Trip to Washington DC – Part One

I went to Washington, D.C. last week for the Associated College Press National College Media Convention.

Throughout the week I’ll be posting about each of the five days that I was there along with a video of my trip.

I hope you enjoy!

Day 1

I arrived in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 2016 at about 9:30 p.m. EST. It wasn’t a terribly long flight, but the 3 hour time change and the extreme humidity threw me off.

We took an airport shuttle to the Grand Hyatt hotel in downtown Washington, where we checked into our rooms after sorting out some booking issues. From there we had a late night dinner in the Chinatown district and stayed up until 3 a.m.

A few things about D.C. immediately came to my attention. It definitely had that House of Cards vibe, and people who walk the streets at night are scary. Also, people drive terribly there.


Where have I been?

You’ve all probably noticed that it’s been a long time since I last made a blog post. That’s because I’m a college student and an editor for the college newspaper. You can start to see where I might have trouble finding the time to write something.

I’m sure you’ll hear more from me once I figure out the best college schedule to squeeze writing in. For now, here’s some of the projects I’ve been working on and some of the writing I’ve been doing for the newspaper.

Check out my Chris Cornell album review:

Check out my Shinedown album review:

And, finally, check out our newest video. I did all of the video editing.

Catch up on what you may have missed

The following have been posted on my blog during the past 10 days:

March 28, 2015

Current writing project: a dystopia – I introduce my new novel and its main points

March 29, 2015

World-building: how far do you go? – I pose the question, how much do you world-build?

March 30, 2015

A great article – I share an inspiring story by the New York Times about a Grunge-era rocker turned American war hero. One of the better pieces I have read by the Times.

March 31, 2015

Introducing the cast of the Peacemakers – I introduce the main characters of my new novel, the Peacemakers

April 1, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo blues – I share my struggle with Camp NaNoWriMo this year.

April 2, 2015

Expanding my music library – This past week I have added lots of new (and old) music to my collection, including a few vinyl records.

April 3, 2015

Rock chicks: funny Easter video – A little bit of fun for Easter

An opening scene – I share my thoughts on the opening scene for my new novel, the Peacemakers.

April 4, 2015

Paladins: a novella that never happened – I share the first few paragraphs of a novella I tried to write in 2014.

Cars – What is my dream car? What car do I currently own? Find out by reading this blog entry.

Band of the week: Silvertide – Listen to what one of the greatest musical groups of the 21st century have to offer.

April 5, 2015

A FOCUS article sneak-peak – High schoolers reporting on sex-trafficking? Well, its happening.

Spring flowers – A few photos of the flowers blooming in my yard.

The Peacemakers: the opening – The opening scene of my new novel, the Peacemakers.

April 6, 2015

Chinese flag at Washington State Capitol: my response – My response to the tea party/conservative backlash over the flying of the Chinese flag at the Wash. State Capitol building April 6.

First day back – Spring break is over. What does that mean for me?

My week in review

I apologize for my absence. It’s been an eventful week and I have also had a case of not wanting to post anything. I’ll just recap the last few days before I start writing frequently again.

Saturday, March 21

Saturday was the Washington Journalism Education Association state convention and write-off competition. Luckily for my newspaper staff the convention was held at one of the other high schools in my school district this year, so we were able to drive ourselves and sleep in a bit compared to last year. Last year it was held in Shoreline, Washington which is the town directly north of Seattle. Talk about traffic.

When I arrived it was raining extremely hard, which wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t for the fact that I was carrying about 200 newspapers for two blocks. I was one of the first to arrive (I think only five other schools were there before me) and I set up my staff’s table and newspaper display.

Then I attended my write-off competition for news writing. In 70 minutes I was able to write a 400 word article on the SBA test, which was our required prompt. I was awarded an Honorable Mention, which is the same award I received last year, despite my article being much much better than before.

The JagWire staff members that participated in the WJEA state convention.
The JagWire staff members that participated in the WJEA state convention.

Eye troubles

I’ve had glasses since I was in fourth grade. I’ve been wearing contacts since I was in seventh grade. Yet, for some reason, I have been getting eye infections for the past year. I’m going to see my eye doctor tomorrow (Friday) to get some special eye drops for my left eye just like the last time this happened.

