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Newsstreak staff takes on Dallas for journalism conference

The group of 13 Newsstreak staff members stands together on the field at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, one of the highlights of the trip.

The group of 13 Newsstreak staff members stands together on the field at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, one of the highlights of the trip.

Valerie Kibler

Valerie Kibler

The group of 13 Newsstreak staff members stands together on the field at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, one of the highlights of the trip.


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While the rest of Harrisonburg slept, 13 students gathered at 4:00 a.m. in the brisk cold at HHS awaiting for their escort to Dulles airport in Washington D.C. These 13 students were members of the Newsstreak as well as the yearbook. The advisors of the Newsstreak, Valerie Kibler, and broadcasting, Emily Hussack, would accompany them on their cross-country journey from Washington D.C. to Dallas, Texas, where they would participate in the 2017 JEA/NSPA Fall Journalism Convention from Nov. 16-19.

Junior Noah Siderhurst, a feature editor for the Newsstreak, was among the journalist early birds traveling to Dallas.

“Essentially, [the conventions] are meetings of high school journalists as well as professionals and advisors to learn from each other and create a sort of community. There are sessions and lessons on pretty much everything to do with journalism. You can sit in on and take notes in the session which can really help your staff back home,” Siderhurst said.

This is the third convention Siderhurst has attended. The first two were in the fall of 2015 and 2016 and were located in Orlando, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana, respectively.

“Compared to the last two I’ve been on, this was definitely one of the better ones. I signed up for as many sessions as I could and learned a lot which is going to help [the Newsstreak],” Siderhurst said.

The group arrived in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 15. They spent the first day touring the JFK Museum and exploring Dallas. That night, they met up with their sister school, Whitney High School from Rocklin, California, at the Dallas Grilled Cheese Company.

There, they greeted each other and paired up with a member of the opposing staff. The students discussed their roles on their respective staffs and gave advice to each other about different aspects of their programs.

Ella Ho Ching is the social media editor for the Whitney High School journalism class.

“We paired up and just discussed how I can improve my teaching methods and other things. [Junior] Nyah [Phengsitthy] was sitting near me and since we both are social media editors, we talked a lot about issues we both have,” Ching said.

This is Ching’s first year in the role of social media editor and the first time Whitney High School has had anyone in this position which has presented Ching with challenges.

“Teaching the younger students has been a difficulty for me. Last year was my first year in the advanced journalism class and it was pretty easy for me to grasp the idea of posting on social media but for some of our new kids, they don’t know how to write a caption or anything. It’s just been hard for them to grasp the concepts and I’m not sure if I’m teaching it in a way that they can’t understand or if it’s on them,” Ching said.

Ching and Phengsitthy discussed possible solutions to their shared struggles and Ching believes that the discussion had a big impact on her.

“Me and Nyah [Phengsitthy] do a lot of things differently but we definitely learned from each other and I can take some of her tips back to my staff now,” Ching said.

After the meal came to an end , the students travelled back to their accomodations at the Hyatt Regency where the conference was being held. The same night, there was a keynote speech from Erin Trieb, a high-profile photojournalist whose work has been featured in PBS, CNN, The New York Times and many more news media corporations.

The next day, Nov. 16, was comprised of a full-day session that each student attended. The sessions were chosen based on interests and roles in the staff.

Junior Owen Marshall is a Sports Editor for the Newsstreak and was assigned his session accordingly.

“My daylong session was on sports journalism. We reviewed past stories and analyzed their best and worst parts and looked at how we could apply that to our own newspaper. Outside of the day session, I took classes mostly on sportscasting,” Marshall said.

After the daylong session, the next two days, Nov. 17-18, were spent in hour-long classes that the students picked for themselves.

“Outside of sports, I took a few sessions on sports photography and photography in general which was surprisingly interesting. I wouldn’t say I want to make photography my main focus, but it definitely made me more interested in it,” Marshall said.

Sessions spanned from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Nov. 18. Outside of the classes, the students VIP-toured the Dallas Cowboys stadium and attended the conference dance.

“My favorite part of the conference would have to be the dance. There [were] just so many people crammed in there and the environment was really hype. It was nothing like any dance I’ve ever been to at HHS,” Marshall said.

After the team had finished its Nov. 18 sessions, everyone but Valerie Kibler (who stayed in Dallas for another day) headed to the airport for their overnight flight home.

“This conference has definitely had a big impact on me as a journalist,” Marshall said. “I’ve learned so much from both my peers and professionals. On top of that, I was in a great group and we had some of the best fun I’ve had at any other conference.”


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Newsstreak staff takes on Dallas for journalism conference