Sturgis Journalists Visit Harvard Crimson (Fall 2011)

By Alicia Pollard

Sturgis Students at Harvard Crimson Workshop

The Harvard Crimson, as a successful and completely student-run newspaper, inspired and taught me how to make the Stormwatch newspaper enjoyable and informative. This experience was also a unifying one for the staff as a whole; I feel that all the attendees will come back to school excited and with lots of ideas.

In the first seminar I attended, News Advanced, we mainly addressed sources and interviews – how to assess a source’s credibility, how to make them feel comfortable, how to ask good, non-leading questions, and who to ask. 

In the second seminar, Design Novice, we learned about how to structure a page to be visually appealing and relevant. What I learned in this seminar gave me the ideas of using more artwork and info-graphics, establishing guidelines for layout issues, and trying to switch to a more effective program such as In Design.
The keynote speaker was Carlotta Gall, a British journalist who currently works as a Foreign Correspondent for the New York Times. Her stories of work in Afghanistan were intriguing yet heart-breaking. Her presentation showed me how privileged I am to live in America, the importance of keeping informed and helping those less blessed, and to choose a career that I love to be truly successful.
The third seminar, Editors-in-Chief, addressed specific issues that faced the editors-in-chief from the schools that attended the seminar. We addressed how to motivate writers and write about controversial issues. This seminar motivated me to try harder to build a community with the Stormwatch staff; it also encouraged me to not be afraid to write controversially, though I don’t plan to greatly criticize or embarrass the administration.
Looking at the conference as a whole, I learned many ways to make our newspaper better quality, more accessible, more appealing, and more on-time. I enjoyed the time to get to know students from other schools and hope that the Sturgis staff will be able to apply what we learned to make Stormwatch better.
Thursday’s workshop:
After a week of trying to choose the right time with at least ten different schedules to work with, the leadership finally decided on a date for the staff training session. For now, we decided to shorten it to one session on Thursday, November 10 from 3:30-5:30 pm. Despite some complications with schedule conflicts that shrunk the group, I think the session went very well.
We began the session with the activity of interviewing STAGE participants who were getting their pictures  taken across the hallway, trying to get at least 3 interviews each with quotes about the play. This exercise was good practice for getting random quotes for an article. The skill of approaching anyone for a quote to get “the layman’s view” is harder than it sounds, especially with fellow students, but it sharpens communication skills and confidence.
Next, Meghan and I began the teaching part of the session, talking about coming up with story ideas and interviews. I shared what techniques I knew about finding and interviewing sources both from the Harvard workshop and my own experience: how to figure out who is affected by a story, making a source feel comfortable, and accurately reporting quotes. Meghan shared an exercise she had done at a journalism workshop at Columbia University this summer, coming up with story ideas from a random and general topic and then connecting them to Sturgis. We then talked about the “lede” of a newspaper story, the beginning 25-35 word sentence that is supposed to grab the reader’s attention, and practiced constructing effective ledes with a sample story. At the end, Mr. Hyer showed us the basics of how to work with Microsoft Publisher to construct a page.
The session had a very comfortable and creative atmosphere; we discussed past issues of the school and newspaper and came up with several timeless story ideas to use in the future. I felt that everyone grew from the experience; I gained experience about teaching even as I taught some of the basics of reporting. As a whole, this staff training session was a success.
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