Take an experienced newspaper staff, eager student journalists and a shared enthusiasm for writing, put them together, and you get the 2010-11 R-Jeneration team.
Each Thursday, about 25 teens from across the valley meet at the Las Vegas Review-Journal to learn the basic principles and techniques of journalism. The team produces a page that runs weekly in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, with the R-Jen members contributing articles, photos and illustrations.
Palo Verde High School junior Allison Cox feels especially proud of her published work. "It made me feel like I actually knew how to write and really accomplished," she said.
The program is led by Review-Journal managing editor Charlie Zobell and assistant features editor Lindsey Losnedahl. Their goal is to teach teens about journalism and improve their writing ability, a skill necessary for any career path.
"R-Jeneration belongs to the team members," Zobell said. "They come up with the story ideas, do the interviews, write the stories and take the photos. We’re here to coach and guide them. The experience they gain will serve them well in whatever careers they choose."
Losnedahl added that the newspaper staff wants to "encourage kids to pursue knowledge of current events, to educate themselves, to be curious about their own environment and their peers, and to become well-rounded citizens who can capably put their thoughts on paper."
Zobell and Losnedahl lead weekly discussions on the most recent R-Jeneration page and instruct team members on a range of topics, such as interview techniques, lead writing, transitions and the appropriate use of quotations in stories. Students then break off into groups to meet with their mentors, volunteer members of the Review-Journal staff.
For Advanced Technologies Academy junior Michael MacDougal, the mentors are one of the most beneficial aspects of the program. "My mentor is great," MacDougal said. "He’s made the transition from an idea to an article really easy. Lindsey tells you what to do. Mentors are good at telling you how to get there."
Jennifer Land, a Review-Journal business copy editor, works as a mentor for the program. Land believes that R-Jen provides valuable journalism experience for teenagers and finds it rewarding to give her students exposure to the field.
"It’s important to me to ensure today’s generation of young journalists knows that the basic rules still apply," Land said. "Whether writing for a newspaper, magazine or blog, get your facts right, and pursue them in an ethical manner."
However, R-Jeneration is not just about writing.
Claudia Peck, a junior at Las Vegas Academy, is a photographer on the R-Jen team, and has written articles for the page in the past.
"It’s really the best of both worlds," Peck said. "They’re professionals, so it’s pretty cool to get an inside view of both photography and writing."
The only illustrator on the team, Flo Awuah, has pursued her love of drawing through the program. "When I think of journalism, I think of writing, but there’s a lot more to it than just writing stories," she said.
In addition to the advantages of being published in a metropolitan newspaper, MacDougal said that one of the best parts of R-Jeneration is the opportunity to meet other teenagers from different high schools who also are interested in journalism.
"Last year, I made a lot of friends," he said. "It feels good to have something in a real newspaper; it’s cool to say I had a part in that. But the people are what make R-Jen."
As the R-Jeneration program enters its 10th year, Losnedahl has high hopes for the new team. "This year we have a really great group of kids who seem really proactive and have gotten off to a quick start," she said. "I feel really encouraged."
At the end of the year, the R-Jeneration team is recognized at the Review-Journal’s annual High School Journalism Awards luncheon. The newspaper also awards two seniors with a $2,000 college scholarship. For more information on the program, e-mail rjeneration@review journal.com.R-Jeneration