Patch recently spoke with Oceana High School's journalism advisor Jennifer McEnany, who won Pacifica Patch's Teacher Appreciation Contest last October, about launching their online publication The Weekly Fog this year.
The Weekly Fog has quickly become a voice for the school and the Pacifica community as well as a reliable source for Pacifica Patch. Just this last Wednesday, for example, students Natalie Nygaard and Haley Holmes turned around a news story in one day for Pacifica Patch about Congresswoman Jackie Speier visiting the school. Here's what McEnany has to say about this new online venture:
Patch: How are you doing this considering funding?
Jennifer McEnany: Our paper is entirely online, and we use WordPress, which is free, so luckily funding is not an issue for us. I decided to go exclusively online partly due to the fact that since we are a new program, we have no budget, and I knew we could do it this way for free.
P: Have you noticed a demand for the class?
M: Yes, this was the first year we offered it, and it filled. We are offering it again next year and are also including advanced journalism as an option and many of the students currently in the class signed up to take advanced next year (beginning and advanced students will be in class together, but returning students will get advanced credit on their transcript and will have more of a leadership role in the paper). We've also had somewhat of a demand from students and teachers who are not in the class who want to contribute. Teachers and students have offered to contribute work from other classes. We have a "student submissions" section for this, which we're working on building up.
P: What kind of articles are you putting out?
M: We publish new articles almost daily. I've been really amazed and impressed with how quickly students are able write and publish articles. We have an general editorial schedule (at this point we're still trying to figure everything out and work out the kinks, so it's more of a guideline). For example, our most popular feature "Outfit of the Week" comes out every Friday. We try to publish an editorial every Tuesday and movie reviews come out every other Thursday.
P: When was the last time the school had a full-fledged program like this?
M: To be honest, I'm not sure. I know that there has not been a newspaper or a journalism class in the six years that I have been at Oceana. I don't think there has ever been a journalism class, and it's been years since there's been a newspaper.
P: Why do they think it's important to offer this program and why the recent resurge when so many other schools are eliminating their journalism programs including colleges like College of San Mateo?
M: My hope is that it becomes a voice for the Oceana community — a real place to bring up and discuss important issues. It should be a conversation starter. The newspaper should be the place for people to go to find out what's going on around campus and the greater community. There are a lot of great things happening on campus that aren't typically recognized or known by everyone, and it's our job to make them known.
It's also important because the students in the class are getting a lot of real-world experience. They work in teams and have to make decisions together. There is a process between the writers and editors for submitting, editing, getting approval, and finally publishing articles, which means that they are accountable to each other (instead of just me). They often have to interview or get quotes from people. All of this requires that they be good communicators. Since we're online they're learning a lot of tech skills (the whole site was designed by them without my help).
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the get a chance to practice their writing skills and write for a real public audience. Oceana has an excellent writing program though our regular humanities classes, but this is a different type of writing. I also teach humanities, and I have several students in journalism, including students who are in the special ed program, who struggled with writing when I had them in humanities. Many of them tell me that they really like writing now and I've noticed a big improvement in their skills. I've also noticed that many students have found their voices as a writers because they get to write about what's important to them.
Read more on Pacifica Patch:
- Pacifica's New Peruvian Restaurant is Now Open
- Update: Medical Emergency May Have Contributed to Abalone Diving Death
- Pacifica Man Accused of Striking Pedestrian While Drunk Out of Custody
- Sweeney Ridge Fire Serves as Warning of Dry Conditions
- Traffic Advisory: Lanes Blocked on NB 280 Near Pacifica Exit