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News Literacy Week: Hellgate High School students learn journalism lessons

Posted at 2:40 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 16:40:58-05

We’ve been working with young journalists from Hellgate High School for a month as part of National News Literacy Week to help them take their print skills to broadcast and to help them experience more of the fact gathering process.

Over the course of this project, they discovered the journalism is the same, the journey is not. It might be a different way of presenting the story, but whether you use a video camera or a notebook, at its core, this is journalism -- and it’s exciting.

“Just really enjoyed working with the crew and getting to know you guys and just being able to see what it is as a job,” sophomore Maggie Vann said. “And getting a look into the future into what I might possibly be doing someday.”

As they prepared their story on student’s perceptions of the University of Montana, they knew they needed some background information -- so, sophomore Ali Caudle started digging.

"I know that we have all of our archives, at least most of them -- online and on a digital database. And so I had the idea to go back through all of them and count the percentage of students attending the University of Montana and the percentage attending Montana State University in Bozeman because that way we could see some trends that might impact our article and our story, Caudle explained.

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“And this one seemed like a good one because it was clearly affecting a lot of people and since Missoula is kind of known for its university it might be a good story to cover on local news,” said Luke O’Connell who is the editor of the Hellgate Lance.

The student videographers, Solomon Kenworthy and Liam Queneau, were trained on the KPAX camera from promotions director James Rafferty and KPAX News director Eric Gaylord. It’s this A/V component of a broadcast story that adds a new element to storytelling.

“I was somewhat familiar with it. I’d never done it in person, but I researched this film and topic itself,” Kenworthy said. “It was a shock to be doing it in person. Sometimes you forget some small little thing and you have to say, ‘well, we have to do it again’ -- as we experienced. So small things like that I never took into consideration.

Advisor Jill Derryberry says she’s enjoyed watching the student’s enthusiasm over this project.

“I think by this point they see the power of journalism and they believe in that and see what its role is both in terms of our school and locally -- and then also nationally even nationally,” she said. “And I think it’s important to them to be a part of that and they take that role very seriously.”

We worked on the differences between writing for print and writing for TV and made a few minor script adjustments, worked on how to deliver the story with which words to emphasize.

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We cut the audio and got Queneau ready for his close up getting him comfortable reading on camera with a teleprompter. Then the crew sat down to edit it all together and watch their hard work, become a TV news story.

We asked them how important is journalism in a time where journalists are sometimes seen as the enemy?

“I think it’s really crucial to have a good democracy. As we’ve seen with lots of newspapers are saying, like without journalism we can’t have democracy,” O’Connell said. “And so, an attack on journalism is arguably an attack on democracy so it’s pretty crucial.”

The students told us that they appreciated the opportunity to tell a story because as leaders of the future, they want to be able to communicate what's important to them.