents are thinking that jobs in media are dead,” Whitten said. “We want to change that.”
—By Becky Hoag, School of Journalism and Communication