What The Sidekick learned in Washington, D.C.


The Sidekick editors pose front of the White House, taking a sight-seeing trip during their trip to Washington, D.C. for a journalism convention.
The Sidekick editors pose front of the White House, taking a sight-seeing trip during their trip to Washington, D.C. for a journalism convention (Photo by Irma Kennedy).

If you’ve been keeping up with your favorite high school newspaper, you know that The Sidekick editors — 11 total, with adviser Chase Wofford and KCBY teacher Irma Kennedy in tow — traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Nov. 15 weekend to attend the National Scholastic Press Association’s convention for high school journalism.

So what did we learn throughout four days of seminars and sight-seeing around D.C. with some of the leading journalists and high school papers around the country?

First of all, that we’re pretty good. Winning 7th place out of all 17-page and up high school newspapers felt great and we’re proud to represent Coppell High School.

Secondly, that we’ve also got a lot of learning to do. One television reporter said something that made me rethink how I interview people — instead of asking people talking about tough subjects how they feel (I mean really, “How do you feel?” is a pretty pathetic question if you think about it), he asks them “What are your thoughts?” Ahh. Lightbulb. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it out yet, but already this question sounds like a brilliant way to ask subjects how they feel without being intrusive. Another striking session was with National Public Radio’s Lakshmi Singh. She described how using sound can be one of the most powerful tools to move a story forward, but also about how dead silence can sometimes be even more profound. She played a short clip of a very moving interview of Tracy Morgan, which both utterly surprised me as easily as it made me tear up (“And I think about it now – I never meant to hurt my mother”). I never expected to hear the flamboyant 30 Rock actor pause for long stretches to try to fight back tears as he talked about how he took himself and his siblings out of his mother’s house. In addition, it seemed like 9/11 was a theme throughout the entire convention, either by design or coincidence or simply because we were in a city that pulses with patriotism. But nobody hesitated to remind us that journalists are ultimately humans first — journalists second. And when you are interviewing a woman who breaks down crying, describing how she saw people jumping off of the Twin Towers that day, it’s okay to put down your microphone and cry with her. The entire conference really taught us what journalism is ultimately about: our humanity. We left inspired.

Thirdly and finally, we realized that the restaurants in D.C. are far too expensive for our Texas tastes — coming back from conferences the second day, we made it a point to pool our money to buy Frosted Flakes and milk from CVS, borrowed cups and spoons from the hotel and ate breakfast that way for the rest of the trip.

In any case, we’re glad to be home.