Senior photos!

My senior photos came in last week, which is very exciting. That’s all I have to say about that.

One of my senior photos, taken at University of Washington - Tacoma.
One of my senior photos, taken at University of Washington – Tacoma.

JagWire updates

I started work on my LAST EVER edition of JagWire last week. The issue doesn’t come until May, but I’m already getting sad about it. JagWire has been my life for three years and now its all coming to an end.

We are going out with a bang by presenting a topic that is rarely touched on by schools: sex-trafficking. It should be a really good issue when it comes out.

Since when am I popular?

It’s been another stressful week, but a very eventful one too. Early this week I received a letter rejecting me as WJEA Journalist of the Year. After receiving that letter I thought that it would be a bad week. I was mistaken.

On Thursday I was announced as one of my school’s “Outstanding 20” seniors that are chosen every year. This is one of the highest honors we can receive because there is no valedictorian or the like. It isn’t just about grades either. It’s about academics, what classes are being taken, what extracurricular we are involved in, and what service we have done for the community. I am very honored to be a part of this extraordinary group of individuals, as strange and different as we may be.

Also on Thursday I found out that I was elected into the Senior Hall of Fame for the yearbook. Me, of all people. I knew that I had been nominated for a few categories, but I never thought that I would make it onto the ballot or be voted into the Hall of Fame. I was chosen for “Most Persistent.”

Today I learned that I am a member of the Honor Roll and I got a fancy little certificate for it.

Now, I look towards tomorrow. The WJEA state journalism convention. I will compete in the News Writing category, where we have to write a news article in 70 minutes based on a presentation we watch that follows correct AP style. I will also listen to key note speakers and attend classes where I can better my skills as a journalist and an editor.

Rough week

Its been a rough week.

JagWire issue 15.4, Shattering the Silence on Cutting, was released March 13 amid inner-staff turmoil and intense outside pressure.

To be honest, it felt like reporters and other editors were turning against me at the last moment. They didn’t want the issue to be released for various reasons, although none of their reasons were structured enough for us to pull the plug or make changes. Even if they had been, we didn’t have the time to change anything if we wanted to. Some other editors and reporters even went as far as to blame me for their response towards the issue.

Upon its release the paper met criticism from a few staff members and a few students who didn’t feel like it was an appropriate topic for high school students.

A few of these students, including a JagWire staff member, publicly voiced their opinions in the hallways and in our room, which is not a proper way to share your dislike. The proper route would be to send a Letter to the Editor.

I got really mad at these students because of their outbursts, although I should have just let them go on doing their thing. My temper was tested again this evening when I saw that other students have taken to twitter to trash talk our issue.

The topic was taken seriously by JagWire and research was completed for every article. Trigger warnings and disclaimers about sensitive images were included on the cover and the first page of the FOCUS section. The only article not researched based was a feature on a student that does self-harm, and we chose to tell their story in full. We got a lot of outburst for that. I don’t really understand why. We told the student’s story in full as they told us. We didn’t add any additional information to it and we didn’t change things to make the story one sided.

Teachers showed their support today by stopping by and complimenting us on the issue, including one that was nearly in tears because of how well we had presented the too real problem that occurs at my school.

So, to sum it all up, I’m exhausted from dealing with all of this today.

Scholastic Journalism Week

Its Scholastic Journalism Week (Feb. 22 – Feb. 28). I just want to take a moment to recognize the hard work of my newsmagazine staff and of other high school newspapers across the United States. Adults and lawmakers may look down upon us and view us as children incapable of making the right decisions, but we are professionals in the making.

Use this week to spread knowledge and love of the First Amendment and of the freedom of the press. Fight back against your prior reviews (peacefully, please) and help campaign for shield laws in your state legislature. Let them know that you will not have your voice silenced.

Hypocrites: why prior review is journalism hell

There is nothing as devastating to a high school journalist as seeing the quality work of other high school newspapers on tough topics like sex, drugs, self-harm, and porn that you can’t do. By quality work, I mean in-depth articles on real students and their experiences and well-placed photographs and graphics that bring the issue the correct light to get the point across. I am amazed by the gory photographs and the emotional stories other schools do.

