Picture: Teacher Cheryl Johnson and some of her journalism class.
I had fun yesterday at a local high school. The journalism teacher asked me to come in to talk with a couple of her classes. There's something compelling about the sheer verve of teens, the audacity of their spirit; the way they make your understand that they don't have one iota of tolerance for anything other than the very best you have.
"I only have a handful of rules," I told them. "Be respectful of one-another; participate to the best of your ability; offer the truth when you have something to say; let me know if I'm failing to engage your interest."
The students were great. They immediately sensed my enthusiasm and validated my theory that people across the board are more receptive to passion that they are to any other credential
I conjured up an opening statement that I wrote on the board and had them copy. The idea was to address the question, "Why do I write for the newspaper? What's my end game?"
Here it is: “My job – the way I see it – as a journalist, is to observe life and people in the milieu where I find myself, and then to interpret what I see so that three things occur:
Other people will read and say “Yes, that’s exactly what I was feeling/thinking but I wasn’t able to articulate it until now…"
Readers will respond, “I’d never thought about it that way before; but you know what… I believe you have revealed truth to me and now I understand at a deeper level…
(and a distant third): “That was an entertaining read; I just enjoy the way you string words and phrases together.”
My milieu is the environment - people and/or the physical setting - where I am writing. Could be Brandon, could be Tampa Bay, could be the entire world. But it's always about observation, about finding out how people tick and then, rather than merely passing on the bare-bones facts, I'm interested in interpreting what I see to further the stated ends (1, 2 & 3) above.
I got the impression that the young people were/are really interested in discovering how their emerging skill as writers
can help them to interpret life as they experience it - and ultimately as others experience it.
By way of example I aloud a piece I wrote on the Susan Boyle phenomenon, the British singer who made such an impact recently. The commentary is running in the Presbyterian Outlook soon. But I'll debut it here tomorrow and we'll talk about what it means to be an interpreter.