Journalists present and future discuss the craft at annual GFS conference

Growing up in Jamaica and America, Philadelphia High School for Girls senior Asha Anderson often wrote letters to her grandmother.

While sharing details about her American experience, Anderson developed a passion to write stories and became interested in journalism.

“I like to report about the common man,” Anderson told NewsWorks. “I like to find out the inner workings of someone’s life affect how they are as a person, how they present themselves in a social setting and in a family setting.”

Annual conference at GFS

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Along with 130 students from Philadelphia area high schools, Anderson attended the Third Annual High School Journalism Conference at the Germantown Friends School on Friday.

Sponsored by the English department and the GFS student newspaper, Earthquake, student writers, newspaper editors and their faculty advisors attended six workshop sessions led by professional journalists.

In the keynote address, Michael Bambereger, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, spoke about how he approaches reporting and writing, and led a sports-journalism question-and-answer session.

“To be a reporter, you have to get out of your skin and get into the skin of your subject,” Bamberger said.

Also leading sessions were:

– PJ Vogt, GFS graduate and associate producer for NPR’s On the Media (“How to make great – or even just very good – stories”);

– Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry (“Telling a story you care about”);

– Zach Baron, GFS alum who has written for the New York Times and GQ (“How to be a writer on the Internet”);

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, veteran staff photographer Ron Tarver shared photos from his school-violence series; columnist Karen Heller discussed transforming opinions into factual and logical arguments and Allison Steele, a GFS graduate, presented a press release of a recent murder, asked students to write a lead and then shared how she actually wrote the piece.

“I sort of pretended that I was a detective giving the press conference,” Steele said. “I think they did really well. They were engaged, and they’re here because they want to be here.”

The sessions were of particular value to Anderson, whose school does not have a school newspaper or literary magazine, so she blogs about high school life and more.

“I’m very interested in criminal cases especially in the past few years,” Anderson said. “Like cases such as Casey Anthony and how one little small town case from Florida made such a big impact in media.”

Advisor discussions

During the lunch and roundtable sessions, students discussed the complexities of online publishing while faculty and advisors shared their experiences when facing high school newspapers at their schools.

“The things that turned [the school paper] around was hard work and donuts,” said Jeff Gelman, journalism and writing teacher and advisor to the yearbook at Woodlydne School, about how his school keeps The Informer newspaper afloat via an elective that soon became two electives and a major.

Anne Barr, advisor to Episcopal Academy’s The Academy Scholium, said that students come in on Saturdays and have stayed until seven in the evening working on getting the paper complete.

Schools represented at the conference included The Hill School, The Haverford School, Friends Central School, Woodlynde School, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Episcopal Academy, Penn Charter School, The Baldwin School, Malvern Preparatory School, Germantown Academy, Moorestown Friends School, Julia R. Masterman School, Shipley School and Westtown School.

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