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SJW Spotlight: Ms. Kundel, Journalism Advisor


by Ms. Kundel, TAS Journalism Advisor


Next week, February 21-27, is Scholastic Journalism Week. Now, I know that’s not the world’s most popular week to celebrate. How can a group of student writers compare with Chinese New Year, Spring Break, or other more mainstream holidays? During Scholastic Journalism Week, no one gets school off, no one gets less homework, and there aren’t any special foods that journalists eat this special week.

But it is special. And high school journalism does matter. Here is why you should care about the work that The Blue & GoldThe Blue & GreenExpression magazine, Tiger TV, the Documentary Film class and all other aspiring citizen journalists do. Whether their stories appear in print or on Snapchat, the bulletin board or a blog, I believe Scholastic Journalism can and should be a core English class in high school. These students (and perhaps even you, dear reader) may elect to join in these student press groups, but there’s nothing “elective” about what scholastic journalists attempt every day.

Scholastic Journalism via

For high school journalists, there is no such thing as busy work. Every assignment they pursue Homework matters – it’s relevant, timely, fun, interactive, and helps to build your college resume/academic brand. All of your pieces – whether they were successful or, well, less-successful – stick with you. I remember the very first music review I ever wrote for my high school newspaper (@xpressnewspaper); it was this bomb of a piece on the Arctic Monkey’s 2009 album, Humbug. I listened to the album countless times. Spent hours attempting to learn how to be “opinionated” on music by reading as many music reviews as possible. And after all my hard – NOT busy – work: the mother of a friend of mine wrote me a handwritten letter saying that I had potential but that I need to learn the difference between riff and rift. One results in beautiful guitar music, the other in earthquakes. *FACE PALM* Note: This was over a decade ago and I still remember this very important lesson because it mattered more. The stakes were higher than in my other classes. In Calculus or AP English, the only thing I was risking when I turned in a homework assignment were imaginary points awarded to me by scholastic fairies. In journalism? My credibility was on the line each and every time I wrote and published an article for others to read/critique. My readers weren’t just judging my words; they were judging me (and they still aren’t).


Here are my top 10 reasons for taking journalism:

  1. Scholastic journalists aren’t just learning a textbook or memorizing equations: they are thinking on their feet, learning communication and problem solving skills “on the job” that will benefit you in college and in life. If you’re a journalist, you’re all aboutimproving yourselfand your skills from one article to another. #saynotostatusquo #growthmindset #problemsolver
  2. Scholastic journalists are tech-savvy. We write on Google Docs and spreadsheets. We take pictures with our cell phones and then turn around and edit them in Adobe Photoshop. We spend hours (sometimes DAYS) staring at Adobe InDesign, willing our newspages to design themselves (for some reason, they never acquiesce). We Tweet, we Post, we Blog, we Follow, we Comment, we Edit, we Publish – all with our various technological friends. if you’re a journalist, you’re all about figuring out which tech tools will help you accomplish A-Z as quickly (and beautifully) as possible.
  3. Scholastic journalists are storytellers. We take facts, events, patterns and weave them into narratives that people can relate to and occasionally learn from. We learn to notice things about people and institutions that many other people take for granted. And then we share this information in a digestible way for you. These stories benefit the audience and the teller. If you’re a journalist, you’re a magician with words who helps people see things that before were invisible.  
  4. Scholastic journalists are people-persons. When you are forced to talk to people as part of your job (or class), forced to interact with them and ask them uncomfortable questions, you build up your empathy and listening skills. If you’re a journalist, you become braveenough to talk to strangers on the street, but kind enough to do so with a smile.  (Shoutout to @tas_journalismand @tasblueandgold staff members, Amanda H and Jocelyn C, for always speaking to stranger in Mandarin for me! #bravelittlejournalists)

Photo Credit:

  1. Scholastic journalists get and value feedback. In our newspaper class, you receive constantindividualized coachingand an individualized work schedule. This class, and the profession, is flexible because it must be. Different writers need different comments in order to improve. Different stories need different lengths of time in order to be fully explored. If you’re a journalist, you love that every day brings different successes and frustrations and that your editors are there to celebrate and/or help you through each.
  2. Scholastic journalists are introverts and extroverts. Gone are the days when journalists had to be gregarious, pushy, in-your-face gonzos. If you’re a journalist, you know that this profession is good for people who like to collaborate, but that it’s also good for people who like to work by themselves.
  3. Scholastic journalists do it all – reading, writing, ‘rithmatic – you name it, we cover it. Participating in this class or profession helps students use their creativity and artistry without being overly “art-y” (if that makes sense). We have to engage in analytical thinking/communication, while also tapping into the aesthetic sides of ourselves in order to design pages, take pictures, and think outside the proverbial box. If you’re a journalist, you aren’t just a “left brain” or a “right brain” thinker: you use your whole brain.

Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos

  1. Scholastic journalists know that their words directly affect other people and their opinions, possibly even their decisions. We investigate and we question; we write and publish; then, miraculously, people read what we write. As Margaret Atwood eloquently puts it, “A word after a word after a word is power.”If you’re a journalist, you enjoy being in the spotlight and under
    stand the responsibilities of that position.

  2. Scholastic journalists are resilienthuman beings. When I first accepted the position as journalism teacher at TAS, one colleague reflected to me that journalism is the “Only form of art where it is published and people will judge you based on your art and think that they can do better.” Very rarely do people go to a dance recital and feel this way as they walk out of the auditorium. Very rarely do people go to an art exhibit, play, or chorus concert, saying that so-and-so piece was riddled with errors and that they can’t believe they were allowed to perform. And yet with journalists and their articles, the internet is full of people critiquing every angle of a piece because they believe, somewhat erroneously, that the ability to read and write and speak automatically equates to journalistic potential and/or achievement. Regardless of your fame (or lack thereof), people love you and hate you for your words, all within one issue. If you are a journalist, you understand that people are fickle; you have grown a thick skin. In fact, you might even revel in this controversy! #grit

  3. Scholastic journalists aren’t stressed about making the grade. To be fair, when taken as a class in high school, this is usually an“easy A” class – in large part because of the flexibility and individualization mentioned before. But, beyond this, journalists are curious and interested in getting their story across; this may take one draft or this might take 100 drafts. They know that the “grade” assigned is just one more subjective reader attempting to capture the journalist’s effort and integrity; they also know that the story can always be better. If you’re a journalist, you know that the “grade” is just one more piece of feedback in a long line of reflection and growth.

If you’re a journalist, can I get an “Amen”?

I challenge you. This week embrace your inner scholastic journalist by engaging in storytelling online or in person. Or if you’re not there yet, celebrate those that you know who are attempting to do this. If you come join us in this serious, sometimes silly, always engaging calling, I promise you: your GPA won’t be sorry, your resume won’t be sorry, your readers won’t be sorry, and most importantly you won’t be sorry.


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