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Students get to ask the questions - Odessa American: ECISD

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Students get to ask the questions

Tables turned on OA reporters by Montessori Middle School

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Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 6:30 am

 Roles were reversed one morning last week when education reporter Lindsay Weaver was peppered with questions from the 36 students at Montessori Middle School run by Randy and Gloria McGuire.

The subject was journalism and the questions were inquisitive, thoughtful and even relentless.

“What if you can’t come up with words to express your idea?” one girl asked, followed immediately by “What if an editor rejects your story?” from another student.

“Cry” was the easy answer that made a few of the fourth- through eighth-graders giggle, but here are a few of their questions answered by some of the Odessa American’s news journalists in their own words

McKenzie: If something bad happened that you are sad about, is it hard to write it in the newspaper?

Answered by Jon Vanderlaan, OA courts reporter, originally from Allen, Texas and a Texas Tech University alumni: I am motivated when I write a sad story. Although stories about death and tragedy are more likely to pull at my own emotional strings, I believe it also brings my reporting to a higher level. I don't want to disappoint those who have a personal stake in the sadness. As an objective reporter, it's important to keep my own feelings out of the story, which can sometimes be difficult. But it also can be fulfilling to report on the reactions of those who are helping people affected by a tragedy or other bad event.

Armin: What was your favorite place to go and write about?

Answered by Celinda Hawkins, OA city editor and native Odessan: Meeting interesting people and telling their stories is something I consider a privilege as a journalist, and over the past 20 years, I have written about many unique people and places. Like a young, hip farmer named Tye Wolosin who grows heirloom veggies on his organic farm in Comanche. Or visiting with Odus and Orus Stokes, 85-year-old twin brothers who have operated a mechanic shop for more than 60 years in Brownwood. Or learning about “lasagna gardening” from Novella Newman at her little homestead in Bangs. But one of the most touching stories I covered was the sendoff of 3,300 National Guard troops from Waco in 2005. It was a very moving day and I was honored to cover the event.

McKenzie: What’s it like to be a journalist?

Answered by Mark Sterkel, OA photo editor: My job as a photojournalist has allowed me to see and experience many things that I may not have been able to. I have met and photographed so many interesting and talented people, including the past seven U.S. presidents. I have met people who have overcome catastrophic challenges to just be able to live what we consider a normal life. I have photographed the damage that hurricanes and tornadoes can cause. And I have been to some of the most beautiful places. Sometimes the hours can be really long and conditions can be difficult, but it has been a very rewarding career.

Autumn: What makes you walk up to random people?

Answered by Chris Bartlett, OA crime reporter, a graduate of Permian High School and recent UTPB graduate: Fear of what my editor will do to me if I don’t ... just kidding. It is important, as a journalist, to show different perspectives on whatever the subject may be that is being reported on. Starting conversations with random people at an event, a political rally or even a crime scene or car accident can bring an added perspective to the story that may have been lost otherwise.

Savana: Have you ever gotten shy or scared?

Chris: I am naturally a pretty shy person and I really have to put that aside in order to do my job. It used to be pretty difficult to push those tendencies to the side, but I have become more confident in my interviewing as I have spent more time in journalism. I have also learned that many people are fine with being interviewed about things that affect their lives both directly and indirectly.

Sarah: Do you have a favorite interview?

Answered by Lindsay Weaver, OA education reporter, native Californian and graduate of San Jose State University: Since moving to and working in Odessa, I’ve compiled a list of favorites. A few do stand out, like my trip to Monahans to hang out with Stella Santiago, a little girl who has no use of her legs. She’s sweet and smart, and her classmates don’t see her any different than anyone else. In Marfa, I hung out with an older couple who retired from teaching and construction to start a goat cheese farm. They had a great sense of humor and perspective on life. Around Odessa, I’ve listened to the stories of people facing challenges and triumphs, listened to answers from people in charge on tough subjects, and sometimes I’ve had to pause to let someone cry. Much like people, every interview is different. With each one — hopefully — you can learn and improve.

AJ: How do you end your story?

Lindsay: Sometimes ending a story is best done with a strong, impactful quote from a source, or the best option may be a sentence that’s more open-ended making it clear to the reader it’s for them to decide what to think now that they have the information. The idea is to not leave your reader confused, but better informed than they were at the first sentence. Most times, you just hope the reader gets to the last line of a story. And if they do, AJ, a reward: Thank you, Montessori Middle School, for your interview. Dream big and keep reading.



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