Thoughts on News Gathering
Without news gathering, a journalist would have nothing. News gathering is my favorite part of journalism.
It requires that I become an expert in a topic through interviews and research. That process feeds into my love for learning. Diving deep into an analysis of Malvern’s grades was fascinating. I poured over Google Sheets for hours, finding trends that wouldn’t even end up in my story because I genuinely want to know.
That inquisitive and unquenched desire for knowledge has been a guide for my work.
Here are some of my works that demonstrate my desire to learn new things, talk to people, get the facts, and present all perspectives.
Redefining grades as upward trend continues
Published: Winter 2014, The Blackfriar Chronicle
I published this story in the winter of my junior year. It’s an in-depth look at my school’s (obvious) grade inflation. I did quite a bit of leg work and data journalism for this story, which you can read about below.
Read the article here.
Every year, the school creates a school profile with the basic information for colleges. Instead of a class rank, they provide a chart that lists every course for the junior class and the number of grades received for each letter (A+, A, A-, etc.).
I scavenged Malvern’s archives to get as many as possible, and manually entered them into Google Sheets. I then parsed the data out in every way you could probably think of, and from that had the basis for a great story. There was a very definite trend from 1999-2015, which you can see on the graphic in the story.
We have a 4.0 club at Malvern for all kids who graduate Malvern with a 4.0 cumulative GPA. The members of the 4.0 club are listed on plaques in our counseling department, so I took down the number for every year dating back to 1999.
Then, I went to the admissions office to get the numbers of kids that graduated in every class from 1999 to 2015 to ensure class size was not a reason for any trend found. Accounting for that, the proportion of kids graduating in the 4.0 club still has increased, on average, by .5% every year, and over the course of 16 years, that adds up.
To write this story I also interviewed:
Mrs. Emily Feeney, Director of College Counseling
Mr. Richard Roper, College Counselor and English teacher
Mr. Ron Algeo, Head of the Upper School
Mr. Larry Legner, Moral Theology teacher
Mr. Andrew Burke, History teacher
My junior year, I walked into school and my adviser pointed out to the group that we had no coverage planned whatsoever for 9/11. The idea was pitched that we just go around and tell different teachers 9/11 stories.
Over the course of the school day, I got 9 interviews done. I distinctly even remember asking to go to the restroom during class, and going to the library to ask another faculty member for their 9/11 story.
Periodically throughout the day I was writing them up on my phone, and sending them along to our graphic designer who would add it to an ongoing graphic. Once he did that, he would send it back to me and I would throw it up on our social media page and we had a running coverage for 9/11.
It was really a great experience, and a lot of the stories I got back were really powerful. Below are just a few of the most powerful.
“I was a sophomore or a junior [at Malvern] on 9/11, and at that time most of us didn’t have cell phones. We weren’t getting alerts on our phones and social media was not like what it was today. I remember being in homeroom and Mr. Legner made an announcement that a small plane had crashed into one of the twin Towers. To be quite honest, I did not know what the Twin Towers were or why it was necessarily relevant to announce it to the whole school. So I was in a math class and we had all the old box TVs in the corner. Most teachers at the time had the TVs on to the news to CNN. And it was pretty crazy cause you were seeing all the smoke and stuff. The second plane hit the tower. Initially we thought it was an accident, like a replay of the first incident…. Once, we realized it wasn’t and we were seeing a second plane hit, everyone panicked a little bit. One plane is an accident but a second plane its a little too coincidental. It was a really somber time on campus. I went from a junior at Malvern not knowing what terrorism was in 2001, to fast forwarding to 2006 working as an Arabic Linguist in a purely anti-terrorism facet of the military.”Mr. Pat Williams
“I thought [my husband] was on the plane,” said Mrs. Lappas. He did not answer any of her phone calls, and she had no way to get ahold of him. She went about the entire day, picking her girls up at school, and watching the TV screen with the horror that her husband was in the plane. Mrs. Lappas had recently moved to Massachusetts when her husband (ex Villanova Basketball Coach) got a new job at UMass. Their house was still being built, so they were living out of a hotel. She dropped her girls off at school, and her husband was flying down to Houston to recruit that day. She got a call from her sister saying that a plane crashed into one of the towers. Her brother-in-law worked in one of the towers. Mr. Lappas’ flight was to leave Boston’s airport at the same time as the plane that hit the twin towers. Fortunately, Mr. Lappas’ flight was not the flight that hit the first tower at 8:45 A.M. His flight was diverted to Birmingham Alabama, and he exited safe and sound.Mrs. Harriet Lappas
“It was either 10:35 or 10:22. Whenever the 2nd tower went down. Before, it was obviously stupefied disbelief. Jaw dropping disbelief, but I was alone in room 204 and the TV was on.
And I was taking a moment in between doing things. I don’t remember what those things were.
I was taking a moment to see how things were progressing. That is when the second tower went down. That’s when I was glued to the power being sent loose.”Mr. Rich Roper
Preparing for an International Campus
Preparing for an International Campus
Published: October 2015, The Blackfriar Chronicle
This story is really four articles in one. The process of writing it is an accurate illustration how writing stories usually goes for me. My adviser says I have a knack for exploding stories. I covered the admissions, service trip, global exchange, and culture perspectives, even though I just intended to write about the difference in the Chinese exchange students' experience between life in China and here. You can read about the process below.
Read the article here.
List of Sources
Mr. Pat Williams, Assistant Director of Admissions and Diversity
Ms. Teresa Lohse, Moderator of Global Exchange Program
Mr. Larry Legner, Director of Christian Service
Mr. Paul Simpson, College Counselor
Mr. Tom McGuire, East Asian Teacher
Yuezhang “Howard” Yao Jr. Exchange Student
Zhengguo Hao, Exchange Student
This started out as a 300-500 word story for my senior elective journalism class. It was just going to be a short and sweet article about exchange student Howard Yao, comparing his life here to his life in China. But everyone I interviewed led to another person and another story.
I started with Howard, and that interview suggested some of the admissions questions I asked Assistant Director of Diversity Mr. Patrick Williams. When I spoke with him, not only did he say College Counselor Mr. Paul Simpson was better to ask, but he also mentioned how fast the international applicants are coming in and how it is forcing them to develop requirements.
Mr. Simpson told me about how his connections led to the new service trip to China, and that Ms. Teresa Lohse was heading that up. In talking to her, she had so much to share regarding the future of the foreign exchange program.
Everywhere I went, a new story popped up. In the end, we ran it as a whole page stretch under one theme of “An International Campus.”