Saturday, September 18, 2004

12th Grade: Part V (Newspaper)

Finally, I’m ready to complete my overview of 12th Grade Periods 1-7. I’m actually surprised at how much I’ve been able to recall. I didn’t expect that I’d have been able to write this much.

Newspaper class was my favorite experience of 12th Grade. The most enjoyment I had came out of this failed expedition.

A week before school started, I received a message on my answering machine at home. It sounded like a Spanish lady. She introduced herself as “Beneet”. That’s how it sounded phonetically. Her real name was Mae Bennett. Ms. Bennett wanted us to come in and get familiar before classes opened. Reluctantly, Eric and I came into school the Wednesday before. Incidentally, it was the same day that Ronald Reagan’s daughter Maureen succumbed to cancer. Don’t know why I remember that fact, but I do. Nobody else from the staff bothered to show up. The newly appointed Editors-in-chief were nowhere to be seen. In the end, all we did was carry a few English books and chat with Bennett.

The entire year was one of my biggest High School failings. I wasn’t at fault for the shortcomings of the paper. Its decline had been coming for years. I think we ended up publishing three or four papers for the year. That was comparable to the 11th Grade output. I feel that I made a number of mistakes and miscalculations. One was in not questioning the editor-in-chief hierarchy. In retrospect, I should have told Bennett that the election was a complete farce. We had people voting that had little or no input on the newspaper. Most weren’t even back from 11th Grade. Even the little Hawaiian girl from Blackmon’s class betrayed me and my associate, Mr. Cioffoletti. I can’t be 100 % certain if supposed loyalist John Hyne voted in our favor. I would have immediately called for a special election. Bennett deserved to hear our vision for the newspaper, compared to that of Megan Greathouse and Jen McLarty.

The second major catastrophe came when I backed the wrong horse. Mr. Cioffoletti and I reached a strategic decision to back the campaign of Jessica Burke to be a 3rd co-editor in chief. Burke joined the class about a week after the start of school. My confidant new a lot about Burke from the Literary Magazine a year prior. I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Burke. She wasn’t always the most talented or smart, but I’ve never seen such a hard worker in all my years at DHS. Burke wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with. I envision her having a nervous breakdown by the time she’s 25, but that’s another story. Burke is an individual that I maintain an immense amount of respect for.

However, Burke’s vision did not fit in with that of McLarty and Greathouse. Megan was a very cute and nice girl. I have nothing bad to say about her, personally. McLarty was a protégée of the legendary Aimee Thornley. Megan had a decent amount of skill, but not the type of vision needed to lead a newspaper. The same goes for McLarty. They wanted to take the paper in the direction of sports and entertainment. Cioffoletti, Hyne, and myself wanted to be more news and commentary oriented.

Another big problem was the lack of quality talent. Considering how few quality writers were in the class, I can remember most of them off-hand. That list consisted of Mr. Cioffoletti, Mr. Hyne, Ms. McLarty, Ms. Greathouse, and myself. Then there was Erik Wood, who was very talented. He reminded me a lot of Jason Morse, whom was absent for most of 2002. Compared to the general populace of Journalism II-IV, Kelsey Hoffman had decent skills. There, that is it. We had seven competent writers. The rest of the class consisted of clowns like Stuart and Matt, the kid who hit me with a projectile device. I think that was the only time I’d ever raised my voice in four years at DHS. I believe I called him a “son of a bitch”, or something to that effect. Bennett was not pleased with my outburst.

My position that year was News Editor. I was the editor, fact checker, and one of only a handful of news writers. I did a fairly decent job, all things considered. The biggest mistake I made was to ignore a lot of school news. I did national events, but didn’t talk enough about the goings-on campus. I should have done a better job at finding talent from outside my core group of Cioffoletti and Hyne. If I could have found one or two reliable writers, then things would have been much better. Instead, I kept with the same group of like-minded individuals.

Next, I have to give some much deserved shout outs. Eric Cioffoletti was a tremendous layout editor. He really knew what he was doing and had innovative layout ideas. In addition, he was a very solid and reliable news writer. If this newspaper had any success, he should get an enormous amount of credit. John Hyne was another invaluable asset. His work on the opinion page is to be commended. Unfortunately, I don’t think he gave it his full effort. The biggest problem was that he and I were the only opinion writers. I certainly would have given balance, but nobody else had much to say about anything. Finally, Burke deserves many props. She put so much into that final printing. Burke took the disks home and did pretty much everything herself.

