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LHHS journalism students get real-world experience

Students in the Digital Communications class at Lake Havasu High School get more than a letter grade for their efforts. They also get a technical education in journalism and media in all its forms by producing copy for print publications and content for broadcast journalism.

“Kids in here learn real-life skills,” said instructor Crystal Norman, who has been teaching the class for nine years at the high school. “They learn to be self-motivated and have a strong work ethic.”

Students are also taught about business ethics. At the beginning of class on one particular day, Norman announced the parameters for using a press pass.

“You can use your pass to get into places like other teachers’ classes when you’re working on a story. But don’t abuse the pass just to get into an event — like a football game — for free,” she warned.

Student Editor-in-chief Alicia Medina and film production head Cameron Salas joined Norman to make more brief announcements to the class. Shortly after, students quickly scattered to various desks and computer workstations around the large classroom to work on their assignments. Others headed to the adjacent video recording studio to shoot videos and complete photography projects.

The industriousness of her students put a smile on Norman’s face. She clearly enjoyed being surrounded by teenagers who had an enthusiasm for the work. The atmosphere of camaraderie they had built was a bonus for their instructor.

“Students are here because they want to be here. They think they can make a difference in the world,” Norman said.

While their global influence may be a few years away, the students definitely make an impact at their high school by spreading news to other students. Their list of responsibilities is broad.

“They do announcements every morning for the school,” said Norman. “The students also publish news on our website, produce a Royal Report for our YouTube channel and produce a Knightlife page in Today’s News-Herald every month.”

The Digital Communications class is a four-year course that begins in a student’s freshman year.

“It’s an introduction year. They learn about journalism ethics, student press law and objective reporting. We talk about fake news,” said Norman. “That part is important because most of these kids get their news through social media.”

It is typical for one or two students from the freshman class to drop out of the program each year.

“They find out they aren’t truly interested in journalism or the workload is just too much,” she said, noting that she has 36 freshmen in the introductory class this school year.

The hands-on work comes when students are sophomores, juniors and seniors. They learn the nuts and bolts of the job, including how to do research and how to write ledes for stories, Norman said. A lede is the introductory portion of a news story, especially the first sentence. A compelling lede entices a reader to read more of the story.

Students in broadcast are assigned roles such as editor, anchor or tech. Cameron Salas leads his fellow students through those assignments.

“It takes teamwork,” Salas said. “It has taught me a lot about leadership.”

While the Digital Communications class occurs at the high school’s campus, it is partially funded by WAVE (Western Arizona Vocational Education), said WAVE’s program coordinator Kim Santangelo.

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Pam Ashley, Today's News-Herald
Aug 29, 2019

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