Student Journalism

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Hawks Senior Girls Basketball Team wins again!

Good afternoon Madam Chairperson, honorable judges, family, friends, and guests.

A student journalist reads the news but still has an opinion. We make contacts and read books. We know the grammar rules, and then figure out how to break them. We are curious. We are willing to put ourselves in new situations…and we learn how to spell.

I am Ashlyn McCormick, and I am a student journalist.

When I was eleven years old, I began to be regularly published in print, magazines,  and online. I’m now fifteen years old and still going strong. If we flip to page 7 of this copy of the Hanna Herald that I’m holding, you’ll see an article written by myself. One of the things mentioned in this article? A win by our girls’ basketball team, of course.

I hadn’t planned on becoming a journalist – I blame 4H for that. Mr. Dave Bruha from the Consort Enterprise newspaper had covered 4H public speaking in the spring of 2013 where I had made it all the way to Regionals. Mr. Bruha had been trying – unsuccessfully – to get school news from my principal at Altario School back then. After hearing me at the speak-offs that year, Mr. Bruha figured he would approach my dad about having me write the school news. My dad said yes and arranged with my principal for me to write the school news for the Enterprise on a bi-weekly basis. He never asked ME if I wanted to, of course. Thanks for that Dad; it’s not like that isn’t much pressure in grade six!

I wrote the school news for the rest of that year. I came back to grade seven ready to keep going if asked, but our new principal decided to use that as part of her grade nine course activities. I didn’t mind being off the hook because it gave me more time for homework. However, Mr. Bruha was starting to hear from his readers that they missed my writing, and it just so happened that he needed someone to cover the news for the community of Kirriemuir. He called my father and of course, Dad said yes without talking to me about it first. As a concession, I talked my grannie into helping with research. I was back to writing for the local paper again.

By this point, I had done so much writing that my dad helped me build a Website to put my work on: www.ashlynmccormick.com. In addition to my news columns, I was also adding my photography and some articles I had written about 4H. *I was part of an incredibly cool drama project in the spring of 2014 led by Ms. Janine Funk, our 4H Drama Project Leader. I wrote about my experience with the project and put it up on my site. The next thing I knew, the folks who publish the 4H Alberta Magazine found it online and asked for permission to print it. Here is a digital version of my article as it appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of the magazine.

My own world really changed by the fall of 2014 when my family moved to Hanna. My old principal from grade six, Mr. Mike Kukurudza, was now the principal at J.C. Charyk Hanna School where I was now going to begin attending grade 8. I wrote my final Kirriemuir News column for the Enterprise and figured I could slow down and just write for fun. Then my dad had a chat with Mr. K. about how empty the Website was at my new school and wouldn’t it be great if someone (guess who!) could write content for it.

You’re going to notice that my dad loading me down with work is a recurring theme today.

I spent grade eight interviewing people for the school Web site. These items were more popular than I expected. Not only did they cause a huge increase in traffic to the site, one item, an interview with Dr. Martin Brokenleg, was republished a couple of times. Dr. Brokenleg was a speaker at our school’s PD day. He liked his interview so much that he asked to republish it and sent it out in his newsletter, which had 20,000 international subscribers. As well, the superintendent for our division also loved it and reprinted it in PLRD’s newsletter.

Remember my Website? Mr. Bruha of the Enterprise had been following it and looking at my photography. He called my dad and you can guess what happened next, right? I was hired to photograph the K.A.C. Ag Fair in Altario for the August 19th, 2015 edition of the Enterprise. Mr. Bruha was very happy with my photos, which took up three pages of that week’s issue. I was thrilled with the $100.00 he paid me for my work!

I was doing my thing for the school Website in grade nine when Mr. Kukurudza was getting poked at by the Hanna Herald about sending them school news. He messaged my dad on Facebook and of course, dad said yes without asking ME if I had time for it. That’s why I now have a Hanna Herald paper with my name in it to wave around as a prop at 4-H presentations.

I have been writing my Herald column for a year and a half, with the only big change happening this year when I started mentoring a younger student in grade six on being a student journalist with the hope that he will take over at some point.

I do have one more notable achievement to mention and I’ve been saving it for last. In the spring of 2016, I was asked to help present at a rural education conference on behalf of my school division. This was because of broadcasting work I had done as part of our school’s radio station. The keynote speaker at the conference was famous Canadian journalist Rex Murphy. Rex Murphy! Another student from my school and I got to interview him for our station! He was very gracious.

What has all of this journalism experience taught me? Well, it’s taught me that strong communication is necessary, challenging, and rewarding. It is necessary because we need to be able to share ideas clearly, consistently, and creatively. It seems that as our world’s industries become more computerized, it will be the creative people who will be sought after. Our world’s hunger for creativity is seen regularly through the use of social media and on-demand viewing. The skills I hone in my journalistic work transfer to my creative work on apps such as Wattpad where users submit and critique one another’s writing.

It is challenging because of the fear of being ridiculed, the pressure to meet deadlines, and the constant search to find a unique take on a subject in order to interest an audience. My first time trying out 4H speaking and newspaper writing caused me much fear that people would laugh at me. I soon found that my audience was actually rooting for me, and even looking forward to what I had to say. Facing these fears and pressures forces journalists to learn time management, research skills, and focused writing techniques.

It is gratifying, though, as writers gain intrinsic and extrinsic rewards such as confidence, skills, and publishing credentials. I find that I am better able to jump into a Radio Hanna interview with a microphone or stand up in front of a crowd of people such as yourselves because I have learned to believe in myself and those communication skills I’ve honed over the last five years. In this day and age when potential employers are looking for a positive online presence, I have a stopping off point for them to explore over seventy published pieces, as well as my photography and artwork.

That’s my journalism story so far. While I have a lot of experience doing it, I am not certain if I will do this for a career. I can tell you that the journalism sector is in serious trouble, with many newspapers failing. Given the way things are going, I may be part of the last generation to write for a printed newspaper. If I do continue as an adult, it will likely be as a self-employed online journalist.

Everything I’ve talked about today all started with that first 4H speech.

I am now ready for my question from the judges.

[This is my 2017 presentation. I won gold at club level, gold at at the Hanna District Presentations, and bronze at the East Central 4-H Regional Presentations.]

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