Breaking: high schooler discovers obsession, labels it “passion”

Recently in Humanities, my teacher had the class do word association to demonstrate a point. I forget what that point was, but I did learn something, which I’m sure was one of the teacher’s objectives. When he read the word “spread,” most of my peers wrote “butter” or “hazelnut” or “thin.” As instructed, I wrote down the first words that came to mind: “yearbook, newspaper” (page layouts in yearbook are called “spreads”). Call me crazy, but I think this may indicate an obsession with journalism.

I like to say that my “obsessions” are “passions” because people tend to respect those more, so, to clarify, I am “passionate about” copy-editing, news-writing and interviewing, not “infatuated with.”

I stumbled into the newsroom quite on accident when I was in eighth grade. The English teacher at the small private school I attended at the time decided to start a school newspaper. She invited me on as the “Entertainment Editor.” Basically, she wanted me to write a column about my day-to-day experiences (pretty similar to this blog, actually). I agreed to join, and ended up really appreciating my bimonthly column in lieu of actual reporting. Not much happens in a K-12 school of 150 kids, and if anything does happen, it’s usually the same five kids making it happen, so the news writing gets mundane and repetitive.

Freshman year, I took Beginning Journalism as a prerequisite to joining the Free Press staff at my new, large public high school.  I learned AP Style basics, watched a surprising amount of news-related movies and drew a ton of pictures of sheep in suits with monocles and bow ties.

When I applied to be on staff for my sophomore year, I remember telling my mom that I had no interest in being an editor because editors had to do too much work and I just wanted to write stories. Now, looking back as Editor-in-Chief for the 2014-15 school year, I still agree with half of my 9th grade belief: editors do too much work.

As a sophomore, I realized newspaper was my niche. The required  day-to-day communication with strangers pulled me, the shy private school kid, out of my shell. At semester, I was promoted to Social Media Editor. While I felt like I had a position similar to Dwight Schrute’s role of “Assistant to the Regional Manager” in The Office, I noticed that some people didn’t have a title, even a made-up one, so I still felt a little important.

I still remember the pride I felt during the week second semester sophomore year when the National Scholastic Press Association accidentally included the Free Press in the list of National Pacemaker Finalists. Even though NSPA quickly rescinded the honor, claiming the Free Press was added due to a clerical error, not every school is a National Pacemaker Finalist for a week due to a clerical error, so I still felt a little important.

When I returned to the Free Press in the Fall of my junior year as co-Online Editor-in-Chief, my true passion was awakened. With the ability to make decisions to improve the publication, I found myself disregarding other schoolwork so I could learn HTML and assign stories. I tried revamping the website with online-only content, fancy widgets and staff blogs. While the website still received a “fair” rating at the JEMKC Regional Contest, it was a way better “fair” rating than it got last year, and I’m certain that next year, we will be “good” at least.

As I finish rereading the Humanities-required Machiavelli’s The Prince to prepare for my reign as Supreme Overlord of the Newsroom–I mean Editor-in-Chief–I want to thank my Humanities teacher for another real life application.  The first Free Press issue produced by the 2014-15 staff comes out on Thursday, and I could not be more excited.



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