Interviewing, accountability, sales, time management, quality writing, organization, teamwork; these are all skills that we have acquired after two years of taking journalism at George Mason High School.
The staff is the backbone of any newspaper. You can measure the success of a newspaper by the staff not only through their writing or journalistic skills, but how they can communicate with each other. It is something that is not easily learned; it takes time, even years, to convert the names on a class list into a productive working team.
As you may know, George Mason High School offers only Journalism I and II, not allowing staff members to take the class for more than two years. This puts the paper in a compromising position.
Since there is no Journalism III or IV, each year the paper has to start at square one, when other high school staffs have been building staffs continuously for years. The fact that we are starting from scratch each year takes a huge toll on the productivity and effectiveness of the staff.
For example, this year we went the entire first quarter without an editor-in-chief or section editors. We didn’t even know what section we would be writing in, which really held us back from performing to the best of our abilities as journalism students.
After going on our class trip to New York City for a scholastic journalism conference the past two years, the staff has been able to discuss how other newspapers are run with staffs from all around the country.
In the biggest and most successful school newspapers, the students were able to take the class as a four year course. Instead of having a few new students each year, we have a whole new staff. Instead of having to teach four new students how to write an article, each year, Lasso Adviser Mrs. Wagener has to teach an entire class the basics of journalism and it takes time away from actually writing for the newspaper.
The journalistic style of writing is completely different than writing essays in English. This is a skill-- including interviewing, media development, and note taking-- that isn’t necessarily difficult to learn, but takes time to become good at.
It is now third quarter and we have grown to be a very close staff. We have a very good chain of communication within the classroom and the quality of our articles has improved greatly. But what if students were able to take journalism starting as freshmen, all the way through senior year?
In 2010 and 2011, Lasso Online was awarded a Silver Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the most prestigious award high school publications can receive. That was possible last year because of the re-enrollment of several Journalism I students into Journalism II.
Unfortunately, we were not even nominated for an award this year. As Journalism II students, and on account of the class as a whole, it is disappointing to find that our hard work wasn’t recognized this year.
It’s class registration season and we are in a dilemma. We want to continue with our journalism career, but we are unable to do so unless Journalism III and IV are created. How are we expected to improve our newspaper if we are forced to start from scratch every two years?
Lasso is an important publication to our school that has been running for 60 years. Last year, Lasso Online almost did not have enough people to fill a class, threatening the existence of the newspaper. The course was saved by a few last-minute enrollments, but the same fate remains a possibility from year to year. We want to continue to keep Lasso an important, informative, and award-winning publication in George Mason, and not let it fade away.
What we are asking for is an opportunity for students to take Journalism III and IV so that Lasso Online can be the best newspaper that we can make it.
Allie Plata and Mimi Nemec
Lasso Staff 2010-2012