Senior reports on journalism experience


Katie Hoffman

This past November, I traveled to Washington D.C. for the National High School Journalism convention.

When I was in fifth grade, I was a part of a school newspaper. Of course, my elementary school did not have a school newspaper, but in a weird coincidence, Jane Rogers, the current editor-in-chief for TSP, and I, created our own school newspaper. We interviewed teachers, wrote reviews, and even created a crossword.

Ironically enough, here we are seven years later, doing the same exact thing.

When I went to my counselor and put “Journalism” on my course request form sophomore year, it took me the rest of the semester to realize that meant being a part of the school newspaper. Like a solid number of other people at school, I was relatively unaware of the existence of The Scratching Post.

Once I had realized what this entailed, I was less than thrilled with the concept.

My junior year, if I could have described what would have made the worst possible class, I would say something along the lines of a class with loose structure, independent work, and requirements of going up to random people. Lucky for me, this class checked all of the boxes.

To shed some light onto the process that the magazine goes through, particularly for the writers, we get an assignment of the story we’re writing, and we have a pretty short period to get our interviews done and write our complete story.

We have check-ins and editors, and grades due, but throughout the weeks, there is no one forcing you to do anything. No one is setting up your interviews for you or telling you the information you’re supposed to find out.
I cannot express enough how much I struggled through that environment. I was used to the traditional school system. Everything is routine and expected. Journalism is not that. If anyone ever invents a blueprint on how to write an article about vaping or high school crushes I would love to know.

At the same time, though, I have found that this type of work space has taught me how to learn in a different way. I am more self-sufficient, and I can take ownership over my work. Every article, good or bad, is all my work.
I have always been a shy person. I was the kid who wouldn’t say an entire word all throughout first grade. That being said, I did not enjoy interviews. Getting these interviews is not easy either. I feel like I have gone up to every single person in this school and asked if I can interview them. That has led to a ridiculous amount of nos, something that can be so discouraging.

This process has genuinely made me a more outgoing person. It’s kind of strange to say an assignment for a class can “change you,” but it’s clear to me that I am ten times as confident. I have also basically lost any fear of rejection.
Going from journalism last year to journalism this year was not something I was prepared for. As independent as this class is, you still have your editor, and I lived in this facade that this person knew absolutely everything. Whatever was missing from my story, they could fix it.

As an editor, I can say the reality is not this, as much as I wish it was. The system we go through and work we do in journalism is not a perfect system, but it’s a work in progress. It is something that every person has to be actively involved and engaged in for a greater purpose of creating a magazine.
There is an alternate universe where I try something like this, and I hate it. At the same time, though, there is a version where I try it, and I love it. That happened for me. Through all of the frustration and hard work, I was able to discover something I was passionate about.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I never would have even thought about majoring in journalism without this opportunity. How could I know that was something I was capable of doing, let alone wanted to do?
The best thing I ever did for myself in high school was go outside of my comfort zone. I discovered a different side of myself. I was able to make myself into a better learner and worker. I learned how to design a page for a magazine. I learned how to work well in a team. I learned how to be confident when asking people for an interview.

I don’t think everyone needs to clear a space in their schedule to take journalism next year. What I do think is that it’s not the worst thing in the world to try something new, whether it be a class, a club, a sport, a hobby-something that you don’t automatically lean towards because it seems scary or different.

I’ve found it to be very easy to get stuck in a routine of who you think you are. Breaking the cycle of what you’re comfortable with doesn’t necessarily mean losing any of who you are, more-so that it means you are adding to who you can be.