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West Jordan Journal

Middle School Establishes Newspaper

Aug 04, 2016 03:54PM ● By Tori La Rue

The staff of the JPJ Journal poses for a picture during class. – Anna McNamer

 By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - Joel P. Jensen Middle School created a newspaper publication for the first time during the latter half of the 2015–16 school year, informing their student population about school issues from firsthand sources. 

“It’s better than other people just coming in and writing stories about us because we know what is going on in our school,” Alejandra Alvarez, news editor for the JPJ Journal, said. “Because we have insight and detail into school situations, we can talk to the people who are involved within our school and write a better story.” 

The 13-year-old news editor referred to an incident in mid-April where several students got sick after taking prescription pills that their fellow classmates dealt to them. Fox 13 composed a story on the matter, speaking with representatives from the district and local police, but Alejandra said she felt like it was incomplete because the “big-named” news agency didn’t include voices from the school.

“We were able to write a story of our own to be more specific to our school,” Alejandra said. “We may not have a big name, but we can bring important news because we know our school, and we know the students here, and we know what they want to know.” 

Most of the Joel P. Jensen students who signed up for the journalism class were using the journalism class as a fill-in for the remaining half-year gap that a mandatory keyboarding class left in their schedules, according to journalism teacher Anna McNamer. McNamer, who studied journalism in college before deciding to be a teacher, said it was amazing to see her class transform from a group of unexcited students into a journal staff. 

During the third quarter, McNamer taught about different types of stories and monitored their writing, but by the fourth quarter, they had an editing and publishing system that they could run on their own, she said. Each student knew who to send their work into so their stories could be published on Wednesdays: deadline days. 

In an op-ed she wrote for the JPJ Journal, Isabelle Barlow, 13, listed the “thrill” of deadline days as one reason why the journalism class should be offered again next year.  

“It was cool to see her write that unprompted,” McNamer said. “If we could get from telling kids ‘You have to go to school’ to them feeling that rush that [Isabelle] talked about and wanting to come here, that would be a success for us teachers.” 

Tayson Jorgensen, 13, said the “special opportunities” he has as part of the journal staff make the class worthwhile. As the business director of the Journal, he coordinates with local businesses to get funding for the journal’s website, and he’s been working on developing an app for the newspaper that he said he hopes will be available this summer. 

McKall Peters, 13, said her favorite project was compiling a photo contest on Students submitted pictures they took over spring break, and McKall posted the ones she deemed best on the website. 

Overall, all the students in the journalism class “had each other’s backs” and became friends, Alejandra said. 

“For us in this class, it was no longer like a normal class,” Alejandra said. “We didn’t care about the grade; we just cared about the content. Without journalists, things wouldn’t be the same; people wouldn’t be informed. We realized that we had a big job, and we pulled it off together.” 

McNamer said the journalism class will be coming back next year. Over the summer, some students will continue to post new content. Those wishing to stay update on news relevant to Joel P. Jensen Middle School may visit