Senior sports editor Aaron Remotigue, Jacket Buzz advisor RJ Morgan and senior editor-in-chief Cullom McCormick look over the latest issue of The Jacket Buzz, Starkville High School’s student newspaper. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
October 22, 2012 9:58:28 AM
Friday afternoon is homecoming at Starkville High School, but The Jacket Buzz staff has another reason to celebrate.
The school's student newspaper has just published its second issue of the year. RJ Morgan, the newspaper's advisor, and the 13-student staff have just returned from lunch.
With the homecoming pep rally only a couple hours away, painted faces, toothy smiles and the Yellow Jackets' black and yellow dominated the room.
Holding a copy of the first Jacket Buzz dated Oct. 28, 1992, Morgan, who has been with SHS for six years and the Jacket Buzz for five, says the paper has done nothing but improve every issue. Not only has it improved, he says, but it has grown as well.
When Morgan took over, The Jacket Buzz published three, eight-page issues a year, and not a single page had color. Today, the Buzz has grown into a 16-page edition with eight pages in full color.
The Jacket Buzz has also added a website and a twitter account to their outlet repertoire.
Morgan has worked professionally in the journalism world for several years, in addition to having experience as an editor at The Reflector, the student newspaper for Mississippi State University.
"It's been a challenge to go from being a journalist to really coaching journalism, because that is the way I look at it," he says. "There are things in every paper, every story, every layout that, personally, I would do it a different way, but my job is not to tell them how to do it."
Many of the students on staff, had little, if any, interest in journalism prior to their work with The Jacket Buzz.
As they reminisce in Morgan's classroom after lunch, junior news editor Kelley Mazzola reminds senior editor-in-chief Cullom McCormick of how she was introduced to paper.
When Mazzola was a freshman, her older sister was on staff with McCormick.
"She and Cullom were trying to recruit me," says Mazzola. "Cullom nearly gave me a wedgie. It was like, you are getting on staff no matter what."
Initially, McCormick looks confused, bewildered as to why he cannot remember the event.
"Well it was a metaphorical wedgie," Mazzola says. "I guess it was good metaphorical wedgie, though."
McCormick admits that he can be forceful at times, and says that probably comes from his first encounter with journalism, which he never really saw as something he would be interested in.
"I knew. I just knew I wanted to write," he says.
And he must be doing a pretty good job. At an on-site competition in September at the University of Mississippi, McCormick scored excellent in the feature-writing category.
Senior Aaron Remotigue, the paper's sports editor, had his eye on an opinion writing position to begin with.
"I just really liked the idea of ranting in the paper," he says. "But I am glad I got sports.
"I don't really miss very many games now. For the first two weeks of college football, I didn't miss (watching) a single top 25 game."
As active high school students, many of the students who work for The Jacket Buzz have other commitments, and being stretched so thin can always produce mistakes.
"We are high school students," McCormick says. "We are involved in like 100 other things, so there are always stories that don't make or things that we have to rewrite, especially towards the end."
Though he might get frustrated at times, Morgan tries to remind the kids that mistakes happen every day in the journalism world and "all you can do is try your best to prevent them."
Along with writing, photographing and marketing the Buzz, the editors also design the entire paper using InDesign, an Adobe program used by the many professionals in the journalism and print media world.
Until this year, The Jacket Buzz has maintained a standard design, with a standard flag, but thanks to McCormick, who is in his second year as editor, the paper got a facelift.
"It's more of a magazine style," Morgan says of the new design. "I think the students really like it."
Exposing the kids to programs like InDesign and Photoshop is something Morgan thinks is paramount in a student journalist's learning experience.
"We have to teach them industry software at the early level," he says. "The journalistic process is only becoming more reliant on these things."
Friday's homecoming was fun for the staff, but for Morgan and the rest of The Jacket Buzz, today will include tearing apart the last edition from cover to cover, highlighting the mistakes and discussing how to fix them. Then it's on to the next one.
In addition to McCormick's win at Ole Miss, senior broadcast journalists Leah Gibson and Emily Damm scored superior and excellent, respectively, in the broadcast competition.
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