Sixteen high school students from across Mississippi spent this week at The University of Southern Mississippi to learn how to be journalists as part of the Remembering “Freedom Summer” Multimedia High School Journalism Workshop.
The School of Mass Communication and Journalism hosted the workshop from Jun 15 to 22 to coincide with the Freedom Summer 1964 50th Anniversary Conference, which was taking place June 19 to 21 on campus. Freedom Summer was a period in 1964 when hundreds of volunteers came to Mississippi to launch a massive voter registration drive for African Americans, who faced obstacles from registering to vote at the time.
“We scheduled the workshop to coincide with the conference, so participants could learn to be journalists, while absorbing the rich history of this period in the civil rights movement,” said Gina Chen, assistant professor and workshop director. “This is a pivotal part of the history of Mississippi and the nation. It provides a great opportunity to teach the young journalists what it is like to cover a story of national significance.”
Students took photographs, interviewed subjects, produced news packages, created radio stories and blogged about the conference and other topics.
“ I liked the experience we got, the people, atmosphere, and by the end of the week, I know we will be really close,” said Jessica Swanson, 16, of Ocean Springs.
Not sure what to expect from camp, students created their own assumptions of what they would possibly encounter over the week. “ I expected hard work and I most definitely got it,” laughed Lauryn Smith, 15, of Meridian. “ It was nice to work with different kinds of people.”
Members of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism faculty, staff, and study body taught the workshop participants the basics of the field and introduced them to different aspects of journalism. USM doctoral student and instructor Robby Byrd, led a lesson on interviewing and note-taking.
“ It was fun teaching them. They were like sponges absorbing everything I said,” Byrd said.
Throughout the week, students interviewed South Mississippi journalists about their craft, watched a screening of a documentary about the era titled “Freedom Summer” and wrote stories about local people who had been instrumental during Freedom Summer in Hattiesburg.
“The one thing I gained from this group was seeing the bright young minds that have a desire to go into journalism,” said chaperone Yolanda Cruz, a news-editorial journalism senior at USM who attended a previous high school workshop as a participant in 2011. “It was very encouraging to those of us with a passion for journalism.”
The workshop also had support from the Dow Jones News Fund, Raycom Media, the Mississippi Press Association, Canon and JMH Graphics.
View the workshop participants’ stories, pictures, and videos at the School of Mass Communication and Journalism website at http://www.usm.edu/mcj, on the workshop news site at http://southernmisshsworkshop.weebly.com or on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USMmultimediaworkshop.