I had an interesting full-circle kind of experience today.
Way back when, during my time at Redondo Union High School working under the advisor Mitch Ziegler (who I will affectionately call Zeus since good habits are hard to kill), I participated in a number of write-off competitions.
The competitions essentially featured speakers standing in as important figures for an important story topic, where students had the chance to listen to a presentation before asking question through a press conference. All of the information gathered in a limited amount of time would then have to be written into a substantial article, also within a given time limit, to be judged by a panel of experts.
When I took part in then, the write-offs came in a number of forms. The main ones were full-scale competitions at state or national journalism conferences. I participated in a few of those in high school and actually got some awards:
However, the important kind of write-offs for this particular blog post were the practice, local-level competitions that Zeus would put together at Redondo Union using professors as speakers and alumni as judges.
If that weren’t enough of a hint, let’s get to the point.
As a now three-or-so-year alumni, I hopped on the opportunity to act as a judge at the practice write-off competition held this morning when Zeus asked who would be available in our alumni Facebook page.
The opportunity was actually offered a couple of weeks ago, but it was cancelled that day and pushed off until now. Luckily, I was still available to come in, so I wound up having the chance to give back to the place that gave me my start in journalism.
Now… Where to begin with my discussion of the day…
I suppose we can start with the place.
As my lovely (hopefully not too distorted) panoramic picture shows, the side of the competition I presided over was held in my alma mater’s lovely culinary arts room – which is stationed right next to the journalism room, I might add.
I’ll be honest, I never spent a lot of time in there despite that close proximity. The one time I did I was doing a write-off I participated in, if I recall correctly. So it was interesting to be sitting in there, listening to the presentation/press conference and just kind of taking everything in.
It really is a lovely set-up.
I probably should have taken some culinary classes during my time here, in hindsight.
But that’s a tangent I don’t really need to get into right now.
This write-off’s topic was an interesting one. The speakers were an imaginary school’s principal, journalism advisor and newspaper editor in chief speaking to the crowd about an issue of the school’s paper that was subject to prior restraint for addressing marijuana.
That was the news and opinion set-up at least, but since that was the one I sat in on as the news judge it was all I saw. I did hear the sports story was about an ultimate frisbee team and the features story was about a student entrepreneur, but I can’t offer much more past that.
After everyone had finished asking questions (with some key ones missing to be fair, as a couple of the other judges and I discussed amongst ourselves), the kids had an hour to put everything together.
During that time, the rest of us got to sit around, eat bagels and just talk about life. It was actually pretty interesting just in that one other person I used to work on the High Tide with, Zach Hatakeyama, was there as well. Pretty cool to get the chance to catch up with him a little.
Once that period of writing ended, it was up to us to start judging as all the kids went off to eat or… Do whatever they did.
As the news guy, I wound up with four news stories to edit and judge.
To be completely honest right off the bat… They varied in quality. At least one was really great, but the rest were all across the spectrum.
The thing that was great about it nonetheless, however, was the fact that no matter how good any one person’s story was, I was able to offer them advice on what to improve on for the future:
That was really the best part about this whole thing in my opinion. Like I mentioned earlier, these write-offs wound up meaning a lot to me personally, so being able to give back and help the next generation of journalists improve was awesome.
Plus… I got to put shiny stickers on certificates.
Then I got to watch everyone’s excited faces as they got handed those shiny sticker-adorned certificates:
But that’s not all. Everyone who participated in the write-off today will be moving on into the state level competition because of how many competed in each category, which is just great. I feel all the better about providing some of my multiple-years-removed expertise knowing that they’ll be able to apply it at a much larger venue soon.
And finally, as if that weren’t enough to explain why this was a great afternoon… Zeus took us out to lunch for helping him out.
Really you can’t go wrong with a good burger and catching up with some old friends.
I’d even say it made up for the fact that he forgot to tell me what time to show up this morning.
P.S. – I was smart enough to know what time the older version was, so I did still show up on time. Just in case anyone was concerned.