Members of Highlights and Watchtower travelled to Washington D.C. last week to attend the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention. Highlights members Jackson Prince, Amanda Christovich, Sadie Hersh and Juliette Deutsch, as well as Watchtower staff writer Andrea Di Battista, were accompanied by adviser Gaby Herbst on the five-day trip.
The group arrived at LAX at 6 a.m., boarded a plane and headed to Boston, Mass. for a connecting flight to Washington D.C. Nine hours later, the six-some was greeted by an unfamiliar East Coast fall.
“Being from California, the weather was a little overwhelming at first,” Hersh said. “But, from a photographer’s standpoint, the fall colors were picture-perfect.”
This morning, the team lived like East-Coasters: they took the Metro, walked to lunch and sipped on Dunkaccinos. A visit to the Newseum opened the eyes of the journalists.
“I thought it was very eye-opening about the importance the press,” Deutsch said. “It shows that news really does unify society and people.”
The group returned to the hotel to listen to legendary Watergate journalist Bob Woodward make a keynote speech to open the conference festivities.
“It was clear that Woodward is a true product of his time,” Christovich said.
The students rose early in the morning to attend the various workshops pertaining to all things journalism. Such notable Washington Post figures as Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor, Joel Achenbach, a science writer and Michelle Boorstein, the 2011 and 2013 Religion Reporter of the Year. taught the student-journalists about the profession.
Keynote speaker Jay Harris, an ESPN anchor, spoke about his journalistic path, answering several questions and providing insight.
“I thought Jay Harris was really interesting,” Hersh said. “It was great how he told the story of how he got to where he is today.”
Soon after, each Norman participated in a write-off competition, in which they competed with hundreds of journalists across the country.
“I was presented with a topic that I didn’t really know about, so I felt that it was a bit unfair. The write-off had a lot of restricting rules,” Deutsch said.
After a less-than-satisfactory trolley tour of the monuments at night, the winded team spent the night mingling at the hotel with other students.
The morning began with more workshops to attend, some of which taught by Peter Velz, a member of the White House Press Pool, Brad Horn of The Washington Post and Mary-Beth Tinker, a leader in the civil rights movement famous for protesting as a child using arm-bands.
Awards for “Best in Show” were given out in the hotel ballroom a few hours later. While the print edition of Highlights and Watchtower yearbook did not place, Beverlyhighlights.com won Fourth Place for Best Website, Small School.
“We aren’t journalists for the awards,” Prince said. “But it’s always nice to be recognized. It’s a big deal.”
After packing bags, the final awards were given for write-off winners. Prince was awarded with an Honorable Mention for Editorial Writing.
The Normans chugged their last Dunkaccinos and donned their winter coats for the final time as they hopped back on a flight to Boston, which connected home.
An overall busy trip, the conference was successful for all involved. The Normans were able to communicate with other publications from across the nation, learn from the best journalists of the time and practice new skills and techniques.