The Devil Wears Prada is one of many films portraying humans who live according to deadlines. One magazine after the other, the editors and publishers never get to rest, given tasks that seem impossible to finish on time. In Singapore American School we have the journalism class – if well below the seriousness of professional publishing companies like the one in Devil Wears Prada. Certainly, however, we have our own dysfunctional moments of journalism failures as we strive to deliver news in our school. So, it’s “Same, same, but different.” While Anne Hathaway labors away sporting the latest designer clothes, we’re stuck in our white SAS polos.
So what in the world do students in journalism actually do? Here’s our cycle:
- Decide on a topic to write about, which actually may take 70% of the time producing the article.
- Research the topic, which comes with a huge amount of procrastination.
- Write on (or Film and edit a visual piece on) the chosen topic.
- Seek editing advice and feedback from editors, peers and the teacher.
- And finally – fingers crossed – publish the article.
Five steps. Very simple, right? Not really. With these steps come an infinite number of small obstacles in the most unexpected way. Choosing a topic itself is one of the hardest steps. Occasionally, we get overlapping ideas like the most recent one where a classmate and I had a talk about who’s going to write a review on the movie La La Land. We almost started an arm wrestling match in journalism class over it, but instead I chose to write about this typical situation in the media lab. With topic in hand, then comes the “So what?” question — looking for that journalistic relevance — like any other essay in English class.
By some luck, let’s say I get started on a topic. Then comes the researching and planning. This is when the urge to procrastinate hits hard. Like… really hard.. like SSS HARD. It’s one of the most challenging struggles in journalism. After racking our brains to decide upon a decent topic, we’ve used too much brain power and are left in need of nourishment. So we get food (yes — food is a frequent distraction in the media lab that, until the sign was ripped down, was supposedly a foodless environment) and, in a blink, 45 minutes have gone by. Our discussions about the article digress to what we should order at McDonalds.
If writing seems difficult enough, the filming process is just plain painful. A 3-minute video can take multiple class periods and after-school sessions to complete. Sometimes we say, “Let’s check what we’ve filmed so far” only to open the SD memory card slot to realize “oops – no card,” or that the battery has died mid-filming. If the video footage magically turns out fine, the microphone was likely muted and we’re ended up with an audio-absent film. Yes, filmmaking skills for the modern journalist are increasingly under greater demand.
Next step: Editing. Peers, the teacher, and the editors-in-chief take a stab at improving early drafts. Often, we are told to go back and fix things repeatedly, or even start from scratch with a different slant. It’s here that the cycle staggers, moving from step four to step five… only to be pushed back to four again, inching toward fi… four.. step fiv…. four. You get the picture. It’s disconcerting when you attempt an entertainment piece created to make the audience laugh and the editors/peers don’t even show a smirk.
Even from people outside our journalism class, it seems to be an enigma regarding what’s really happening in this class. Senior student Hiroto Kozue (12) stated (with a certain degree of jealously) that our journalism class “is just another free period” while Riho Kanomata (12) said that “I see a lot of journalism students out of class. But… if anything, I think this shows that they’re getting their work done.” Journalism, however, has proven to actually demand more work than expected. In fact, our roles as journalists carry a greater responsibility because we deliver news and content to other students, teachers, and even outsiders reading our website. As we represent our school with the SAS Eye Online, both our mistakes and accomplishments can seriously impact our school’s image and reputation. News that is delivered dishonestly or in a biased or nuanced way sets a bad example and violates core values. But, when done well, we hope that our personal “distress” results in work that is informative, engaging, and ultimately gratifying to our SAS readership.