Virtual format works for 2020 High School Journalism Workshop
Since 1946, Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism has hosted a workshop for high school students, bringing them to the Athens campus to learn from industry professionals, create projects and experience the life of a “J-School” student. The organizers knew this year’s workshop would be different due to COVID-19, but they were determined to maintain its quality.
“I am just in awe. That is all I can say about our 2020 Virtual High School Journalism Workshop,” said Eddith Dashiell, director of the School of Journalism. “I am grateful to the tenacity and creativity of the co-directors and every member of the J-Crew for not allowing the current pandemic to deter them from making this year’s workshop not only possible, but a success.”
More than 105 students from 14 states and five countries attended the virtual workshop on July 8 and 9. Co-directors Victoria LaPoe and Tim Sharp (both J-School faculty members) utilized Zoom sessions, Facebook live and pre-recorded videos to ensure that attendees would get the most out of the experience.
“As former journalists, we know how to adapt to challenges and tools,” LaPoe said. “We wanted to make sure we were still able to serve a diverse range of youth across the world, even during a pandemic.”
Students chose from seven tracks including sports journalism, public relations and podcasting, attending a series of track-based sessions as well as a keynote address, virtual tours, a “movie night” and a round-table discussion with faculty members.
“A big goal of maintaining this workshop in some form was to not allow a hiatus given its 74-year run,” Sharp said. “As I have been helping direct this for six years, I especially did not want that to happen on my watch. I was blessed with Victoria, Claire Geary and Bryan Kurp and the rest of the J-Crew members who pulled this thing together.”
The J-Crew is a group of current journalism students and recent graduates who helped plan and facilitate the workshop’s 28 Zoom sessions and 20-plus multimedia components. J-Crew members typically spend the duration of the workshop with attendees, dining and attending social events with them. Most importantly, and still present even in this year’s adjusted format, is the role the students play as peer mentors to attendees, fostering relationships that often last beyond the workshop itself.
Junior journalism major Geary attended as a high school student in 2017 and 2018 and joined the J-Crew in 2019 as a leader for the sports track. Along with junior Bryan Kurp, Geary was an assistant to the workshop directors for this year’s program and played a major role in its planning and implementation.
“When I attended, the conversations with other participants and J-Crew leaders are what made me feel like I belonged at OHIO,” Geary said. “I wanted to replicate that as close as possible given the current circumstances. Once it was all said and done, we encouraged following each other on social media, whether that be their publications or personal pages, and dropping emails for students to contact the J-Crew.”
The fee for the 2020 workshop was waived due to the shift in format, but attendees still earned one college-level credit for their participation. Participants shared positive feedback in Zoom chats and via email, with many students expressing increased interest in attending Ohio University as a result of their experience.