Opinion editor learns from engaging experience at NHSJC

April 26, 2023

After an hour on the BART subway train and a few minutes of walking in the cold San Francisco night, we arrived at the grand doors of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel. From April 20-22, the National High School Journalism Convention (NHSJC) – which is sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association – occurred, with five Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) students in attendance. The event brought in over 3,000 student journalists from around the country. This was my first time on staff attending such a convention and I found it absolutely amazing.  

We arrived a day earlier on April 19, giving us just enough time to find our rooms and unpack. The convention began the next day, where students attended hands-on pre-convention sessions. I attended the “Advanced InDesign” session, led by associate professor Bradley Wilson of Midwestern State University in Texas. It was four hours long and incredibly informative. I learned about metadata, typing on pathways, drop shadow, how to use parent pages and image text in Adobe’s InDesign, the program used to create our news magazine. All of this was really useful, as InDesign will be easier to navigate the next time I create a spread for our magazine. 

At the end of April 20, there was the opening ceremony where our Print Editor-in-Chief Delilah Brumer, was named a finalist for National Journalist of the Year. She was named California Journalist of the Year in February. Each time an award nominee was announced, the auditorium erupted in claps and cheers– when the ceremony was over, my hands were red from clapping so hard. Finalists for the Pacemaker Awards in Yearbook and Website categories were also announced.

The keynote speaker of this year’s convention was Peter Hartlaub, The San Francisco Chronicle’s culture critic and co-founder of the Total SF podcast. He encouraged student journalists in the audience to pursue the truth rather than sensationalize. 

Our first activity on April 21 was the National Journalism Quiz Bowl qualifying test, which we passed. The test focused on a variety of topics from current events to U.S. history. Scoring high would mean you were qualified for the Quiz Bowl. We were eligible to compete after we placed eighth out of sixteen at the qualifier. 

The second session was Break with a Pro, a 45-minute roundtable discussion where students were able to speak with a professional journalist. My pro was a retired sports columnist, Mark Purdy of The Mercury News, who advised us how to write better opinion articles and why opinion articles are valuable. It was incredibly exciting to ask a professional in the field about his past work, the impact it had and what his general thought process was when writing. 

In my next session, I was able to hear Aaron Manfull, director of student media at Francis Howell North High School in Missouri, present on “Recruitment for Journalism.” The session was meant to advise students and staff on recruitment strategies for their publication classes. This felt extremely topical to me, as DPMHS’ Student Media recruitment time has begun

Other sessions I attended included  “Spreads so shook” and “Editorial leadership.” I found both experiences rewarding, especially the former as it covered design, something I wish to improve upon. Whereas “Advanced InDesign” was more focused on the technical tools of InDesign, “Spreads so shook” by PicaPlanet’s Steve Kent focused more on the artistic side.

After lunch, two breaks and my two-hour “Editorial Leadership” session came to an end, the time for the National Student Media Contests began. I competed in Editorial Writing, where participants were tasked with writing an editorial addressed to fictional school policymakers on what to do about Chat GPT. I found the experience, much like every other competition I participated in, to be nerve-wracking because of the stifling silence. 

The final day started with us filing into a giant auditorium to compete in the Quiz Bowl. It was a quick-time buzzer event with questions about AP style like “write out numerals after this number” or about current events, like the earthquake in Turkey. I unfortunately froze out of nervousness, even on the questions I knew. On a question about a unit of measurement used in page design, where the actual answer was pica, I thought of every word under the sun that started with pi, but none of them pica. We ended up losing in the second round, with a score of 4-6 against another team. 

We also had our website critiqued in the morning by Leeland Mallett, adviser of the Texas Legacy High School’s website the Rider Online. He gave us advice on how to make it more engaging. 

The day proceeded as the previous one did, with multiple sessions available to students like “Caption magic,” “Transgender inclusivity in journalism” and “Covering the hard stuff.” I found “Covering the hard stuff” by Master Journalism Educator Janet Ewell and Hillary Davis, of the Student Press Law Center, useful as it provided students with legal resources in case they find themselves in hot water. “Transgender inclusivity in journalism” advised students on how to responsibly cover transgender people in stories about trans topics, good and bad. 

When 3:30 p.m. arrived, we filed into a grand ballroom for the closing ceremony of the three-day event. Though Brumer was not named National Journalist of the Year, she was one of the four runner-ups and received the Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht Scholarship for it. She also won Excellence for her work in the news editing section of the Student Media Contests. I’m incredibly happy for all her accomplishments. 

The Pearl Post received 8th place for Best of Show in the small schools newsmagazine category. 

Overall, the convention was a very busy but fun trip where we learned ways of improving our journalistic skills, while also being given the opportunity to tour parts of the country we had never seen before. I found this incredibly amazing and extremely fun. I strongly look forward to the next convention I’ll be able to attend in the next school year.

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