A Teacher and Her Young Journalists Turn a Corner
by J. Alex Knoll
I first heard of the Watertower not long after New Bay Times' birth. Janice Booth, an English teacher at Southern, had been cajoled by a student into resurrecting the school's newspaper. (That student, Evan Christman, was at the time interning here during summer break from St. Mary's College.) Ms. Booth invited me to speak to her class about newspapering and the many career opportunities within journalism.
That Watertower was small, more a newsletter than the most recent 16-page tabloid-sized paper. I offered my assistance, showing the students and Ms. Booth what they could do with a little help from computerized desktop publishing.
To make a long story short, they took these suggestions and ran with them. At first they came to New Bay Times to compile and lay out their papers on our equipment. But before long, Ms. Booth had a computer system for the Watertower that I envied.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not a gearhead. But not having had a high school newspaper to work with, I smiled to see these kids doing on their own the same things that we do every week here at NBT.
For Watertower, it didn't come just for wishing.
"Ms. Booth desrves a lot of credit because she puts a lot of time in. She comes in on the weekend, and stays after school and checks to make sure that everything is there," explained Heather Garfold, a graduating senior and two-year staffer.
With Watertower, Booth had an outlet for students wanting to write. She also took them beyond classroom learning as usual.
"There's no curriculum," said graduating senior Kim Garnett, Watertower's co-editor-in-chief. "You just learn new things as you put out different papers. We do get grades and high school credits."
That doesn't mean it's easy. Even if there aren't textbooks and homework, each issue demands stories, art and photographs and paid advertising -- the same components that make up any paper. Of course there are also the deadlines.
"It is a lot of work. Being an editor is especially hard. But Ms. Booth makes it very enjoyable," said Garfold. "She's taught us a lot. She goes through books and pulls out information to make us good writers. She gives lessons on vocabulary to make our writing sound better."
Better writers make better journalists, and better journalists mean better read newspapers.
So I read recently with mixed emotions a letter thanking New Bay Times for its work with the Watertower. You see, the letter also announced Ms. Booth's retirement. After this year, she will teach only part time.
"Right now they aren't scheduling anybody for journalism," Garnett said. "If anything, it will be an after-school thing, not a class."
Watertower aside, Ms. Booth will be missed in other ways.
"Ms. Booth is the kindest person you would ever meet. Especially if you're one of her newspaper students," said Garfold. "She's very involved in our lives. She wants to know what we're involved in, and she wants to be part of it. We're her closest students because she's with us and works with us so much. She likes to take care of us, and I like to know that she cares."
"She's been a role model in helping us learn," said Garnett. "She's into our lives, so we can come and talk to her about any problems. Kind of like a friend, she would do anything for anybody she's really influenced me."
I wish Jan Booth and all the journalists she's trained fair winds for whatever journeys lie ahead. Should Watertower find itself becalmed, well, you know where to find me.
| Issue 20 |
Volume VII Number 20
May 20-26, 1999
New Bay Times
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