Twelve high school students from the DFW area, loaded down with luggage, opened the doors to the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine and walked across the lobby. In the corner near the check-in desk, faculty from the University of North Texas waited for the young journalists. Here began the first Mayborn Multimedia High School Journalism Workshop.
The workshop lasted eight days. The first four days, the students attended the 10th Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and interviewed authors and other attendees. Mayborn’s Dean Dorothy Bland made it possible for the high school journalists to meet the professionals.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity; it gives [the students] a head start on [their] careers,” Bland said. She added that they had a chance “to interact with some amazing folks who are working journalists, amazing faculty and… some of the best in the business.”
The students listened to several speakers, which included Samra Bufkins on social media, Junebug Clark on still photography, Kathie Hinnen on news writing, Nann Goplerud and Michelle Redmond on broadcast, as well as the director of the workshop, Dave Tracy, on broadcast. The goal: teach young journalists about the various multimedia platforms that journalists use in their careers.
“We’ll be blogging and being on social media as well as eveything else because that’s what is going to be required for a job,” Tracy said. “I want everybody to come away feeling like they’re in better shape for a career as a professional journalist than they were before.”
Throughout the conference, the students worked with video and social media aspects of storytelling.
“I understand that, as young journalists, [they're] going to be asked to create content and tell stories on multiple platforms,” Bland said. “That’s why I think this multimedia workshop is so important.”
Students learned how to make the most of their social media sites, especially Twitter.
“I learned the importance of hashtags,” workshop participant Madisen Reid said. “They can actually serve a purpose to connect people worldwide.”
Besides listening to lectures and working hands-on with multimedia tools during classes, the young journalists were guests at conference meals, including the Literary Lights Dinner. Well-known authors and journalists like David Quammen and Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright spoke to the crowd about topics ranging from medicinal advancements to terrorism.
“[The students] had college instruction [and] professors talking to them,” Tracy said. “So I want to think that they’ve jumped a year or two. They’re operating on a college level when they get back to school. Hopefully their advisers will like that.”
The last four days of the workshop were spent at the UNT campus. The students covered stories in and around the college community. Working like investigative journalists, they told local, as well as unusual, stories about alligators, CSI and innovative energy use.
“Everything we’ve learned will benefit me someway in my profession,” Reid said.
From dorm life to broadcast journalism classes, the students got a taste of the college experience. They were able to cover stories as if they were reporting for the campus news station.
“Getting out of my comfort zone as a reporter,” Reid said. “Having assignments and having to actually go out and interview people…. It’s been great growing in confidence.”
The workshop helped students like Reid to discover what they want to learn more about in the future. All of their work will be posted on a Word Press site, www.thecuttingedge.themaybornproject.com, for students to see and learn from. Bland has hopes that the bar will be set high for future students to come.
“I think it’s amazing that [the students] had the opportunity to get on the UNT campus,” Bland said. “To go there and experience things; that’s what this multimedia workshop is all about.”