High school newspaper aims to improve coverage

March 10, 2003 12:00 am
Working on the next edition of PawPrint recently were, from left, Nike Henshaw, Debby Heckman and Anna Rodgers. The Baker High School newspaper is published every two weeks. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Working on the next edition of PawPrint recently were, from left, Nike Henshaw, Debby Heckman and Anna Rodgers. The Baker High School newspaper is published every two weeks. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

Armed with new computers and training, the Baker High School newspaper staff has doubled the number of issues produced this year over last.

The students, including seven reporters and three advertising representatives, continue to make improvements to the BHS PawPrint and are working to better reflect the interests of their readers.

"We want to keep them informed," said Debby Heckman, who is co-editor along with Anna Rodgers. "We touch on everything so people know every area of the school."

Participating on the newspaper staff also is a good opportunity for students interested in pursuing a career in journalism to get some first-hand experience, Rodgers said.

Senior Nike Henshaw is doing just that. The 17-year-old plans to study journalism as she begins college next fall.

It's students like Henshaw that Kari Borgen, Baker City Herald publisher, had in mind when she applied for grant funding to help the high school program purchase computers that were compatible with the daily newspaper's equipment and industry standards.

An $8,000 grant from the Newspaper Association of American Young Publishers Program and the American Society of Newspaper Editors was used to buy three Macintosh work stations, software and a printer and scanner to bring the journalism class up to date.

"The high school has better work stations and software than this newspaper does," Borgen said.

The newspaper is printed about twice monthly on presses at The Observer in La Grande, which also prints the Baker City Herald and other newspapers, including the student newspapers of La Grande High School and Eastern Oregon University. The class is charged $115.62 for 1,000 copies of each eight-page issue, Borgen said. Most of the cost is covered through advertising sales in the community.

In addition to the publisher's help in securing equipment, Heather Honeywell, a Baker City Herald production artist, provided training on the new equipment and offered design tips. Lynette Perry, the newspaper's promotions manager, taught ad salesmanship.

Borgen admits that she is looking after her own interest in helping the publications class better prepare high school students for college journalism study.

Even if they have no current plans to remain in Baker City, it's not unusual for people to consider returning to their hometown (just as she did) later in life, she said.

"Maybe when these kids get into their 30s and 40s and have received some good training and experience elsewhere they'll want to come back to work for us."

The Baker City Herald also has provided job shadowing experiences to support the program. Steven Flavin, a 2002 BHS graduate, spent time at the newspaper last year. Kaila Hughes, another BHS senior interested in pursuing a career in the industry, spent the first semester of this school year working with the newspaper's various departments.

Merna Putman, who serves as adviser for the journalism and yearbook staffs, had a similar experience this summer in which she learned more about newspaper production. Putman's internship was funded by a grant from the Oregon Newspapers Foundation.

"We tried to work it so I got to see every aspect," she said. "It was just basically how are you guys organized at the Herald and how can I apply that here to make it more like a real job environment," she said.

As part of that goal, Putman's students have to complete applications before being accepted into the class. They are required to list their grade-point average as well as any experience they might have in layout, design, creative writing and other relevant work. And they must explain how they react under pressure and disclose their attendance records.

"Being here is 88 percent of life," Putman tells her students. "I don't think they believe me until they are out there in real life."

Students also must have a minimum B average in their English classes and provide a recommendation from their language arts teachers. Putman has the last word on whether students are accepted in the class. And they are required to sign a standards and ethics policy.

Finally, students' parents must allow their children to leave the campus to sell advertising, follow stories or run other errands and to spend time on the computers.

The screening process is important because of the nature of the classes, Putman said.

"I cannot keep my eyes on these kids every minute. I have to have kids I can trust."

In her eighth year at BHS, Putman has been the yearbook adviser for the past four and is in her second year as newspaper adviser. The two are combined this year in a course titled Desktop Publications and Student Publications.

A 1975 BHS graduate, the 45-year-old Putman served as editor of the Eastern Oregon University student newspaper on her way to degrees in English and education. She also holds endorsements in Spanish and journalism. In addition to the publications class, she teaches Spanish and English.

"We've come a long way since we've started," Putman said of her journalism students. "I want to see that continue. I want to see growth."

She hopes to recruit younger students next year who will perhaps stay with the newspaper through their high school careers. Although Heckman will graduate this year, Rodgers hopes to return for another year on the staff.

To improve her knowledge of the ever-changing industry, Putman has applied to attend the Journalism Institute for Teachers this summer.

Borgen also would like to expand the newspaper's relationship with the high school journalism program. One way would be to include the PawPrint in the daily newspaper on a regular basis.

Qualifying the class for credit through Blue Mountain Community College and expanding its application to the Certificate of Advanced Mastery program would help recruit more students to the program, she believes.

"This is a good thing for us to do," Borgen said of her newspaper's involvement with the class. "We should be their mentors and we should be their champions."