Newspaper veteran speaks to Oak Mountain journalism students

Published 9:53 am Thursday, January 27, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS/Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY — The staff of Oak Mountain High School’s student newspaper, the Eagle’s Eye, got some pointers Jan. 26 from a veteran journalist.

William Ketter, former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, spoke to the students during school.

Ketter has more than 40 years of journalism experience and is currently the vice president of news for Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

He previously served as vice president of the Boston Globe, chairman of the journalism school at Boston University and member of the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University.

It all started, Ketter told the students, at a high school newspaper.

“I never regret spending time on a student newspaper,” Ketter said.

Student newspapers at the high school and college levels are excellent ways to improve communication skills, Ketter said, adding that the experience is valuable even for those not pursuing professional journalism careers.

Seven of the staff’s nine members were present for the speech in newspaper advisor Melissa Dixon’s class.

At the start of the current school year, the staff made a commitment to improve the overall quality of the newspaper, Dixon said.

Ketter reviewed past and current editions of the paper and told the staff they had made significant improvements.

Ketter praised the staff for a recent investigative piece dealing with cheating in school. Titled “Caught Red Handed”, the article included statistics on cheating and anonymous comments from several teachers detailing examples of students caught cheating.

The front-page story from the January edition was an excellent example of watchdog journalism, Ketter said.

The staff also discussed article ideas for upcoming editions of the paper, with Ketter providing feedback.

“Every day, every month is different,” Ketter said. “You never know what is going to happen.”

The Eagle’s Eye should “inform quickly, entertain and illuminate,” Ketter said.

“The paper should be fun as well as serious,” he added.

Katherine McPhaul and Maggie Harsh are the paper’s editors.