It was the summer before I started attending Harvard-Westlake. My mom said it would help me make friends before I started at a new school. However, I got much more out of the summer course in journalism and newspaper design than new friends.
From the start of the course, I was immediately hit with the essentials of journalism. Inverted pyramids, leads, AP style and picas quickly made me feel inferior. To add to that, having an instructor who is as experienced in the world of journalism as Mrs. Neumeyer is was slightly unsettling. Hearing stories about how she covered every major event in Hollywood, the Charles Manson trials and any other major news story for the United Press International added to my amazement. I was a naïve teenager with no experience in journalism who was being taught by a highly-respected veteran of the journalism world.
Nevertheless, I emerged from the summer journalism program having learned the basics of writing and InDesign and eager to practice my newfound skills on the Spectrum, the main publication at the Middle School.
After spending a year working on this publication, I was eager to move to the Upper School and join the staff of the Chronicle. I was moving up from the letter-size news magazine to a real newspaper with multiple sections and hard-hitting stories. In my mind, I would immediately cover major issues in my stories and would start a list of stories other journalism students would respect, just like I respected Mrs. Neumeyer’s list of past stories.
However, I was a sophomore and much less experienced in journalism compared to the seniors on staff. Therefore, I tried to do what I knew how as best as I could. Rather than being embarrassed when Mrs. Neumeyer returned one of my stories covered in more corrections than words on the page, (although I may have done this for the first two or three stories I wrote) I resolved to learn from those corrections and strive to become a better writer. When my story wasn’t published in the issue, I tried not to take it personally or get discouraged.
As I write this, I can see how ridiculous I was in fearing corrections or perceiving a story being cut as a failure. However, I am glad for these experiences. Now that I am a senior, I can look back on my first year on the Chronicle and appreciate that I now have a better ability to categorize failure appropriately.
As I progressed in Chronicle and began to receive more responsibility, I continued to learn skills that one wouldn’t expect to learn from working on a high school newspaper. During long layouts when we stayed long past Peer Support, sports practices or anything else that requires students to be on campus, I learned the importance of being able to handle multiple tasks at once and be able to quickly solve problems in order to meet a deadline. Also, I learned the importance being flexible and always willing to help. Sometimes a page would need to be drastically changed or a story added at the last minute and your hard work would go to waste.
Looking back on my time at Chronicle, I realized that if I had not been a part of staff all three years I was at the Upper School, my education would have been mostly limited to things that are useful to the classroom. Thanks to Mrs. Neumeyer, journalism class gave me skills that I know I will be thankful to have for the rest of my life.
And yet again, I have to admit that my mom was right. I met a group of people that I hope will stay close long after we leave Weiler Hall for the last time.