Spyglass Goes to St. Louis!

Spyglass attends JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention

Dang, it’s hard to find good food in St. Louis. Desperation makes hungry people do crazy things—like spend an hour and a half in line at Starbucks or eat ice cream for breakfast in 30° weather. But we didn’t fly to Missouri on Wednesday, November 8th, for fine dining (who would?). We went to rep Westridge at the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention.

The JEA/NSPA high school journalism convention is a three day long conference filled with hundreds of speaker sessions about all different aspects of journalism, writing, and editing. There were additional opportunities to attend a movie screening or have your newspaper critiqued. 

Eliza’s favorite session was a speaker who wrote for Entertainment Weekly. As someone who would ultimately love to be involved in the entertainment industry, hearing celeb stories and bits and pieces about the speaker’s line of work was incredible. Eliza thinks her biggest takeaway was how important your own voice is, even in impersonal pieces or stories about other media. You can always find an angle that nobody else has written about.

Valentina stumbled across a session on writing satire, or “humor with a purpose,” after walking mindlessly around the convention center for a few minutes. She really appreciated the charisma the speaker brought to the room and the way she was able to craft her story with the elements of humor she was presenting. Valentina learned when it’s appropriate to incorporate humor into a piece and different methods to capture your reader’s attention by using satire. 

Ilena went to a session about writing captions and interviewing for short-form stories. It made her appreciate short-form journalism as an art in itself: if you apply respect and legitimacy to even that easy, “filler” kind of content, it can be really cool and actually contribute something meaningful to a paper. 

After these sessions we spent time thinking and discussing the ways we could apply what we were learning to Spyglass. Where could our newspaper grow in its coverage? In its design? We met up with five staff members from The Oracle, Archer’s school newspaper, to learn about the way they run their paper. While we could never achieve the amount of sports coverage they do, we got new perspectives on our editing process and how to keep staffers motivated and excited to be writing for the paper.

The conference also provided us with the unique opportunity to engage with students and teachers from across the country. In a diversity audit, Eliza spoke with students with staffs of fewer than ten people, struggling to make their voices heard, as well as kids from schools whose newspaper had won just about every award there was to be offered. While we were getting frozen yogurt on Friday night, we met a group that had a staff of over 100 students and had brought 94 to the conference! Though we will never be that big—because that would be, like, our entire school—we hope to take more students and bring back some awards next year.

When we weren’t running from session to session, we explored St. Louis and were largely unimpressed. We’ve determined that St. Louis is a sad, boring city devoid of anything but an arch, and that the half-millimeter of snow on the ground was more impressive. One silver lining was our trek to a little cafe/art gallery called Catalyst, where Eliza enjoyed one of the best iced chai lattes of her life. We don’t know what made it so delicious, but it definitely seemed wonderful in the moment. Much better than the sorrowful day when she stood in the hotel Starbucks line for over an hour, only to receive a piece of pumpkin bread with a frozen middle. 

Would we go to another journalism conference? Absolutely! In St. Louis? No.