State of The Gator

As the first semester draws to a close, I wanted to reflect on how far The Gator has come in just a few short months—and where I hope to help guide it in the future.

It’s no easy task launching a student news site, and my students’ accomplishments thus far serve as a strong testament to their unwavering dedication to and thirst for producing quality journalism. I spent the first several weeks teaching students about different kinds of news reporting, with each week dedicated to a different type of writing—news, feature, and op-ed.

Students then brainstormed The Gator’s overall design, and how best to promote the site’s launch. We created a preview to pump up the community, though we ended up making several design changes to enhance the site’s security and user friendliness.

Student also learned about “Journalism 2.0,” or how to incorporate other media into news reporting. This first came across in an Oct. 20 podcast, Dick Hoyt Addresses Community.

Several days later, Gator reporter AJ Naddaff interviewed Head of School Judy Guild for what would become a recurring series titled, “Teacher Talks.” In that podcast, accompanied by a well-written article, also by Naddaff, the blossoming reporter speaks with Guild about her goals for the year, and her thoughts about The Gator’s launch.

“I think that student voice here has always been a cornerstone of a Brimmer and May experience,” Guild said. “You see it on the judicial board. You see it in the way kids can choose the trips they want to go on. They have input there. You see it on so many levels. I love the fact that we empower students to have a voice. Now this publication is going to really explode that voice.”

Several “Teacher Talks” have since aired, with students utilizing the new green screen in the Writing Center to learn about on-camera reporting, as well as basic digital production. If you haven’t already done so, enjoy watching Teacher Talks with Mrs. Goldberger, Teacher Talks with Mr. Cutler, and Teacher Talks with Mr. RV.

Students have also used video and video editing to interview famous visiting speakers, such as Mads Reinholdt Rasmussen, a Danish rower and Olympic gold medal winner in the Lightweight Double Sculls—as well as advertise events, performances and accomplishments.

Next semester, I am excited to help our students launch live-stream broadcasting. For the first time in the School’s history, we will broadcast athletic and school events for the wider community to enjoy. All that’s required for viewing is an internet connection. Events will be viewable and saved on The Gator.

Three years ago, I helped launch standard-definition live stream at my former school. Thanks to our iPad program, our students will use their devices to broadcast in high-definition. Eventually, I would also like to find and train a sports play-by-play announcer.

Journalism is unlike other classes, especially in that for the most part, students are not sitting in a classroom. They are out in the field, engaging in not only journalism 2.0, but also in traditional writing and reporting. When a student submits a piece, I sit down with him one-on-one to review strengths and weaknesses. Then I send him back out to fill in reporting gaps. Students learn by doing, failing, and learning from failure each time.

The results show the method to my madness, and I encourage you to read Homecoming: A Sneak Peak, New Science Elective Replaced AP Offering, Students to Represent Liberia and Philippines at Model UN, Responding to Public Displays of Affection, Introducing Peer Tutoring, and Are Midterms Worth It? In each of those stories, students utilize clear and concise prose, and they make effective use of quotations. Those skills are easily and obviously transferable to multiple disciplines.

Next semester, I plan to teach students about in-depth, investigative reporting, akin to what you might find in The New York Times Magazine. Mastering that skill won’t be easy, but I have every confidence that students will eventually succeed.

Upon returning from holiday break, with input from the student newsroom, I will appoint section editors and an editor-in-chief. Several of those individuals will have increased control over The Gator’s backend, as well as access to our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Of course, editors will also be responsible for assigning and editing their respective content, before submitting to me for final review.

Few small independent schools boast an online news site—and certainly not one equal to The Gator. As a 2002 Brimmer and May graduate, I am honored and humbled to work with such dedicated individuals, who constantly push me, themselves, and others to improve.

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