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Editorial: Meet the storytellers of the future
Sardis’ Bobcat Buzz team learns ins, outs of news biz at The Times
03022018 BOBCAT BUZZ
Students with the Bobcat Buzz, a team of young journalists from Sardis Enrichment School, take notes in their reporters’ notebooks during a tour of The Times’ newsroom on Tuesday, Feb. 27. - photo by Scott Rogers

There were some serious discussions happening Tuesday at The Times.

What makes a newspaper liberal or conservative? 

Where do ideas for news articles come from?

How does print production affect the environment?

Bobcat Buzz tour

View more photos of the Sardis Enrichment School students’ tour on The Times’ Facebook page.

Schedule a tour: Schools and other groups are welcome to tour The Times. Contact Amanda Cameron at 770-718-3435 or acameron@gainesvilletimes.com to schedule a time.

A team of young journalists from Sardis Enrichment School took an extended tour of the newspaper Tuesday, Feb. 27, as part of a Partnership in Education agreement between the school, the newspaper and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

To say the students were inquisitive is an understatement. Their jaws dropped upon seeing impressive stacks upon stacks of giant paper rolls in our warehouse, and they looked in awe at the massive press looming above them.

But mostly they talked. 

When asked why they joined the journalism team at Sardis, most said they enjoyed writing. And since they’ve been working together, they’ve learned to appreciate having a team of people who share a love of journalism but also have different, and strong, opinions on a variety of topics. 

It’s a lot like a real newsroom, where animated discussions and camaraderie go hand in hand.

The students’ creativity and curiosity is infectious, and it’s been a joy to work with them so far this year. They’ve been learning a lot about reporting and writing, with the help of teachers Shane Rayburn and Katie Phillips. 

The Times publishes their work quarterly on a special page devoted to the Bobcat Buzz. They also produce video news segments that appear on The Times’ Facebook page.

One of the first things they learned during revisions of their work was that exclamation points are rarely, if ever, used on news pages. It was a big adjustment for such an excited group of kids. But using more powerful words can make a story more exciting than a few exclamation points.

During their tour, they asked questions of reporters, such as what drew them to journalism, how they make their articles interesting and what happens after they write their story. 

They’ve learned about deadlines, the differences between opinion pieces and news articles and the importance of writing concisely and choosing topics interesting to their readers.

They also spent time with our photographers, asking technical questions like how we get a subject in sharp focus and a background more blurred, as well as whether we modify images in Photoshop. 

They learned that a good camera and the skill to use it allows a photographer to have a lot of control over how an image will look. At the same time, the photo must be an accurate representation, and “photoshopping” at The Times involves nothing beyond corrections for color and lighting.

One student hit the nail on the head when asked what makes a good photo: colorful, active and with emotion.

And they heard a lot Tuesday about the responsibility of a newspaper to inform people with accurate, fair and balanced information. They heard it from us, but they’re also learning it firsthand by interviewing people at their school, publishing stories about them and learning how those stories affect their Sardis community.

One student asked what journalism will look like 30 years from now. We hope the desire to understand a community and be informed about what’s happening is just as important then as it is now, and as it was in 1970 when Charles and Lessie Smithgall dedicated our building with a plaque that features these words: “Guided by the constitutional principle of the public’s right to know, we dedicate this building to the continued enlightenment and freedom of the people of North Georgia.” 

Exactly what that future will look like? Maybe the Bobcat Buzz team can tell us.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to letters@gainesvilletimes.com. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.

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