A few new wrinkles in 70 years of HSJI
The 1920s were a tumultuous time period in history. Ernie Pyle, the famous World War II journalist, was in college at Indiana University for three years before dropping out before he could graduate. What many people may not know is that another great man, John Stempel, was in the same class as Pyle and graduated from IU in 1923.
In 1938, Stempel returned to IU and was hired as the head of the Journalism Department. In 1947, 70 years ago, Stempel created the High School Journalism Institute as a recruitment strategy for potential up-and-coming journalists.
“It was a very humble beginning,” former HSJI Director Jack Dvorak said. “They just thought it might be good, in terms of attracting students to journalism in college, to do some outreach work and help some schools be better at producing media. So they started, and I think there may have been a dozen or 14 students who came to that first one in 1947.”
The first year was entirely run by IU Journalism faculty, and the second year, 1948, Stempel decided to hire the first HSJI Director, Gretchen Kemp.
Kemp was the first of four directors. She led from the summer of 1948 to the summer of 1973. Mary Benedict took over from the summer of 1974 to the summer of 1986. Dvorak was then director from the summer of 1987 to the summer of 2008, and Teresa White has been directing since the summer of 2009.
All four directors were high school teachers at one point.
“Just about everybody on the faculty was (a high school teacher),” Dvorak said. “In general, the people who teach at the institute are excellent high school teachers. I wouldn’t have it any other way because a lot of times, a high school teacher knows how to communicate with high school kids, and sometimes college faculty, as good as they are, may not be able to communicate as well with teenagers.”
Communication is important to HSJI. The Institute used to run for two two-week programs, but when the option was added to go for one week instead of two, the majority of applicants started to sign up for the one week. After a while, HSJI became two one week programs instead of two two weeks because the Institute wanted to meet the demands of the students.
“Over time, students are busier in the summer. There are all kinds of school activities,” HSJI Administrative Coordinator Linda Johnson said. “If you are in the band, you have to practice in the summer. If you are on the football team, practice starts early. There are a lot of different athletic events and extracurricular high school events that take away from your summer, and then a lot of students are working in the summer, so our numbers starting dwindling down. So, we decided to switch to one week programs, five days, and that just seemed to work better into students’ schedules.”
The number of days is certainly not the only thing that has changed in the 70 years that HSJI has been running. Tuition, prices and dorms have changed among many other things.
“Of course, we’ve changed the courses that we have,” HSJI Director Teresa White said. “I remember when we started TV news back in the 90s. That was before digital, everything was analog. I (also) remember we had an online journalism class, (where) we tried to teach people Dreamweaver and how to build a site through Dreamweaver. We eventually tried to teach people how to use WordPress because a lot of schools did not know how to use that content-managing system at all. Then we totally got rid of that class because people didn’t need it anymore.”
One of the largest changes to HSJI, though, was the fast and drastic changes in technology.
“The first 20 years I worked here, the technology did not change at all. You pasted up a publication, you went into a dark room to process and print photos,” News Writing Instructor Tony Willis said. “All of a sudden in the early ’90s, there was about a five year stretch from 1990 to 1995 that it all just changed dramatically. There used to be an advisor (who taught at HSJI in the 60s) from City High School in Iowa City named Jack Kennedy who told me there was a 12 day workshop on how to do paste up, a whole 12 days just on how to do paste up. And so the biggest (change) was the technology, and how quickly the technology changed.”
Willis has worked at HSJI for 32 years and came as a high school student in 1974, yet he still believes that there are some things that have not changed.
“High school kids are still high school kids,” Willis said. “The purpose of journalism, to gather information and to tell a story, hasn’t changed. How we do it has changed, but the skills these students in this News Writing class (that Willis teaches) need today, initially, are not any different than what they needed when I came as a student in 1974.”
Though 70 years have passed, students at HSJI still bond over their love for high school publications and journalism in general. Whether two weeks or one, students are still taught ideas to bring back to their high schools and skills to build up their programs.
Students will join in celebration of 70 years of the High School Journalism Institute with cake and karaoke at 7:30 Thursday. Meet by the counselors’ office.
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