Abby SophirAs a high school broadcast student, one of the things I love most about broadcast journalism is the teamwork that’s required for a production. In order to produce our school’s monthly show, we must brainstorms story ideas as a class, take time to help each other, and be willing to listen to each other’s suggestions.

A few weeks ago, asked our school to help film The JEA/NSPA National Journalism Convention being held in St. Louis, putting our class’ teamwork to the test. When our teacher first told us about the offer, I was excited about what seemed like a great opportunity but I must admit I was probably more enthused at the thought of missing two days of school.

At the convention, I had no idea what to expect. As soon as we arrived on Thursday morning, we went straight to work helping SchoolTube set up their booth. Although I’d been assigned to stay at the booth for the day, when SchoolTube needed two students to do an overview of a pre-convention activity called the Maestro project, a classmate and I immediately grabbed a camera and headed off. As Christina Xamis from SchoolTube showed us to the room where the Maestro Project was taking place, she gave us vague instructions on what to do. The next four or so hours, we were on our own.

My partner and I followed the Maestro participates across the street to the Orpheum Theater where they gathered the information and photos they would need to put together a newspaper layout. Surrounded by strangers that were working on a time limit, we were hesitant at first to bother people for an interview. However, as we waited outside the theater for it to open, a boy came up to ME and asked what we were filming for. We got talking and I quickly realized that these strangers and I had something in common, a love for journalism. After that, I interviewed dozens of students from California, Montana, Ohio... We got footage of everything we could think of, knowing that SchoolTube would be using our work to create a montage of the convention. At the same time, we got insight from student journalists across the country. We were able to discover a variation in techniques and ideas among different schools and see what worked well and what didn’t.

The next day our broadcast teacher was asked to fill in for a keynote speaker. Our class hurriedly carried equipment, set up cameras, microphones, a computer, and a complex TriCaster, and handed out information sheets to the people attending his presentation. Despite the anxiety, all of the chaos paid off when the presentation went smoothly! Later that day, I worked as a cameraman for another speaker. Through a pair of headphones I communicated with a classmate on a second camera in the back of the room, along with two other classmates working the TriCaster. Together we were able to put together an edited video by the time the presentation was over.

In just two days at the JEA/NSPA Convention, I was forced to leave my comfort zone and think on the spot. Although we were supposed to be the “professional production crew” I made silly mistakes (including forgetting to insert a tape and being told by an interviewee that we “might want to take off the lens cap”) and learned from them. I got to talk to experienced journalists from college journalism programs as well as SchoolTube and School Video News. Our class learned to take whatever jobs were thrown at us, whether it be interviewing, filming, or encouraging people get their pictures taken; a skill that I’m sure will be useful if I pursue a career in journalism. In two days, our class filmed 17 hours of footage of a National Journalism Convention, and discovered how much can be accomplished when we all work together. Missing two days of school turned out to be a trivial benefit compared to the knowledge I gained from the convention. Overall, it was an extremely rewarding experience!

Abby Sophir is a Junior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, MO. After she graduates in 2010, Abby plans on majoring in Broadcast Journalism.