Students pursue journalism at FSPA conference
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04/17/09 Arielle Stevenson
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Many professionals in journalism are feeling the crunch of the weakened economy as well as the shift to producing more online content.

Longtime employees of the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times are opting for early retirement packages. In February, Colorado’s oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News closed after 150 years in business.

But this weekend in Tampa, more than 800 high school students attended the Florida Scholastic Press Association’s State Conference to pursue their future in journalism. Mark Schledorn is Vice President of the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA). Schledorn says the students at the 63rd annual conference are optimistic about journalism.

Students get to attend numerous workshops held by professionals in various arenas of journalism at the conference. However the majority of the students are there to compete. Some of the competitions are prepped months in advance, others are on the spot.

Seventeen-year-old Luke Travieno attends Pace High School in Pensacola. This is his first time at the FSPA Conference. Luke and his group had to do a story based on a fake celebrity tantrum. Then they have four hours to film and edit a feature story assigned by the judges.

Eric Deggans media critic for the *St. Petersburg Times, says it is important for those entering the journalism field today, to be a jack of all trades as opposed to the old model where journalists were taught to specialize.

Barb and Maryland are both high school students from Coral Springs. Barb competed in several photography competitions this year and says she knows that photographs will always been in her life. Maryland says that while she is unsure exactly where she wants to take these skills, journalism is still at the heart.

John Frank is a political reporter for the Times, he says he was impressed by the level of political coverage some of the student publications were providing.

Tonight University of Florida’s Bill McKeen will speak about his book on Hunter S. Thompson. Times reporters Matt Waite and Craig Pittman will speak about investigative reporting. Christy Sheppard, senior designer for Wired Magazine, will talk to students about publication design.

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