The state of high school Journalism in El Paso, Texas
By Joe Olvera ©, 2010
The high school journalism classes of today are very much different from what was offered in an earlier period. Today, it’s all about eliminating newspapers and focusing on the digital format and about online publications.
ANALYSIS In the 1960s, of course, everything was done by hand. Articles were written in long-hand, then pounded on a manual typewriter. The finished product was then hand-delivered to the printer, where he would do the type-setting, and, eventually, a newspaper would materialize.
The paper – for example The Jefferson High School Branding Iron – would then be delivered by journalism students to every classroom, with a copy handed out to everyone, including the teacher. Stories and articles would be written primarily about what was happening in the school, with such items as a “Dedication Column,” where students would dedicate a romantic song to each other, and other such sophomoric items.
Well, they may be sophomoric for today’s readers, but, not for that earlier time, when complaints would be forwarded to the paper if such items weren’t included in the latest edition. Sports also were a major presence, filling two entire pages because a positive school spirit was of the utmost importance.
An example of today’s new type of Journalism may stem from Hanks High School, where it is believed that the newspaper there “sets the bar for high school journalism.” Why does the journalism program there proclaim itself as above the rest? Because, it is the first fully operational online high school newspaper in El Paso. Teacher and Adviser, Alex Navarro, said in the school’s 2009 website that the school is the “only program in the city that absolutely prepares students for modern-day Journalism.”
And the concept is growing. Glenda Tanner, who helps students at Franklin High School publish The Chronicle, Pride, and Mirage, said that her journalistic enterprises have been online for a year. “We are now posting podcasts as well,” Tanner said. The group even has its own website, at www.fhschronicle.com.
Some high schools, however, are still old school and the students love it that way. “The kids love to pass out the newspaper, they love to get ink on their fingers,” said Carlos Briano, a fifth year Journalism Teacher and Newspaper and Yearbook Adviser at El Dorado High School. “The kids are hungry, they are energetic and like to compete.”
Briano said that there are well over 3,000 journalism students in the El Paso area. Of that number, about 25 percent are students who seriously want to become journalists. “We’re looking at newsroom diversity no matter where you go,” Briano said. “It’s turning that way. In my classes, we’ve got Latinos, African-Americans, boys and girls, gays and straights, and just about anybody else that you can think of.”
Briano said he worked for the El Paso Times for eight years, as the editor of a publication known as The Eastside Reporter. But, he fell in love with high school journalism because it’s exciting to write about what’s happening in school, every school and every grade level. He worked a stint as the public relations specialist at the Socorro ISD, and grew to really like all the elements involved in high school journalism.
“I liked all the cool things that were happening, and I especially liked teaching students the profession. I’m now certified to teach Journalism. ”Briano said he considers his school’s Journalism program the third best in El Paso County. “First is, of course, Burges High School, They are recognized all throughout Texas and the nation. Second-best is Franklin High School, and, we are, I believe, in third place. But, we’re getting better every year, so that all other high schools beware. We’re coming to get you.”