Inside The Charter Newsroom

Madalena Larkins The Charter Features 12/20/19

The class of nine and their teacher, Michael Lancaster, gather in the dimly lit media arts room for the last time before winter break. Kailyn and Cheyenna toss a half full plastic bottle back and forth across the room, Jack and Tazwell seem to be absorbed in something on their Chrome books, and Mr. Lancaster pauses in his explanation of using anecdotes to point out an example. Despite not having class in the coming week, the newspaper will continue running until just a few days before Christmas, when the class will publish their most recent stories. 

     The journalism class meets for an hour and a half twice per week, and produces ACA’s school newspaper, The Charter. Class time is split between learning journalism skills and values, and applying them through the production of the newspaper. Students are usually given 40 minutes or more of independent work time, where they can write, revise, publish and update their articles. They can also get teacher and peer feedback, and take and upload photos during this time. A good section of the writing and editing process, however, is done outside of class time. The first step in a news cycle, the process of creating articles, is a news meeting, a class period where all members propose their topic idea or get assigned a topic, and create a written plan for how they will write their story, with the help of peers and the teacher. The next step is contacting sources and requesting an interview, typically done by the reporter. Hopefully sources respond promptly, and then interviews are conducted, usually three or more. Once the reporter has gathered all the information they need, it’s time to start writing. 

     The rough drafts of stories must be submitted and hyperlinked to the Editorial budget—a live document that keeps track of what stage stories are at,  and when they will be ready for publication—no later than the rough draft due date. After rough drafts have been written, it’s time to edit and revise. All members of the class, including Mr. Lancaster, have access to each other’s online story documents to read, comment,  and suggest revisions. The reporter can choose to accept or reject any suggestions. After editing, the reporter needs the approval of the ACA director, Mr. Lancaster, the student Editor-in-Chief, Tazwell Brandabur, and at least one student News Editor. Once this is done, it’s time to publish.

  Stories are Published in two ways, online at theacacharter.com, and then are printed out and put on The Charter’s current events board in the upstairs hallway next to the media arts room. 

     In past years, The Charter has had a printed newspaper, of which you could find copies around the school. This year, as you may have noticed, The Charter has not been doing that, but that may change next semester. The average news cycle, from news meeting to publication, usually spans between two and three weeks. 

     Near the end of the first semester each student is given an additional position on top of being a reporter/photographer. These include Editor-in-Chief, Opinions page Editor, News Editor, Copy editor, Design Editor, Media Editor, and Social Media Editor. 

     Sydney Starr, a 10th grader at ACA, and former journalism student, said that her favorite thing about the class was “The creativity that we had, choosing what we wanted to write about, and the freedom to do it how we wanted and that we had so much influence in the class.” Starr went on to say that the most challenging thing about the class was the loose structure, though she acknowledged that this enabled creativity. Her advice to future journalism students was “Keep your ear out for interesting stories, and just keep a list of them…..and set deadlines for yourself and get stuff done before you think you need to.” 

       Rebecca Burton, Media and copy Editor for The Charter, says that the thing she enjoys most is working with her peers. She went on to say that she thought it was important for students to have good spelling and grammar skills before taking the class. 

     Tazwell Brandabur, Editor-In-Chief of The Charter, says that his favorite part of the class is knowing what is happening at ACA, and that the most challenging part of the class is finding something to write about. His advice to future journalism students was to come up with a topic that they are interested in and to “try to complete each assignment a day or so before the deadline.”

  Michael Lancaster, the founder and teacher of the journalism class, has been teaching the class for 4 years. He says curious students will benefit most from the class, since curiosity is what fuels creativity, and can’t really be taught. Mr. Lancaster hopes the class will continue in coming years, and that students take the class multiple years in a row to help it grow and improve. 

      If you are a student who is interested in taking journalism in coming years, a good prerequisite is reading The Charter and exposing yourself to as much journalism as possible; reading newspapers, listening to news on the radio, etc. This will help you to develop a better understanding of the difference between journalistic writing and the types of writing assigned in other high school language arts classes. 

     The journalism students collaborate to produce The Charter with the goal of providing valid and useful information as well as entertainment for ACA and our community.

 “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” says Starr. 

Sources: 

Burton, Rebecca. Personal interview, Dec. 10, 2019.

Brandabur, Tazwell.  Personal interview, Dec. 11, 2019.

Lancaster, Michael. Personal interview, Dec. 11, 2019.

Starr, Sydney. Personal interview. Dec. 5, 2019.