Friday, September 25, 2009

Reporting for The Washington Post

By Hojung Lee (Ellicott City, MD)

A pen, a reporter's notepad and a tape recorder: these used to be all the materials I needed to report these past few years. This past summer, however, I carried around an SLR digital camera and a Marantz PMD660, a professional portable digital recorder.

I was fortunate in being selected for The Washington Post Digital Workshop, a 5-day, intensive course teaching us how to incorporate multimedia in our reporting and show viewers something more than the written word.

When two of my fellow journalists and I pitched a story about how the recession affects schools around the D.C. metropolitan area, we struggled with how we could execute the piece successfully through multimedia. After all, visual effects are the linchpins of multimedia -- but we were unable to show the strong visual side of the story such as the lack of teachers and big classroom sizes because schools were empty over the summer. Time was ticking and we had to prove to our supervisors that we could make this work.

I bombarded principals and communications officers in the D.C. metropolitan area with phone calls and emails. The waiting time for their responses was agonizing but as replies came, some schools informed me that they were going through renovations and construction. This led to a conclusion that even though schools face economic hardships with teachers' salaries being frozen and students' families suffering from housing foreclosures, schools were trying their best to maintain the status quo by prioritizing education and providing a good learning environment.

We then plunged ourselves in interviews, working simultaneously with audio recording and photographs. This was very tricky to do because the photographer had to make sure every second that he or she takes photos, the audio recorder was not playing so that the camera shutter sound wouldn't interfere with the speaker's recorded voice. After hours of interviewing, traveling, and iPhone map navigating, I got back to the newsroom of the Post, exhausted. Now it was time for the hardest, most time-consuming part of the job: editing.

Overall, my group had over 700 photos and about two hours of recording. From this, we could only choose 20 photos and 2 minutes of recordings for about a three-minute-long audio slideshow. In addition,  all of the different audio recordings and photos had to be arranged so that it flowed and connected thematically.

The task was burdensome, especially because we only had a few days to complete the project. On top of a stack of photos and voice recordings, we also had to master Mac software we were unfamiliar with. We had to make sure that every second of the edited voice recording did not abruptly start or end,  that the volume was high enough, that there was natural sound incorporated with the human voice, that sometimes the voice fades in and out and that the timing of photos matched the recordings. Fortunately, with generous help from the Post's multimedia journalist volunteers, we made the deadline and left the Post building, fatigued, eyes bloodshot but ultimately proud of our work.

This experience was not just about handling fancy equipment or meeting renowned and well-recognized Post journalists. Rather, it was an opportunity that opened up a door for me to the world of journalism and the digital era -- journalism is no longer just about pens, notepads, and tape recorders. It is also about adapting to the new age of multimedia.

--Hojung Lee is a senior at Mount Hebron High School and a 2008 alumna of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Behind the scenes at The Daily Princetonian: Writing Obituaries

By Tasnim Shamma (Jamaica, NY)

Yesterday was extremely draining. Having woken up at 7:30 A.M. for some odd reason, I could already sense that it was going to be a long day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sudoku-ing the stress away

(Photo Credit:
By Vanessa Flores-Maldonado (Los Angeles, California)

Yes, dear friends, I am addicted to Sudoku.

I know, I know, I should not be wasting time playing this wonderful game especially when my "To Do List" is equivalent in  size to the encyclopedia, but I need Sudoku.

Everyone has their own thing when they are stressed. Some cry, others draw, maybe they'll even break out in song. And while I do many other things to relax, I would say that when I start playing Sudoku, I really really am stressed out.

And how could I not be? College applications, internship, AP classes, family! Oh, and Questbridge due in 2 weeks!

While I am super excited for graduation (9 months! exactly), time really is going by. I mean, wasn't it just the other day that we were being held up by Chiquita Bandita?

It's our last year of high school before we disseminate (SAT WORD!) into the world. We are off to college, starting our own lives, getting our first jobs, meeting new people, and just being on our own. It's quite surprising how we just have months before we are thrust into the world.

I'm excited.

But, in order to make sure that I'll be able to survive said world, I should finish up all work I have for my classes, SAT prep, internship, newspaper (editor in chief :D), senior project, and make take a breather somewhere in that list.

As soon as I finish playing this round of Sudoku.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Funding a high school newspaper

By A.J. Kazlouski (Colorado Springs, CO) 

The Sentinel, our school paper of which I am the Chief Designer, is completely broke. In fact, we're $1,000 in the hole. Plus, we're hitting a rough patch in finding advertisements.

This is a bit of a problem.

Tomorrow we're doing an advertising blitz, and we'll probably do something similar next Saturday as well. It's a ridiculous process trying to get ads.

A lot of the time you get shut down, a lot of the time you try and try with no luck. It gets disheartening, for sure. But we can't put out our first issue if we don't have the funds to produce it, because we obviously can't stack up any more debt. It just astounds me how local businesses don't jump on the idea of getting ads right where students are looking!

Hopefully it all works out. I'll send an e-mail to the local library to see if they're interested right after I finish this blog post.

Also, college stuff is really getting to me. I'm freaking out a bit. But I don't feel like writing about it in hopes that I can get my mind off of it for just a second.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The SJP support network

 From left, top row: SJP founding director Greg Mancini '01, counselor Ben Crair (UPenn '07), SJP founding director Richard Just '01. Bottom row: Counselor Becky Myers (Duke '04), SJP founding director Michael Koike '01, counselor Melisa Gao '06 and SJP founding director Rich Tucker '01. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)
By Alexandria Sharpe (Brooklyn, NY)

I see it already in my fellow SJP students: stress over the college application process. What I also see is gratefulness that we have the support of everyone from the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program.

This is the beginning of the process but I have already needed their support, and for that I have not had to look far.

So far I have shared excitement with Amanda Cormier (SJP '07/Columbia ’12) over going to schools on the same island, picked Keith Griffin’s (SJP '05/Princeton ’10) brain about the world, received extremely useful SAT prep advice from RubĂ©n Gaytan Lemus (SJP '07/Yale ’12), blasted e-mails out to two of the four SJP founding directors Richard Just '01 and Greg Mancini '01, quizzed Andrew Boryga (SJP '08/Cornell ’13) on the world of early decision, shared my college concerns with another student Reem Abdou, maintained a close bond with my former roommate and “California sister” Joanne Yi and bugged Tasnim Shamma (SJP '06/Princeton ’11) on just about EVERYTHING (all while keeping up a Facebook thread with students Ana Rivera, Brianda Reyes, Jancey Taveras and Melissa Sanchez).

The students I mentioned have said that they don’t know what they would be doing if it were not for SJP. The truth is, many of us would have been lost. I keep it in my mind and I hope all fellow SJP '09 students do as well: we all have the support of one another during this pivotal process.

While all seniors from our respective high schools will be feeling the same, we are the fortunate few who have had this experience.

Now a month has passed since we all stayed at an Ivy League University with students from all around the country who shared a common interest. Although plane tickets and train tickets parted our ways, we still stay in touch. This is what is important because it is the encouragement we have from each other that will keep us determined to succeed in the college admissions process.

I miss you all and I wish you the best of luck.