Katie Cline, in 11th grade at Jacksonville High, wants her opinions to be remembered.
White Plains freshman Adam McFry has always loved to write. His older brother Alex, a senior at White Plains, is interested in the way basic communication informs all media — film, print, online.
Basic communication is, in fact, the common thread that ties these four students — plus three others — together. Seven students from high schools around Calhoun County Thursday evening participated in The Star’s first high school advisory panel. The group meetings at The Star are part of a newly launched effort to give local teens an inside look at what happens in a newsroom while providing newspaper officials a chance to glean insights from a demographic that sometimes goes unnoticed in their industry.
Bob Davis, associate publisher of the paper and the president of the Ayers Family Institute for Community Journalism, noted at the beginning of the panel session that for years the newspaper has interacted with University of Alabama graduate students obtaining their masters in the communications field — students who are at the end of their journalism studies.
“I have long wanted to start at the other end of that pipe,” Davis said.
The seven Calhoun County students began the realization of that goal with discussions on the usefulness — and sometimes stupidity — of social media, the reliability of sources on the Internet and how to develop ideas for news stories.
Many of the high schoolers consume their news, get their daily information from social media sites like Facebook. By the same token, few of them use Twitter, saying that the forum seemed pointless to them because so few of their peers tweet anything of value.
“I have never even checked Twitter,” Bateman said.
Cline and fellow Jacksonville student Philip Brandow, a senior, noted that their high school has done away with the student newspaper. Instead, students write blogs — about topics such as fashion, band happenings and politics — to inform the school population.
At White Plains, Alex McFry said, high schoolers publish an online live feed each morning with news and announcements from around the school.
Davis urged all the students to think not just about the value The Star places on so-called “community news,” but also about the various smaller groups that make up the public at large.
“This is not a monolithic community,” Davis said, his statement reflected even in the variety of backgrounds and interests of the small group of local high-schoolers.
For example: While Pleasant Valley senior Dy-lan Jones is participating in the panel to assist him in what he hopes will be a future career in agriculture communications, Kara Dalrymple, a senior from Piedmont, thinks learning to be a reporter could help her in her ultimate goal of science-fiction and fantasy writing.
“The best way I thought to do that was going into journalism first,” she said.
All of the students on the panel will have opportunities to write 600-word columns on topics of their choice to be published in The Star, Davis told them. He has planned for the students to meet regularly over the course of the year to discuss an assortment of news-related topics.
Staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @CSteele_star.