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Symposium gears young journalists for future, changes in the industry

Submitted by Lisa Lakey on September 30, 2010 – 1:01 pmNo Comment

UALR hosted 171 high school students representing eight Arkansas schools at the 2010 High School Journalism Symposium on Thursday, Sept. 23.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the UALR School of Mass Communication have collaborated for over 35 years to sponsor the event, which brings high school students together with faculty and other media professionals to discuss issues and trends in journalism.

Photo by Lisa Lakey — Professor Sonny Rhodes hands over the mike to keynote speaker, Arkansas’ SPJ President Kelly MacNeil. The School of Mass Communication has collaborated with SPJ for over 35 years to bring the event to high school students.

The symposium began at 10 a.m. with words from Dr. Angela Brenton, dean of the college of professional studies, and Dr. Jamie Byrne, director of the school of mass communication. “Take the time to learn from each other,” Dr. Byrne advised a crowd of mostly first-time guests.

Mass Communication Professor Sonny Rhodes presented the awards for high school journalists. Students submitted articles to compete for awards such as best feature and best sports writing.

This year’s keynote speaker was Kelly MacNeil, president of the Arkansas SPJ.  The main topic of her address was the importance of analysis in media.  “Information by itself is not always that helpful,” she said.

Students were invited to attend two of 16 sessions offered by various speakers.  Sessions ranged from “How to Interview Your Principal,” given by UALR SPJ President LaToya Sergent, to “Knowing the Score on Sports Reporting,” by THV Sports Director Wess Moore.  High school newspaper editors were encouraged to attend “Editors Supersession,” lead by The Forum Editor Rachel Hood.

Will Otter, an 18-year-old senior from Cabot High School, attended “Reaching Readers Through Social Media,” presented by Mass Communications Professor Amy Barnes and Jason Brown, UALR alum and public relations specialist for The Communications Group in Little Rock.

Otter felt that the session would be beneficial to launching a website for the school’s newspaper, The Panther Tale.  “I learned how to more effectively get stuff online,” Otter said. “If we have good content people will listen.”

Otter, a copy editor for The Panther Tale, was awarded second place for his submission in the features category.

The symposium was an opportunity for students to learn techniques and trends to apply to their own student publications, and actively think about their roles in future of journalism.

Dr. Byrne told students in her welcome address, “You folks are the future of our field.”

MacNeil said, “I want these kids to understand that just because news media is fractured somewhat, it’s still important [and] still vital that we have healthy news media.”

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