West Orange students are making headlines of their own as they learn the basics of sports journalism at nearby Montclair State University.
More 30 cub reporters from town have spent the week writing reports and taking notes in the Write on Sports program at MSU. On Wednesday, these future journalists got a firsthand look at how a professional reporter conducts an interview.
Brian Giuffra, of the Bergen Record, stopped by that day and sat down with campus softball stars Alex Hill and Heather Bergman. While Giuffra interviewed Hill and Gergman, students watched and took notes of their own.
“It is important to listen,” said Giuffra. “ ... It is the little details that separate you from having an average story to a good story to an amazing story.”
The more Giuffra talked to Hill, a junior and starting pitcher on the MSU softball team, and Bergman, the team's catcher who recently graduated, the clearer his focus for his story became.
Giuffra broke out of the interview for a moment and told to students that he had his potential lead: while Hill and Bergman had taken different paths to MSU, they were both walk-ons.
After the interview, students asked their own follow-up questions to Hill and Bergman, and also conducted a locker room style interview with them. Then the young reports wrote up their stories.
Local student Jewle Burnett, who attends Roosevelt Middle School, said she was excited to take the class again because she will be working on the school paper in September.
Jewle also said her interviewing skills have come in handy. While at the gym, she had noticed local basketball phenom Kyrie Irving and did not hesitate to interview him on the spot.
“I learned to do certain things better, like better word choice,” said Jewle about attending the program. “And I met different people so I can go back to school and say I met this person and that person.”
Students also are not limited to print media in the program. Not only do they blog, but they also conduct a recorded interview.
John Vogler, the former Liberty Middle School principal and coordinator for the Write on Sports program at MSU, said he is always surprised how focused the students are every year.
“The students get so involved in whatever they are doing,” said Vogler. “When the bus comes in the afternoon, it’s hard to get them to clean up and get out of here!"
The program is not necessarily limited to sports journalism, said Vogler. He recalled a student whose interest was music, so the student wrote about the music played when baseball players walk up to the plate.
“Whether you want to become a reporter or ... a journalist,” said Vogler, “you will at least have some real desire and a flare to write” by taking this program.
Byron Yake, who founded Write on Sports seven years ago, said the program also holds classes for students in Newark. Yake, who has spent a career covering sports and worked for the Associated Press, said the program has taught upwards of 500 children since it began.
“It is a way for me to engage what I have done all my life which is news and sports in some form” said Yake. “The idea is to help kids think critically about what they want to write about.”