On Sunday July 23rd, I, along with my fellow True Star members Jada Strong and Amariyah Mallory, touched down in Iowa City to participate in the Iowa Journalism Workshop, an event where students from across the country can learn multiple aspects of journalism. Some of the workshops included photojournalism, investigative reporting, publication leadership and graphic design, but I participated in personal writing. Personal writing was a workshop that focused on telling a story with all the facts, but with the added flavor of the writer’s personal opinion and style. To develop our skills in this area of reporting, the participants in my workshop worked on multiple writing assignments, on top of doing a lot of photo and video work. Although we were really busy students, we still managed to have a lot of fun with this experience, participating in a range of activities while getting to see a city that was completely new to me.
On the first day of the workshop we got our typing fingers warmed up by writing a letter to the people we were during our freshman year of high school. The assignment was to give your past self some advice on going into high school. It was a great warm-up because it allowed me to get creative from the jump. In addition to that writing assignment, we were also responsible for taking 50 candid pictures (meaning the images aren’t staged) throughout the week. Even though this was a personal writing workshop, our media skills were being sharpened too, by creating a variety of different content. It reinforced the idea that story reporting and creating content goes hand-in-hand; especially when one of our assignments was to take a candid picture and tell the story around it. In this assignment there was an emphasis on not just describing what’s in the picture, but to provide context and to explain why this specific picture should be shown and cared about.
Our workshop made sure we were being active journalists too. The first assignment that allowed us to be active was when we had to write a column diving into what it was like to be a certain age. I chose to write about the lives of 15 year olds because it’s a point in life where a lot of things change, so I thought it was interesting. The active part came in when I had to interview two different people for the story, come up with my own questions that fit within the frame of my piece. The best example of us being active journalists, however, was when we went to the Johnson County Fair and had to write a recap of it after taking plenty of pictures and video.
The Johnson County Fair was an extremely fun and different experience for me because I got to see a variety of different farm animals that were so close I could touch them. It also had a WWE type of wrestling ring that had actual wrestling performers entertaining a large crowd of families.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have spent a week at this workshop. We did plenty of really fun activities like going to the fair, exploring downtown Iowa City and performing karaoke, all of which I wrote articles about. At the workshop’s closing ceremony I was even honored with the Personality Plus Award just for being myself. This workshop was a really great place to practice and expand my skills as a journalist and I’m so happy I got to experience it.
By Gary Langfield Jr., Freshman, Columbia College Chicago
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