JagWire used to have issues like that. It has published its share of sex issues, drug issues, and pornography issues, which may have ventured into questionable territory. Each time, however, the point came across clearly to those willing to see it: these issues are not as one sided as schools want you to believe.

We were known as a racy and edgy publication across the nation. We won countless awards, including the 2006 NSPA Pacemaker Award, the Pulitzer Prize for high school journalists. We were respected and the hard issues were taken to new levels unseen by high school students. We were mature on these issues.

That all changed in 2008, when JagWire’s infamous edition on oral sex was released and subsequently sued by the students who were interviewed. This issue cost JagWire its credibility to this day, and imposed tight restrictions on student work across the school district.

The cover of JagWire 8.5.
The cover of JagWire 8.5.

Students and staff were outraged by the content of the issue. They, for the most part, couldn’t get past the images and graphics on the cover and in the middle of the issue. Honestly, I don’t think the images were that bad, since more graphic displays are allowed on daytime television.

The topic was good. It revealed that high percentages of high schools were engaged in oral sex, including students at my school. The stories were of the utmost quality, but the student interviews were not. Four students sued because the issue revealed that they had oral sex and sex. They had AGREED to be interviewed and willingly gave up the information. Now, the staff at that time should have offered anonymity to these students and then had them review what they had said about the issue. They didn’t. That was the only falling point of the issue.

We ended up winning the case, which is well documented in national student journalism archives, because the jury decided that because we were an open forum and no adult input was imposed, we were not liable.

The district should have stood behind the publication after the trial, but instead it punished the entire school district. The open forum policy that had existed for many decades was gone in an instant. To this day, every newspaper, yearbook, school play, assembly, poster, and art display must be reviewed and approved by the school administration.

This prior review policy is a violation of our rights of free speech. Even more important, it prevents us from  publishing the quality work and controversial topics of the old days, for the most part.

This is where I get to the district being hypocritical.

This year and for the last two years, former administrators and current school staff members have expressed that they miss the “edginess” of the old days. We primarily were publishing issues on video games and comic books and intelligence and nutrition, but nothing that really stood out. As a result, we stopped winning awards. Every wants to see the old paper return, but we just turn around and tell them “then stop censoring us.”

Every time we try to bring back the edginess, we are censored. In 2009 we want to cover the fact that we are being censored. The entire issue got SEIZED by the school district and never returned, resulting in a loss of ad revenue. In 2010 we wanted to cover the JagWire trial. Censored. In 2013 we did an issue on homophobic bullying. It wasn’t as good as it could have been because the school was worried it could “hurt someone.” In 2014 we did an issue on pornography. All student quotes were forced to be removed, even though we had their written consent this time and audio recordings, and all photographs were prohibited, resulting in the lamest JagWire cover ever.

If they really want to see us do good again, they need to stop censoring us completely. We may be high schoolers, but we know what is right and what is wrong.

This year, since I’ve been Co-Editor-in-Chief of JagWire, we have seen a bit of a rollback on prior review. Our website is only being reviewed by our adviser, not the administration, and our principal has not censored us yet on our issues on veteran mistreatment in the United States and on cancer. But, the policy still exists and it may get in the way of our next two issues, in which we shall attempt to focus editions on self-harm and sex-trafficking.

Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of prior review is self-censorship. We often throw out ideas or articles because we are afraid it will be censored. This shouldn’t be a thing, and this year, we are challenging the school. We want to show them that doing hard topics PROPERLY will result in edgy issues and no lawsuits.


Is doing an issue of a high school newsmagazine on self-harm bad? Is it such a terrible and unmoral thing to do?

I think that doing this topic is a chance for JagWire to reclaim its place as an edgy publication, something everyone at my school seemed to take great pride in until the fiasco in 2008. Unfortunately, because of the possible issues with the idea and the issue getting past prior review policies, we have to speak with the administration and see if we are ALLOWED to do this topic.

Plus, self-censorship sucks. I’m stopping this before it becomes an angry rant. I’ll save that for another time.