Oak Leafers braved state journalism conference to bring you a better newspaper

Claire Tillinghast, Staff Writer

The Oak Leaf staff spent the weekend of April 7 honing journalistic skills, networking with other students and competing in on-the-spot writing competitions against students from 47 community colleges.

Oak Leafers piled into a bus and headed for Sacramento to attend the Journalism Association of Community College’s yearly state conference. Staff members had the opportunity to attend workshops and compete in writing and photography competitions over the course of three days.

“I think all the papers have gotten so competitive,” said SRJC Journalism instructor Anne Belden. “The JACC schools have really strong journalism programs so students are competing with some of the best student journalists in the state.”

The Oak Leaf team brought home three awards. News Editor Jerome Janairo won third place for Write-in Column, Co-Editor-In-Chief Craig Couden received honorable mention in the On-the-Spot Critical Review competition and Opinion Editor Armando Torres-Garcia received honorable mention in the Write-in Feature Profile category.

Ben “Brutus” Gruey, the Oak Leaf layout editor, was elected JACC student president. “He’s got to be the first JACC student president to wear an all pink pantsuit to the banquet,” said Belden referring to the award dinner that took place the final night. “He is a natural politician. He got to know a lot of people very quickly. People will like him; he’ll do a great job and no one will ever forget that outfit.”

JACC is a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to journalism in community colleges and run by an elected board of directors who represent students and faculty from around the state. Its mission is to provide continuing education for journalism instructors along with extended educational opportunities for community college journalism students.

Oak Leaf members learned how to improve their skills as writers and photographers over the course of the weekend. “The competitions were a good learning experience, especially for people who have never had to write on a very short deadline before,” said Features Editor Isabel Johnson.

Co-Editor-in-Chief Quinn Conklin said, “The workshops I made it to were good and the workshops that everyone else made it to sounded really interesting.” Lectures and workshops gave students tools which they could bring back and implement into their own school papers.

In addition to the 46 California schools in attendance, students from the Community College of Rhode Island, the state’s only community college, made the cross-country journey to attend the conference. Evangeline West, editor-in-chief of CCRI’s Unflitered Lens newspaper said, “I learned more about journalism during my weekend in Sacramento than I had in three years of college. I almost wish I wasn’t graduating this May so I could attend next years conference in Burbank.”

The weekend-long event concluded with a banquet dinner where JACC officials gave out the awards for on -he-spot competitions. “I think everyone learned a lot and that’s what’s really important,” Belden said. “It’s not about all the awards. It’s about making yourself a better reporter and a better writer and making your paper better and I think we got a lot of ideas to do that.”