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HSJ Institute Times ASNE H.S.J. Institute at UT-Austin Austin, TX
Issue Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 Issue: 2012 UT ASNE Reynolds Institute Last Update: Monday, July 02, 2012
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Reports from the UT ASNE Reynolds High School Journalism Institute

At-a-glance

Sheryl Barto from Aspen, Co. and Jenna Wittwer from Cleveland, Ohio evaluate a school newspaper. They are participating in the ASNE institute and taking part in a session on critiquing high school publications. - Marc Murdock
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According to award winning journalism teacher Janet Elbom, teaching journalism is not like any other class. “We see our kids more than their parents do,” she said. “We are teacher, mentor, friend and therapist. That’s what makes us special.”

Elbom’s Thursday afternoon session at the American Societies of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Institute focused on critiquing high school newspapers, but the underlying message was on the value of the relationship between the adviser and the students, as well as the relationships students build with each other. If these relationships exist,  students can freely share both the positive and negative aspects of their latest publication, building on what is positive and correcting what is negative.

Staff relationships are  important because, according to Elbom, critiquing is the most important part of the paper production process. Critiquing not only forces students to interact, it is an honest reflection of the quality of student work.

“It’s a nutshell of how things went. It is how you grow and how you learn.” In fact, the paper critique is the largest grade her students can earn. Only three of the ASNE participants have their students regularly critique their publications; however, Janelle Eastridge from Bakersville, Ca. can attest to the benefits of critiquing.

“After we put out our first paper and did a critique, the kids saw they were not very good at copy editing and making changes. Working together helped them take ownership of their paper,” she said. “It helped them to talk about the paper as a group.”

Eastridge also saw the benefits of using the critiquing process to bring her staff together. “It made them understand that we are in this together, not just independent.” Using the critique early in the year also helped them understand the production process. “They understand that if someone edits my paper, I need to make changes in order to make the paper better.”

In order for critiquing to be effective teaching tool, Elbom makes sure her students understand the elements of solid layout. She emphasizes the need for a dominant element on every page, different points of entry for each story and headlines that indicate which story is the most important. The writing needs to contain a compelling lead, a quote by the third paragraph and correct grammar and spelling.

The session ended with participants conducting a mock critique. The group, tired after a morning tour of the Austin American Statesman, seemed to enjoy the break in lectures to collaborate and further their understanding of solid journalism.Elbom took the backseat, modeling what a teacher should do, letting Travis Armknecht from St. Louis take on the role of student editor.

“We reverted back to the mentality of our students,” he said, referring to the way the teachers were quick to point our misspelled words and generic headlines.

“It was our first collaborative experience. A lot of the institute had been one way, with us in the passive receiving role, but in the critique, we were in the mix of it.”

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Cindy Royal

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Oscar Gomez-Garcia

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Travis Armknecht

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Sheryl Barto

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Dawn Begor

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April Braun

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Carlos Briano

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Katie Byrd

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Jami Cameron

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Deanna Caplett

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Tom Charles

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Carrie Coldicutt

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Jessica Coldren

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Erika Coley-Mincey

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Jessika Curry

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Janelle Eastridge

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Chelsea Gist

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Luken Grace

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Sarah Guthrie

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Shelley Hazen

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Angel Hill

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Jennifer Kim

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Beth Manz

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James Miller

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Mark Murdock

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Jason Prince

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Rosa Rodriguez

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Destiny Schipman

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Beth Schwitz

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Eileen Sullivan

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Jenna Wittwer

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