Last week I had the pleasure of making a presentation to Coffee County Middle School’s seventh grade English classes about how research is used in writing and how it pertains to my job on a daily basis.
Talk about nervous. Holly told me to “be funny and not put the kids to sleep.”
Easier said than done, right? I know that for some people writing just is not that thrilling. There are days when it isn’t for me, either. I also knew going in that doing something is one thing … talking about it is completely different.
So I picked through what the students were learning in class, did a lot of PowerPoint Google searches and patched something together (This project was good for my non-existent PowerPoint skills).
I think my brightest spot of the day and the attention holder was definitely the mini Snicker bars I kept in my pocket for those who participated in my trivia and tried to answer questions. And for the record, I only found one kid dozing off. But he was asleep before I even started talking.
I did break out a few examples of some stories the Times has reported on over the years that have made a difference in the community. In the middle of doing these presentations (four class periods worth) I found myself re-energized for what I do. Sometimes it can become a long, monotonous process, especially when the news is slow. But as I clicked through my samples and walked the students through some of our previous articles that were important reports, I remembered why I do what I do. I was able to show them how important research is to writing – especially when reporting quality, trustworthy news. (Of course I’ve seen what poor journalism looks like, too. It’s not too hard to find some.)
I was rewarded with a folder full of thank-you letters the next day and it is a good feeling to read through them and see that some kids, seventh-grade kids, are actually going to take the time out of their day to find the Manchester T imes online and find us on Facebook to keep up. Some even wrote that they hoped to pursue a career in journalism someday.
I think it’s certainly good for the future of journalism to get young people involved. It was certainly good for me to be involved with them.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29