Douglas High senior earns Washington, D.C. trip, one of two from Nevada
A Douglas High School senior was one of only two Nevada students picked to participate in the first Freedom Forum and Al Neuharth Free Spirit Awards in Washington D.C.
Leslie Pearson, 17, flew to Washington Thursday, Nov. 2, and spent the next couple of days in classes and workshops on the power of the First Amendment with journalism students from every state.
“They wanted us to get an understanding of the First Amendment and how journalists are protected by it and the responsibilities we have under it,” Leslie said. “They also wanted us to understand how politics and journalism go hand in hand.”
Leslie is production and design manager for DHS’s newspaper, the Tiger Beat, and has worked for The Record-Courier as a editorial assistant since January.
Her journalism teacher, Susan Bullard, nominated Leslie for the honor. She was asked to write a paper about herself and what she hopes to accomplish as a journalist.
“It was the first time they held this conference,” Leslie explained. “It was the kind of experience I wouldn’t get any other way. It was an all-expenses-paid trip, so I thought I would be stupid to turn it down.”
The students were kept moving over the two days from lectures and workshops, but they did have a few hours for touring the area. They visited the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.
Back in class, Leslie said many speakers emphasized the importance of ethical, balanced writing. In a workshop, the students had to write the first couple of paragraphs of a story about a baseball player caught taking steroids without sensationalizing the event. The students also had to participate in a mock press conference to get information about a fire.
“We had to ask questions and take pictures. They made it more difficult by being very hesitant and it made us really think about the questions or they wouldn’t answer anything,” Leslie said. “It was tough.”
She said her favorite speaker was a photojournalist who covered wars in the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia. Leslie said most journalists either write or take photographs, but she hopes to do both.
“A lot of the journalists there told us to be as objective as possible, but he told us we have to have a human element to stories for people to respond to them. A lot of the others didn’t allow a lot of emotion into what they do.”
She said he told gripping stories from his time overseas and sparked her interest in foreign correspondence.
“The stories he told were unbelievable, but they still made you want to cover it and bring it back so people can understand it.”
Two student journalists from a high school paper in Avon, Indiana also spoke.
“Mostly through the whole conference, the journalists talking to us were adults, but having kids our age at a regular school newspaper was pretty inspiring,” she said.
The students won awards for doing an investigative story on varsity team members hazing younger athletes.
Leslie said she was glad for the experience.
“There was a lot more different perspectives and different experiences we could learn from,” she said.