Working on the pulse of the next generation of reporters

July 26, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

As a journalist, you're always leaving a paper trail.

Published articles, referred to as "clips," reside in at least three plastic tubs in my cramped apartment. And even though I've pared them down a few times, I can't seem to want to let go to the past.

Because in one of those tubs are examples of my earliest journalistic writings. Underneath layers of my stints at my college paper, and at weekly and daily newspapers, are my first bylined articles from Clear Spring High School's The Voice newspaper.

Today, after years of reporting and editing, I have to cringe when I reread those stories. Where is the attribution? Why did I start that story with a quote? Why did I use that quote? Where's the Associated Press style?


Then I realize, I was just getting my feet wet and I was years away from calling myself a reporter. But in high school, that's when I knew it was what I wanted to do. After graduation, I landed my first job as a freelance reporter for a now-defunct weekly. And while in my sophomore year of college, I interned for The Herald-Mail with the Lifestyle staff.

It was in college that I learned how to craft a story. I learned how to ask the right questions. I learned how to be a better reporter. But high school was when I knew journalism wasn't my career. It was my calling.

Since I came aboard The Herald-Mail last year, my job has been to oversee Pulse. The staff is made up entirely of teens from the Tri-State area who are in grades from eight to 12.

Every two months, we name an editor-in-training. Kacey Keith who will be a sophomore this fall at North Hagerstown High School, and a Pulse veteran, was named our first editor.

This summer, we have expanded our meetings from one hour a week to two hours. We spend the first half going over the mechanics of journalism -- how to craft a story or how to interview. The second hour has been dedicated to the business side -- talking about story ideas and assigning duties.

Eventually, my hope is to give these students a more hands-on experience. Those who aren't conducting interviews or writing stories will be copy editing page proofs or designing the weekly Pulse page.

We're also expanding into the new media realm of journalism. Pulse correspondents have produced two videos that have been televised on HMTV at the food court at Valley Mall. And we're working on a Facebook page to connect more with teen readers.

At the end of this experience, I want them to be excited about journalism as much as I am. Maybe by then, they'll have their own tub filled with clips they can't part with either.

Crystal Schelle is assistant lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail and is editor of the Pulse section published on Tuesdays. She can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or by e-mail at

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