Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Teaching the journalists of the future

If the parents of Millennium High School's budding journalist students knew who was to be guest lecturer in Wednesday's afternoon class, "excused absence" notes would have flown toward the attendance office.

But as I showed up with only last-minute notice, the teens were stuck. I just hope they got something out of it and weren't wholly dissuaded because of my presentation.

I was asked by the Tracy Press former Voice editor Jack Eddy and current Editor-in-Chief Cheri Matthews to talk about the role of a copy desk at a newspaper, even though trying to make copy editing sound exciting to teenagers is like trying to make rythmic gymnastics exciting to Raider Nation.

But these young adults were good about it, actually painting eyes on their eyelids to make me feel more comfortable about their dozing. (Just joking. School rules don't allow painted eyelids.)

I explained that without a copy desk — especially like the one at the TP — there would be no newspaper. News stories would be printed with holes in the narrative, facts would go unchecked, typos would be even more common, and the layout — well, without us, there would be no layout.

It's the unheralded part of a newspaper staff. Abuse it, downsize it, and eliminate it, though, and you're left with a newsletter instead of a newspaper. (Or an ANG-owned newspaper, take your pick.)

In truth, the five students in the Millennium class were attentive and interested. And they asked some good questions during my awkward pauses.

I hope to guest lecture there again some day. If, of course, the parents don't stop me.


Caren or Danielle said...

Are you kidding me, Jon Mendelson? How lucky were those aspiring journalists to hear from you with your excellent writing skills and cogent thoughts!

The other day Danielle mentioned writing a book about her first years as a rookie reporter. I followed up with the thought that perhaps the book would grow up to be a high school or even college textbook. Then Danielle could hit the lecture circuit sharing her experiences. Under the Tracy Press and Cheri's excellent tuteledge, Danielle would have quite a lot to share with young wanna-be journalists.

You lit the same candle with your copy editor lecture at Millennium
High. Never underestimate the power of peers reaching peers. A powerful influence for your generation. Of course this edges into my passion ~ teaching.

Bree said...

Hey Jon
Found your blog via facebook.
Cool to see what you are up to, career-wise.
I have a good feeling about you... You are shaking things up in the Central Valley, aren't you?
Perhaps I'll run into you one of these days... but most likely I'll just see you in 3 years at our reunion. Heh.

Bri Dellinger