Journalism students produce issue at Kansas State Fair competition  

Sienna Jones and Jenna Donaldson | staff writers

Charger students spent an entire day at the Kansas State Fair last week, competing in the Scholastic Press Corps.

For the competition, a team of five student journalists gets about 10 hours to plan, interview, photograph, write and design a 4-page issue about that day at the fair. Teams receive two assigned stories and come up with two ideas on their own.

The Scholastic Press Corps Newspaper contest, created by Hutchinson Community College journalism professor Janet Hallford, has been going on for more than 20 years. In the first year, there were only 3 different teams. Now the competition includes up to 10 teams a session, spanning every weekday of the fair, with a total of 32 print or broadcast teams competing this year. 

Wabaunsee adviser Brendan Praeger started bringing his class his second year at WHS. He decided to participate just for fun and his students ended up winning the first year. Now in their tenth year of competing, Praeger said he enjoys the competition because it gives students a whole day to focus on journalism. “It’s a great experience for them to work as a team to plan and solve problems. It resembles real world journalism more than what we sometimes are able to do in class.”

Todd Vogts, an assistant professor of media at Sterling College, oversees the competition. He brought his previous students from Western Plains and Sterling High School for more than ten years. Vogts has volunteered at this competition for five years, and has been the coordinator for the past two years. “The hands-on aspect, the deadline pressure, and learning opportunities are extremely appealing,” Vogts said. Overall the competition benefits everyone participating on many levels. Accompanying Vogts was Dedria Ashworth from Arlington, Kan. She works five days a week at the competition as a retired teacher. Ashworth taught journalism at Fairfield High School for 17 years. She has helped with this journalism competition for about 15 years, and said she loves working with kids and seeing what they can accomplish.

Canton-Galva adviser Tima McMannis brought her newspaper team for a third year participating in the competition. McMannis said she has always loved working with kids and dreamed of being an English teacher from the start. She has been an English teacher for 24 years, as well as being involved in news media, journalism and photography. At Canton-Galva, her students prepare their newspaper bi-weekly, as well as online. She believes the competition is a good experience given a short amount of time while dealing with stress and time management. 

The Charger staff experienced exactly that. 

Junior Sophia Castillo wrote a story on the K-State Veterinary birthing clinic. She thought it would be interesting to write about since there’s a lot of information within the building. She said the competition could be stressful and exhausting but she learned how to get out of her comfort zone and talk to people. “The journalism competition is important because it gives students a voice and a better writing foundation,” Castillo said. She learned lots of new things and ate good food. Castillo experienced a learning curve as she had to work under pressure, stress and a deadline. Most of all she had to be confident in her work.

Each team was given agricultural prompts, and the Charger team drew the honey stand and pig racing. 

When the team was deciding topics, Heather Baker was eager to write about the stand. She learned about all the different uses of honey and the importances of bees. Her favorite part of the honey stand was the honey sticks. She thinks the journalism competition is a good experience and not as difficult as she thought it would be. The competition is important to Baker because she enjoys writing and representing her school. She was really comfortable speaking with people about her story. Her only challenges she faced were starting and ending her article.

Junior Ava Meinhardt chose to do her story on llamas and alpacas. Her favorite part of the learning experience was finding out the difference between the two animals and how they are taken care of. Meinhardt’s biggest takeaway was being taught about the new information that she never knew. Meinhardt’s biggest challenges were adjusting to her story since most of what she learned was just informational things. She had to report what she saw. “The competition was very informational, fun and new since I’ve never done it before.” She learned to get out of her comfort zone, as she talked to many people and learned about their interests and information. 

The only senior on the team was AJ Grutsch. Grutsch covered the competition last year, but participated this year for the first time. He covered the pig races. “I think the topic is really exciting, and obviously fun to watch,” Grutch said. Besides just the pigs, Grutch enjoyed other aspects of the show, “Brother Elroy was probably the best part actually, how he hyped up the crowd. The whole skit was witty and entertaining” he said. “Last year was fun, more carefree, and I ate a lot of corn dogs,” he said. This year proved to be more straining yet more fun than his junior year. “Along with the pressures of writing and being judged, this year was a lot more fun as a competitor.”

While results of the competition won’t be revealed for about a month, Praeger said the team’s work was solid. “They planned well and were very proactive. I think they produced some solid work.”

Pictured above: Sophia Castillo and Ava Meinhardt interview at the K-State Veterinary Birthing Center.

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