Summer preparation for incoming press staff

Summer preparation for incoming press staff

Welcome to the publication’s classroom! While some of you are walking through the doors to the room in August for the fourth year, for others it may be the first time. No matter how much experience you have though, there is always more to learn and review as a part of your summer preparation.

I’m excited to begin this year with you! I hope you’re excited, too. You may be feeling some uneasiness about doing something so new. That’s really okay. We all have a lot to learn, and we’re in this together.

Our publications, UHSpress and Odyssey Yearbook, are student-run publications. This means that as your teacher, I function as an adviser. I guide each publication through lessons, structure, and advice on how to handle difficult situations. However, the decisions are up to the student staff. That’s you.

This is a different mindset than a typical classroom, and it comes with its own set of struggles and fun. The biggest thing is this: You have to own the success of your program as though it is your own because it is. If you’re waiting for me to swoop in and solve every problem or to stand over you and direct every action, I’m sorry kid. That’s not this room.

Instead, you have to own your problems, work together to find solutions, and take charge of your learning process by seeking out knowledge where you are strong and where you are weak. Some of the biggest lessons you will learn in your high school years will be in this class.

I hope you seize this opportunity for what it is. That rather than becoming overwhelmed, you see each difficulty or scary task as a chance to do something brave and try. That’s what we ask from you here, to try to do something better than last time, every time. That you don’t accept mediocre work from yourself, and that you keep reaching and trying. I promise it is hard. I promise it is worth it.

So I hope you lean into this. Don’t think about what other people want from you and stop using their approval as a measure of your success. Instead, think about what you want from yourself and for yourself, and lean into this course as a way to get there.

Now, in preparation for the crash course in journalism and publications that you will receive the first few weeks of school, there are some things you can do to lay some groundwork. Some of it you may already be doing. Good for you, you little journalist you!

So here it is. A list of things you can do to prepare for a year on staff, whether it is your first or last year in room 4-212.



We are in the age of the podcast. This is awesome. You have the ability to listen to fantastic reporters interview and discuss in ways that will open your eyes to storytelling and news reporting. Here are some recommendations for podcasts to listen to as a part of your summer preparation for a publication class. While listening, try to consider the prompts below:

  1. How does the interviewer start the interview, discussion or story?
  2. What types of questions do they ask? Pay attention to the use of words who, what, where, when, why and how. Which of these elicits longer, more thoughtful responses?
  3. What type of statements does the journalist make? Do they provide statements as prompts to get their interviewer talking? Are they summarizing information or giving backstory?
  4. Consider the role of the reporter. What type of research and preparation did they have to do to be prepared for this?
  5. What about this podcast was interesting to you? Try to think of one sentence that describes why it was interesting. When you start writing stories, finding an angle to tell that story is challenging. Often we don’t think about what makes something interesting to us.
  6. Lastly, what’s the overall structure? How do they create flow through the content?

The Daily

“This is what the news should sound like. The biggest stories of our time, told by the best journalists in the world. Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, ready by 6 a.m.”

This is just a good, hey, here’s a story and why it matters type of podcast.

This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio program and podcast. Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme.”

This is one of the best and long-running podcast series where the journalist explores a topic for an extended piece of time. You’ll find yourself pulled into these stories and Ira Glass is incredibly talented. There’s a lot to learn just from listening to him.

The Time Ferriss Show

“Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.  This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”

I love listening to Tim talk to celebrities I know of and don’t know of. I finish feeling inspired. If anything, listen to how Tim works to open up his guests and get full, developed interviews that go deep beneath the surface.


Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season.”

This series is one of the most famous investigative journalism podcasts I know of and for good reason. It’s fascinating and smart, but mostly, an example of the art of journalism.

On the media

“While maintaining the civility and fairness that are the hallmarks of public radio, OTM tackles sticky issues with a frankness and transparency that has built trust with over one million weekly radio and podcast listeners.”

A look at the media, by the media. An interesting perspective on our current media stories.

Other podcasts

There are student journalism podcasts that can introduce and explain some of the specific content you’ll be introduced to shortly.

The Yearbook Whys

A yearbook podcast with a lot to offer, from offering advice to experiences.

They Teach That TV Production

I am the first to admit my weakest area in student journalism is TV production and video. Thankfully, resources like this exist.



You process media all the time. Seriously, all of the time. It’s time to start paying attention.

For instance, when you are on Instagram, start paying attention to which photos are good and which ones are bad. This isn’t rocket science. What makes you like a photo? Start a list of reasons why you like an image. Start considering what about it is interesting.

Also, while you have that phone out, start using it to take photos mindfully.

You’ll hear me use that word a lot, and it’s because I really believe that you need to be present with your learning. If you just point and shoot over years and years, you’ll get better slowly. But if you take the time to slow down, think about the strategies you’re learning, and apply them each time you take photos, you’ll go from meh to awesome in a year.

And while you are doing that, review these links:

10 Characteristics of Great Photos

Beginner’s Guide to Photography Composition

10 Composition Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

Youtube Tutorials

Movies & Shows

During your next Netflix binge, pay attention to the reasons why you love an episode or show so much, and other ones you just can’t sit through.

In news, there are reasons why we care about something, and it isn’t that different from what makes us care about a show or movie. These characteristics are very similar in features, and now is a good time to start identifying what a good story is to you.

There are also some great journalistic shows out now that can expose you to another form of journalistic reporting. Even just watching interviews of your favorite actors, musicians and athletes can teach you about what works best in an interview, an invaluable skill.


The Weekly

60 minutes

Magazines and advertisements

You’re going to be designing spreads, infographics and more soon. Why not start looking at how professional publications put their pages together?

Start collecting photographs of the designs you love. Practice talking about what you love about them. There is a lot that goes into design, a lot more than I can teach you in a year, but learning how to think about layout, headlines, font choices and color is essential to creating high-quality work.



It’s good to start reading the news with a critical eye, especially if you’re joining the news staff, as a part of your summer preparation. You need to know what’s going on in the world and locally. You can start by setting aside a block of time each day to catch up or listening to news podcasts on the way to work or school.

All student journalists can benefit from reading the news with an eye for structure. I feel like this practice gets lost in the business of the year, which is a terrible loss.

Consider this opinion article about a young girl, assaulted and ignored.

Or this set of articles that won Hannah Dreier the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. These powerful stories are heartbreaking, the writing the perfect ebb and flow of intimate detail and unforgiving facts.

We can learn a lot about story and the craft of journalistic writing by reading and really trying to see what tools the writer is using. How do they do what they do?

The Atlantic is my favorite resource to learn about long-form writing, with pages and pages of journalism that begs to be read until the end.

The stories you read should revolve around your interests, too. No one is asking you to be someone you’re not or care deeply for things you don’t. I am asking you to generally know what’s going on around you, but if you love sports, invest more time reading sports writing. See how those writers craft their stories. What works? When do you lose interest? What variety of story types do you find in the sports section?

And lastly, while you’re scrolling on YouTube, try searching different skills you want to get better at. Cute animals and beauty bloggers aside, there are thousands of tutorials at your fingertips. Some search suggestions:

  • journalism interview questions
  • better photos tutorial
  • journalism writing
  • design hierarchy

Good luck! I’m excited to talk to you about what you’ve been doing to prepare and all the things we have in store for this year. It’s going to be great. I can just feel it!

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