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Placer High Messenger offers on-the-job training

Accountability one of main lessons, adviser says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Placer High School class focuses on accountability while also exploring what’s new around campus. The school’s journalism class puts together the student-produced Hillmen Messenger, published every two weeks. The newspaper also has an online presence. Students in the class work as editors, writers and advertisement managers, because the publication doesn’t receive money from the school, according to Dan Wilson, adviser for the class. Senior Natalie Garcia, 17, is the perspectives editor for the paper. “What I enjoy is just the overall atmosphere, and Wilson gives us a lot of freedom to do what we want and I feel that is what really makes this paper a good paper,” Garcia said. “Definitely the most challenging part is just making sure everyone who is writing a story for you is doing their job … and meeting the deadline for getting the layouts finished.” Garcia said this is her second year in the class and she is learning more about correcting grammatical errors as well as working under pressure. Garcia said she has thought about a career in journalism, mostly leaning toward being a news broadcaster. Although journalism is becoming more Internet and electronic based, Garcia said she can’t really see print editions totally going by the wayside. “I really don’t feel like newspapers would ever go away,” she said. “If you see the New York Times or the Sacramento Bee, they have been around forever. I feel they will always be around and if not, I would be totally shocked.” Junior Hayden Tucker, 16, said he wrote his first article this year about tattoos on campus, and it was challenging to find students with tattoos to talk about them. A new experience has been not only journalism itself but also going out to local businesses and asking if they want to advertise in the paper, but everyone is pretty friendly about it, Tucker said. Another important lesson has come in learning how to write articles that won’t lead to lawsuits, and the class has already learned about situations other publications have faced, Tucker said. Freshman Mikayla Aguilera, 14, is a writer for the newspaper. Her first article was about the Associated Student Body officers on campus. Interviewing strangers has been her biggest challenge so far, she said. “I guess getting out there and talking to people for interviews, because I don’t really know a lot of people here,” Aguilera said. “I was nervous talking to the (ASB) president and vice president, but they are really nice and that helped.” Aguilera said while she doesn’t think she will pursue a career in journalism, she thinks it’s an exciting field and she is really enjoying the class. Wilson said this is the largest group of freshman he has had in journalism, with six in the class. “This is the most inexperienced group I have had as an adviser,” Wilson said. “It’s a little scary, but the progress I have seen over the last few weeks is encouraging.” Wilson said the class holds several lessons for students, such as missing a deadline can mean the entire paper being late in production. They also learn accountability when it comes to their articles. “Staff writers realize they are accountable for everything they write and once published are open for public criticism,” he said. “It is not uncommon for me to come to the defense of a writer because a student or faculty member did not like what they wrote. Unfortunately, some forget that these students are learning on the job.” Junior Stephanie Sykora, 16, is also a staff writer, and this is her first time in the class. “I think the most challenging thing is coming up with the stories and interviewing people, because I haven’t done it before,” Sykora said. “But I think it’s a good challenge.” Sykora said she has thought about pursuing a career in journalism. “I always thought about that, actually,” she said. “Writing for a magazine even, I thought that would be pretty cool.” Senior Zak Liske, 17, is the paper’s editor-in-chief and has been on the staff for about two-and-a-half years. “I’m really into current events, and this class is all about that,” Liske said. “We are always in the know on campus.” Liske said it is challenging trying to meet deadlines with so many new staff members and no returning editors, but he said everyone is learning quickly. Liske said he definitely sees journalism moving to Internet and electronic outlets. He said he thinks there should still be jobs available, they will just revolve less around editing print editions. Liske’s goal is to be proud of each edition of the Messenger that’s published this year, he said. “My personal goal for this class is to not have any regrets when we send it to print, to always ship the best product we can have,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------------------------------------------------- Hillmen Messenger What: The Placer High School student-produced newspaper • First edition of this school year comes out Friday • Is published every two weeks (with consideration of school breaks) • Has 28 students on staff this term • 22 of the students are new to the paper • Has six freshmen on staff, the most adviser Dan Wilson has had in his journalism classes • Has an online presence at hillmenmessenger.com