the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Alice Tao ’24
Over the past weekend, student journalists from all over the country gathered at Harvard University for the annual Crimson Journalism Summit. The Harvard Crimson is the nation’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper. Founded in 1873, The Harvard Crimson covers top stories in the Cambridge area and has become recognized as one of the most prestigious college papers in the country.
Students that attended the event participated in various workshops, interacted with notable journalists, and reported at Harvard Square. In Writing 101, students learned how to write an intriguing story, which includes being concise, factual, and informative. When forming a lede - the opening sentence or paragraph of a news article -, it is important to keep it short, detail-oriented, and specific. The Nut Graf are the paragraph(s) immediately following the lede, providing additional details that were too brief to include in the lede, but important to a more nuanced understanding of the story.
Moving on to reporting, the Crimson staff taught students various skills to conduct a successful interview. The four Ps - punctual, polite, persistent, and precise - are the keys to an efficient interview. The most important, accuracy, which defines the quality of a story. As ethical journalists, it is crucial to adhere to truths and facts. Any deviation from the truth may lead to severe consequences, even lawsuits!
During an interview, help your interviewee feel comfortable and confident to tell their story. Ask follow-up questions! They are the sources of your story, so ask questions that efficiently answer what you question. For example, during the summit, students participated in a breaking news simulation, they were given one phone number to write a breaking story in 40 minutes. The questions included who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions would give reporters sufficient information to produce a story. Students were rushed with adrenaline and anxiety when interviewees did not pick up the phone, or did not reveal crucial information. In the end, however, each student acquired the skills to produce high-quality work in a time crunch and experienced challenges journalists deal with on a daily basis.
Perhaps the highlights of the summit were the conversations with notable professionals in the field. Students virtually interacted with journalists such as Roberta Baskin, Brian Rosenthal, and Jeff Leen.
Roberta Baskin, a duPont-Columbia and Emmy award-winning journalist, worked as an investigative reporter at ABC, CBS, and WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. She credited her initial passion for journalism to her curiosity for the world and the behind-the-scenes mysteries. For example, in a normal soccer ball, Baskin desired to expose the immoral child labor that contributed to the production of soccer balls. Baskin also advised students to embrace mistakes, claiming that failure was what prompted her success.
Brian Rosenthal, a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, works as an investigative reporter at The New York Times. Rosenthal began his career as Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper and later majored in journalism at Northwestern. He credited his initial interest in journalism to his curiosity of the unknown. The thrill of knowing a piece of information before others formed his passion for journalism.
For the final project, students got hands-on experience with reporting. By pitching a story and going out into Harvard Square to investigate. Group 5, a combination of student journalists from 5 different schools, reported on the overwhelmingly popular local cafe, Tatte. Students interviewed customers and workers to investigate the reasons for its popularity. In the end, students produced a 6-minute video report and concluded that Tatte’s success originates from its stellar location, high-quality products, and studious environment.
After the end of the rigorous two days, students left Harvard with sufficient skills and experience to pursue a career in journalism. Eager to incorporate those skills into improving their schools’ newspapers.