SALT LAKE CITY — More than 250 high school students and faculty from around the Beehive state will gather next week in American Fork to learn how to represent their school and community in the media by submitting their own photos, videos and articles.
"Young people and the leaders associated with them deserve to have their stories told," said Matt Sanders, director of Deseret Connect, a freelance contributor network that regularly publishes through several media channels, including Deseret News and KSL. "But news organizations can't do it on their own. We need the help of the community."
The Deseret News "Be seen. Be heard." Student Media Summit is free and will be held Tuesday, Aug. 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the American Heritage School, 736 N. 1100 East, American Fork.
Conference registration is still open for students and other community members who would like to get involved with writing about or photographing high school events for publication. Registration closes at midnight on July 28.
Between activities, competitions, prizes and a complimentary lunch, the five-hour journalism workshop will feature several 20-minute presenters: Chad Lewis, author and an NFL Ambassador; Amy Donaldson, longtime Deseret News sports columnist; Reed Farnsworth, public relations director for Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership; and Stephen Jones, comedian, host and actor who may be best known for his wildly viral New Spice commercial parody,the Study Like a Scholar, Scholar video.
Even though prep coverage has always been a focus for the Deseret News, sports editor Kent Condon believes the newspaper plans to do more to highlight youths and their accomplishments — a lot more. He said his goal is to cover every prep game in Utah in each sport.
Besides running a crew of scoreboarders, who regularly collect game scores and statistics from coaches around the state, Condon typically dispatches 10 full- and part-time reporters to about 16 football or basketball games a week during those particular seasons. But even with a highly active and larger-than-average prep sports staff — and especially considering there are roughly 10,000 prep competitions in Utah annually — he recognizes a gap between what's being covered now and what's possible in the near future.
"Since the Des News has limited resources and can’t possibly cover every game with a full- or even part-time writer, we need to be creative," Condon said. "That’s where Deseret Connect comes in. And for those who have always had that itch to write but lacked the forum, what better place to dip your foot in the pool?"
The summit will largely focus on encouraging and teaching students and community members how to responsibly create and publish news and information about their school and community to a much broader audience — hundreds of thousands — compared to perhaps the few hundred friends or followers they may be used to micro-publishing to on their social networking sites.
Besides offering students a much larger readership and viewership for their work, publishing through a news organization that edits, fact-checks and gives feedback to contributing authors will add experience to a student resume and his understanding of a professional workplace, Sanders said. "Colleges seek students with distinctive accomplishments."
Offering hyper-local news to consumers — which has historically been a very difficult task, even for large media companies — has proved even more challenging during the past several years as surviving media companies stretch resources to maintain staple news around core state and national interests. But Sanders, Condon and Deseret News President Clark Gilbert, the originator of deseretconnect.com, believe the community publishing portal will not only help stem the trend of thinning community coverage for their brand but also believe it will add additional credibility to the organization by allowing experts from various areas easier access to publishing opportunities.
While there are plenty of areas to focus a local strategy — city councils, neighborhoods, clubs, etc. — Sanders says high schools are great place to start because community members naturally unite around schools, even more so than government organizations.
"It doesn't matter whether we are investment managers or ranchers, teachers or tradesmen, we love our children and yearn for their success and growth," he said. "We all seek more of these positive stories."