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Newspaper staff, Astron Experience UT Journalism Conference

Oct. 24, both our newspaper and yearbook staff traveled from Morristown-West to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for a journalism conference. The journalism conference was funded by THSPA (Tennessee High School Press Association) to help benefit students who are a part of the newspaper and yearbook staff.

sign of the communication building at UT
(sign of the communication building at UT)

When our class arrived at the University, we went into the communications building for registration where we could see the pride of the Tennessee Volunteers football team from across us: The Neyland Stadium. It was after taking pictures of the stadium when they took us into a conference room where we waited for the University of Tennessee's guest speaker to make an appearance.

The Neyland Stadium next to the University of Tennessee building
(The Neyland Stadium next to the University of Tennessee building)

Our guest speaker was Brittany Tarwater, a News anchor/Reporter for WVLT news on channel 8. Tarwater was a former student at the University of Tennessee; it was there she studied in mass communications before returning a few years later to get her masters degree in journalism. Tarwater spoke about her experience with finding a job in her field of study despite lacking the skills these jobs required. She also talked about how news is important to our community of people.

One takeaway we got from Tarwater’s speech was how she mentioned that there are fibers that help connect our community together by using the news. We wholeheartedly agree with what she said; consuming news, whether it be positive, or negative, can bring the community together to do good things. These good things can bring motivation to people around us to help the community contribute to any social change or even be great conversation starters for peers around you.

Tarwater then began to speak about her personal experience with her time at the University of Tennessee, how she got her first job on television, and her early years as a teenager. Tarwater made a point about how people can never know what kind of people they are talking to, which is absolutely true and a very good piece of advice. Tarwater got her first job working on a sports broadcasting station by taking an opportunity to discuss sports with men she served while working as a waitress, without talking to them, she would not have gotten her first job in her field of study. Tarwater mentions something that stood out the most while telling us more details about her job as a news anchor. Tarwater mentioned how she was not a fast reader or very good speaker despite wanting a job in a field that requires you to be those two things. Instead of thinking she can’t be a news anchor because of that, she taught herself to be those things by reading books by herself while they scroll on a screen or speaking her lines after work was out to herself. This was inspiring to many students who believe they can not pursue a career they want because it requires them to be something they are not. It was a very beautiful speech.

Brittany Tarwater, news anchor, speaking to students
(Brittany Tarwater, news anchor, speaking to students)

After Tarwater’s speech, everyone was able to choose from five presentations that the professors were showing. Each one was about an hour long and they were in entrepreneurship in journalism and media, photojournalism, social media and journalism, studio news production, and principles of yearbook design. While most of our newspaper staff chose social media and journalism, some others chose studio news production which was taught by Brad Lyle, UTK studio manager/Video production specialist along with Clint Elmore who is a JEM video specialist and vol channel director. Dr. Mustafa Oz , Jem assistant professor, taught Social media and journalism. He shared some helpful ways for us to look out for untrusted news websites. For example, one tip he told us was to do more research about the article we are reading and to compare the information from one to another. This was a wonderful tip, as we students in the newspaper class want to provide readers with accurate information. He then proceeded to let us do our own investigation by giving us a scenario and having us explain why it can or cannot be trusted. The activity was very fun, and it helped us learn not to overlook certain details.

Dr. Mustafa Oz presenting social media presentation to students
(Dr. Mustafa Oz presenting social media presentation to students)

We then left his classroom and proceeded to eat a delicious lunch that the cafeteria at University of Tennessee provided for us, and soon after, the last of the presentations were being held. They were sports media: opportunities and growth in a dynamic industry, radio and podcasting, documentary filmmaking, best practices in magazine writing, and yearbook trends. We headed into the final room which was Dr. Erin Whiteside’s classroom. Whiteside gave us an overview on the world of sports and how it grows along with the future of sports media. A take away I got from the overview of sports media is that serious topics from outside of sports can be introduced into it. For example, when quarterback Colin kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneeled during the national anthem as a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter. This made headlines and introduced many sports fans who are not aware of current issues by introducing it in sports. It showed us that people are actively reading sports articles and getting their information on the world from there.

Overall, this trip was very informative and fun. It gave students information about the field of media and how important it is to our community along with the unique jobs in journalism. We appreciate the opportunity we received from University of Tennessee and THSPA to learn more about the course our class is studying and how we are contributing to our community in a positive way.

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