The night before their biggest interview, three ConVal students did what any good journalists would do: research their subject and come up with great questions.
“We wanted to ask questions that he may have never been asked before, questions that represented each of our interests,” said junior Jason Frank, right after participating in a filmed interview with former presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater. Questions ranged from the ethics of releasing information to Fitzwater’s thoughts on the current generation.
The students, Frank, Oliver Ward, and Michelle Jarest, were three of dozens of New Hampshire high school students selected to participate in Franklin Pierce University’s The Presidency and the Press program, a weeklong event that teaches students about politics and journalism.
At the start of the program, each student is given a digital backpack, said Kristen Nevious, director of The Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication.
Contained in those backpacks are microphones, cables, headphones, and an iTunes gift card to purchase software, all equipment that helps the students throughout the week.
The program assigns students to beats to cover the conference. Students create content throughout the week, which includes articles, photos, and videos, content that is placed on the Fitzwater Center Briefings, the conference’s online newspaper.
Highlights of the program include the filmed interview with Fitzwater, trips to Manchester and Concord, speeches by presidential photographer David Valdez and former Reuters White House Bureau Chief Gene Gibbons, educational classes, and more.
“There have been a lot of cool things, like learning how to convey a message properly in a tweet,” said Ward.
“The interview with Marlin Fitzwater was really cool as well.”
“It’s interesting to see that people are here for a number of different reasons,” said Ward. “The people here are cooler than I thought because I assumed most people would only be here because it looks good on a college application.”
The program may not turn Ward, Jarest, or Franks into the nation’s next generation of journalists, but each has taken valuable lessons out of the program.
Even more importantly, the program could offer them an opportunity to cover the presidential inauguration on behalf of the New Hampshire Student Media Association, an organization that includes all members of the program.
“It’s really cool that we might be able to go to the inauguration,” said Jarest. “It’s quite an educational opportunity.”
Regardless of whether they are the student group chosen to go to the inauguration or not, the three students are happy that they chose to be a part of the program.
“You know it’s a cool program when you take part in something educational and people aren’t calling you nerdy,” said Ward. “As a whole, this program has exceeded my expectations.”
Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.