GFSS journalism class reflect on Weekly Howl journey

Gazette readers have been fortunate enough to learn about the happening at GFSS in the Weekly Howl.

GFSS journalism class and Weekly Howl staff (from left) Simone Gentry

For the past five months, Gazette readers have been fortunate enough to learn about the ongoings at Grand Forks Secondary School by reading the Weekly Howl section every week.The Howl is put together by the students in Jan deHaan’s journalism class: Simone Gentry, Tyra Rexin, Elena Plotnikoff, Jordyn Beaumier and Sabrina White. Unfortunately, this is the last week of the Howl, as the semester ends and the journalism class is finished for another year.The howl covered all aspects of student life from sports to dances to news. The paper also included weekly features of students.Gentry is the editor, Rexin is in charge of sports, Beaumier does lay-out, Plotnikoff is the main writer, and White is the primary photographer.Gentry said each paper starts with a weekly story meeting on Monday morning.“We decide what everyone’s writing about, what sports are going on, thought pieces, any news, if Jordyn wants the lay-out done differently, what pictures we need,” said Gentry. “We then split up, interview people and do our own thing.”Gentry said that the students have a lot of freedom to decide what they want to write about.“Mr. deHaan has the final say,” she said. “He helps point us in the direction, but we get to generally pick our own topics. We each do a story per week.”Main writer Plotnikoff said she comes up with her story ideas by talking to class mates and paying attention to what’s going on at school.“It depends on what’s relevant,” said Plotnikoff. “I wrote about vaccines because they were going on at the school the week prior. Whatever I feel I can write something good about. I’d pick something and talk it over with Mr. deHaan and he would point me in the right direction.”A member of the senior girls basketball and volleyball teams, Rexin was a natural fit for the sports writer position.“Mr. McKaig (GFSS athletic director) tells me when the games are and I write about the scores and how the games went,” she said. “I also write about upcoming games and put together a calendar.”The students usually write their stories using the computers at school during class time except for Rexin.“For me with the sports, I usually write at home because a lot of the games are on the weekend and at night and I have to have it done for Monday,” she said.After finishing off the stories, Gentry, with the help of Mr. deHaan, edits each story.“He finds a lot more things than me,” admits Gentry. “I remember a few things from English that are different than with papers like spacing and stuff. He had to teach us that at the beginning. I argued with him a little bit over that.”The journalism class uses Adobe InDesign to put together the lay-out for the Weekly Howl, the same program the Gazette uses.“They send the stories to me and I decide where it goes,” said Beaumier.White is the main photographer and she covers most of the major events at the school.“When we have our meeting, we discuss what we’re going to be writing about,” she said. “I try to come up with relevant photos for what they’re writing about. One time, Elane was writing about how students have to wait outside the gas station because they’re afraid kids will steal. So Mr. deHaan and I came up with this idea of having a handbag with some students putting pop and candy in the bag. So I try to come up with cool, little photo ideas that are relevant.”All the girls said they enjoyed the experience and are glad they took the class.“I learned about the business of making a newspaper,” said Plotnikoff. “It’s a different form of writing than what we normally do. You’re utilizing some of the same skills but you’re presenting it to a different audience than you would say for an English class. Our class was an interesting opportunity to express my opinion in a way that reached the public in a number of topics that mattered to not only me but teenagers in general.”Rexin learned that being a journalist is time consuming and requires a great deal of dedication.“I learned a lot about how you have to put in a lot of time outside of class time to talk to the right kind of people and get the right kind of information,” she said. “You have to make sure everything is accurate or people will get upset. As Elane said, it’s a different writing style. It’s interesting to talk about sports, which is what I like. It’s nice to have all the information first before other people do.”Rexin plans to go to university next year in either Calgary or Toronto and possibly take journalism.“I want to be a writer,” she said. “I want to go to either the University of Calgary or the University of Toronto and major in English and see where that takes me.”Plotnikoff would also like to continue on in the writing field.“I don’t know if journalism’s in my future,” she said. “But I feel like writing will be in one form or another so learning the skills was important so I can apply them to different aspects of life.”White says taking photos for the paper are a lot different than just taking photos for fun.“It’s a lot different than just going out and having a subject to take,” she said. “It’s more about getting people interested and drawn into the article as opposed to just a tree or something. It has to be interesting.”White was also glad to have the opportunity to meet different students through the profile of the week.“It really got me out there to know people from different grades,” she said. “I’m really interested in photography. What I’d like to do after high school is travel the world and take photos wherever I go.”Beaumier, the only Grade 11 in the class, enjoyed working with her journalism classmates.“It’s really interesting to work with different kinds of people,” she said. “Using InDesign was very new to me. Mr. deHaan taught us and now I know how. It was cool getting to lay it out and then seeing it in the newspaper.”Gentry also enjoyed working with her classmates, saying she wouldn’t likely normally hang out with them.  “It’s been cool working with everyone and getting to represent the students,” she said. “We don’t normally get a voice in the community. We do a little bit in the school. Everyone seems to have noticed us a lot more. A lot of people have said the paper is cool and it’s good that we’re doing it.”Gentry said she likes writing but is more interested in art. She is hoping to go Emily Carr Art Institute in Vancouver, but may go to Nelson first.Overall, the students enjoyed working together to finish off the paper. They also were able to work independently to complete their own individual projects.“We worked a lot on our own,” said Beaumier. “On Mondays we talked about the stories and photos we wanted and how the lay-out would be.”“Communication was definitely important,” said Rexin. “How many words we needed for a story or what picture we needed with what story.”