Some 400 high school journalists from around Alabama descended on Troy University on Oct. 20 for the Hall School of Journalism and Communication’s J-Day.
The event brings high school students in for a series of workshops ranging from photography to yearbook design to writing and reporting, taught by industry professionals, TROY alumni and Hall School faculty members. The students have the choice to focus on multimedia journalism (storytelling, photography, and design), broadcast journalism (storytelling, TV production and videography) or yearbook (theme, design, and photography).
For the students, the half-day workshop and awards presentation is action packed, but is also aimed to give them practical experience in print and broadcast journalism.
“I’m wanting to go into the field of journalism, hopefully as an editor,” said Booker T. Washington Magnet School senior Joshua Stout.
“I’m hoping to gain hands-on experience – something I can use back at my high school and also in college and outside of college,” he said.
BTW is rejuvenating its long-defunct school newspaper, and Stout is the editor. Creative Writing instructor Ken Spear, himself a 1987 Hall School graduate, is hoping The Washingtonian staff will benefit by having its editorial leadership attend J-Day.
“I think this is a great opportunity for young, aspiring journalists – even if they’re not going into journalism. They still get the experience to see what it all entails,” he said, noting that Stout and executive editor Chelsye Nichols were using the day as a “Train-the-Trainer” opportunity to take back to the school newspaper staff.
“I’m hoping to learn to better tell a story,” Nichols said. “I’m not planning to go into journalism but I hope to use the tools I’m learning in journalism and English to better prepare me for nursing school.”
High school journalists are not the only ones who benefit from attending J-Day, however. Various school clubs also have members attend to gain experience for club activities.
Lily Centener and Moriah Crowwell are both members of Future Business Leaders of America at Red Level High School near Andalusia. Both say J-Day helps them be a stronger FBLA club.
“I think the best thing about J-Day is the networking we get to do – meeting other people from other schools and getting to learn new things from different perspectives,” Crowwell said.
A junior, she’s a veteran J-Day participant.
Centener said her most helpful sessions center around design, which helps the club’s marketing flyers be stronger.
For J-Day instructors, the experience is rewarding. Most classes are taught by faculty and staff members, or alumni who are working professional in the media.
This year’s line included Jahmal Kennedy’s sports reporting class. Kennedy, a Hall School alumnus, works the sports desk for Montgomery’s WSFA. The news station’s Brady Talbert, also an alumnus, covered storytelling and Hall School faculty member Stefanie East, a former WAKA news anchor, talked to students about on-air presentation. Other TROY staffers providing support were Aaron Taylor, TROY Trojanvision’s manager, and Jeff Herring, Trojanvision’s executive producer, who covered television production while TROY alumna Rachel Arnold taught design. Ellen Skrmetti handled Yearbook and Dr. Ava Tabb concentrated on social media while Melissa Voynich’s workshop centered on organizational communication for advisors and student leaders.
University Relations Coordinator Savanah Weed, also an alumna of the Hall School, taught photography.
“The students have been engaged and are asking a lot of questions — they seem very excited to be here,” she said. “They want to know more about photography, more about TROY, they want to know more about journalism, and they’re excited to be around people who can answer these questions for them.”