What’s there to say about Mae Bennett? We speculated that she had just been released from a correctional institute. I believe she taught prior at an urban school somewhere in Palm Beach County. Although she tried, Bennett wasn’t much of a creative help to this enterprise. Any success can be directly attributed to our seven member staff. My favorite Bennett moment came when my friend Eric got a new haircut sometime during second semester. She made no pretenses about liking it. She said something to the effect of, “That hair, Eric? It’s not you.” He might have a more accurate account of that quote. I can’t confirm the mental sanity of Bennett, either. She was the polar opposite of Juanita Blackmon, the straight-laced, Condi Rice clone of 11th Grade.

The biggest criticism I have is that we didn’t do enough to turn the tide. We needed to look at what made schools like Spanish River and Forest Hill succeed. I went to both of the Palm Beach Post H.S. Journalism awards. We should have looked at every damn award-winning publication and thought deeply about how to improve ours. In fairness, I have no idea how well papers sold at rival institutions. The newspaper wasn’t very hip among students at DHS.

The low point came when we discovered that English teacher Boyd Allen had taken to creating a rival newspaper. The crew was livid when the revelation reached our desks. A few of us stormed down to Allen’s classroom and confronted him. This was a direct slap in the face to our work. He tried to claim that it was only a class project and he wasn’t trying to compete with us. I was polite, but steaming inside.

All that being said, we had a good time. On most days, we’d go into the back room and talk for almost two hours. I’ve had people claim illicit acts were performed in the back rooms of creative writing and journalism classrooms. Someone told me that former student Nick Ross exposed his genitals to a chorus of cheering females (and males). I’d like for that to be addressed directly, once and for all. If it really did happen, it would go down as a great moment in the history of DHS. I can attest that nothing like that ever happened when I was seated in those rooms. There was one time where Aimee Thornley was wearing a moo-moo, and I was unable to achieve an erection for weeks thereafter. Besides that, the talk was rather mild. The most heated debate was between the pro-choicers (myself and Hyne) and the pro-lifers (McLarty).

To conclude, there’s one person I forgot to mention. His name was Scott McLarty. He had an informal role on our staff, since he was the sister of Jen McLarty. To his credit, S. McLarty was a great technical asset. His work with computers went a long way to getting papers to print. We fear that he may have been brain damaged as a result of being kicked in the head by an angry horse. For that claim, I have no direct attribution. I do know a horse kicked him. The brain damage is disputable.

Postscript: I believe there is still a DHS newspaper in existence. That’s one of the things I do want to find out. The best source of DHS journalism info is warestheanykey@aol.com. According to him, a newspaper existed through the end of the 2003-2004 school year. If they once and for all gave the reigns to Boyd Allen, I could actually see the paper surviving. If not, it’s only a matter of time until Journalism succumbs to budget cuts.

2 Comments:

Blogger Eric Cioffoletti said...

Fantastic commentary about the Newspaper class. That Bennett made things interesting. She was one of my more memorable teachers at Dwyer.

I'll never forget how futile the PB Post Awards were. Even Bennett questioned the point of going. I was one of the main people that insisted we go. I felt like we could've learned a valuable lesson from the humiliation of not even getting an honorable mention. We went to that fancy hotel on a school day though and we all got to get out of class.

Bennett's making fun of my haircuit was part of her charm. The woman never held back and she always spoke her mind. I can say that's part of what I liked about her.

Scott was never kicked in the head by a horse. I just threw that in there while talking to him about his horse riding. He was too retarded to notice. Sometimes he would get wary but I could always throw him off track again.

Hey, making Burke one of the chief editors was a big blunder. I know she did a lot of work for us but so did we and none of us were ever up for head editorship. I just know that if we had challeneged McLarty and Greathouse early on, we might have gotten it and the paper would've been much better. But fuck regrets. The only reason we lost was because this group of 3 or 4 black girls all voted against us because they hated me for SOME fucking reason.

The journalism class was good though for the most part. And you remembered some great details that I had forgotten.

September 18, 2004 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger tsias said...

H.S. Journalism was my favorite class. Even though the results weren't great, I had a fantastic time. I'd like to think I learned some things that will be useful in college.

September 18, 2004 at 9:22 PM  

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