Good storytelling starts with a passion

Ogden column: High school journalism program back for another year

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All too often, we hear about men and women who dread what they do.

They dislike the travel a job desires, the boss is a pain, the work environment nasty or unchallenging.

For a variety of reasons, they lack passion for what they do.

That’s unfortunate.

I can honestly say, the six men who cover sports for The Gazette are passionate about what they do. They put in long hours without complaint, they travel to less-than-exotic locales and they rarely use all the vacation they are allotted.

Sometimes that passion comes easily. Most of our writers were athletes themselves, some in high school and a few in college. Passion can be born in the games we play.

Sometimes, passion comes from unexpected places.

In 2011, I was offered a chance to be the “community sports editor.” The idea was to get community members to write about their passions. Citizen journalism was a catchphrase at the time and it sounded intriguing. But I wanted more. I asked if I could do the same with high school student journalist.

What started as an experiment now is a passion.

I will begin my seventh year of visiting high schools and talking journalism this week. My first trip is to Lisbon, a school I have visited in the past, but not as often as I’d like.

Passion is something I spent a lot of time talking about last year. I challenged the students to find their passion, whether it be sports, band, dance, theater or student government. Good storytelling, I told them, starts with a passion. Sometimes you have it already, sometimes you find it by doing research, by doing the interviews and reporting.

It’s been a thrill to read, edit and, in a small way, nurture what I hope are future journalists. Our spring and summer interns, Jordan Hansen and Ryan Young, started as high school journalists, Hansen at Marion High School and Young at Iowa City High. Both worked with outstanding passionate journalism teachers and now have begun their careers in sports journalism.

That’s a win.

My chats with students also center around the importance of writing well no matter what they decide to do, and the importance of news in our society — fair, accurate and well-researched news.

These students are good, too. They write excellent stories and take great pictures. Some even shoot outstanding video. They get excited when their story ends up on our website and it the paper.

We will, once again, have prizes for these students, including scholarships at the end of the school year.

So what’s your passion? What’s your story?

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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