GSPA promotes journalism

GSPA, held at UGA Oct. 28-29, offered high school journalists a learning experience outside the typical classroom.

Ashley Soriano, Editor-in-Chief

It’s been a little over a week since five members of the “Hoof Print” staff attended the annual GSPA conference held at the University of Georgia.

The 2015 conference lasted Oct. 28-29 at the Tate Center at UGA in which high school journalists all over Georgia congregated to learn techniques and skills for their publications. At the conference, presenters gave 50-minute sessions on ways to improve a newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine or broadcast publication.

Avoiding the predictable

A recurring theme throughout sessions was avoiding writing a story the same way each year. Carolyn Crist, a free-lancer and UGA alumnus, delivered seven sessions during the conference, one of which included covering events. Her top tips include getting visual with polls or surveys to avoid making an overdone story boring; taking many pictures at an event to be able to later describe it in a story; asking how and why; and overall, finding the not-so-obvious angles. The key is to avoid the overdone and keep readers interested, so Crist said, “The truth is people always want information, they always want to be entertained, and people like us will always need to do that…”

Similarly, adviser of Decatur High School’s literary magazine “Carpe Diem” since 1992 and GSPA presenter Jon Reese declared his ultimate piece of advice for high school publications: “Avoid the predictable.”

Going beyond the basics

One session Reese presented was “It’s the Little Things,” in which he suggested interviewing outside of friends of the staff, providing quotes that provide insight, switching up visual elements—basic things that may not always be obvious to a high school journalist. Once staffs have the basics down, they can go beyond. Reese said, “I want to make sure they leave feeling confident about doing something more sophisticated.”

Just as athletes practice hours each day to improve, journalists must do the same. Mark Johnson, photojournalism professor at Grady College at UGA, challenged students to take 100 pictures a day. Even after decades of being a photographer, he continues to take 400 pictures a day—a practice he’s done for five consecutive years.

Going beyond the basics and practicing skills are key and in doing so, journalists keep journalism alive. Johnson said, “I believe we have a constitutional obligation to impact journalism, and if we don’t do this, democracy doesn’t work. We have to understand everything that’s going on in our community, and the way we do that is through journalism.”


Learning is the first step, but without application, improvement won’t be achieved. Publications attend conferences like these to bring journalism-related tools back to their staffs. As for Rebecca Santana, editor of the “Brooklyn Sentinel” in Snellville, this was a bonding experience for her and her staff, and she plans to share what she learned with her staff. She said, “…I want to make sure that I’m up to par so that everyone else can be as well… GSPA is just a really helpful tool…”

12 out of 18 members on her staff are new, so GSPA was an alternative to the typical classroom instruction for them. Santana said, “If something is working for them, maybe it can work for us. It’s a trial and error process… because of that, we’re gonna try to make it work and put out the best product we can, and GSPA is gonna help us.”

Karen Andrews, event coordinator at Grady College, hopes students gain better knowledge and ways to improve and hopes they learn something new and apply it.

As for the “Hoof Print,” members who attended GSPA shared with the staff what they learned. This was the staff’s second year attending GSPA, and it plans to attend each year. Hoof Printers will attend JEA in Orland0, FL. in November and SIPA in Columbus, SC, in March.