Sunday, June 26, 2022

Bigfork High’s Norse Code brings home big awards from High School Journalism Day

Bigfork Eagle | June 1, 2022 12:00 AM

The award-winning Norse Code at Bigfork High School boasts several budding journalists who have garnered real-world experience from their time in the program. The class won multiple awards again at this spring’s High School Journalism Day, hosted by the University of Montana and the Montana Journalism Education Association.

The class won first place in the Class B division for both the Online and Broadcast ‘Pacesetter’ categories— with Editor-in-chief Liz Hyde taking home Montana High School Journalist of the Year. Hyde also took first place for Sports Feature Writing, Abby Curtiss won first place for Video: Sports, Zoe Sellers won first place for Feature Photography, Sellers and Hyde won first place for Video: Arts and Entertainment, Lillian Peterson won first place for Editorial Cartooning and Piper Lee won first place the in the Infographic category.

The class is taken as an elective and includes elements of print and broadcast media, with the Norse Code newspaper and daily morning announcements. The class also incorporates online publishing, graphic design, social media skills and recruiting sponsorships. Bigfork High School’s Journalism Adviser Charlie Ball said she stepped in to take over the class after Charlie Appleby left to be the principal at Bigfork Middle School a few years ago. Given the program’s legacy, Ball said she was initially nervous to take on the role.

“I was nervous about that transition, but luckily I had four really good students who had been in the program, so I tried not to change too much. Liz and I have adjusted some things as we went along the last couple of years. After those seniors graduated we went in and changed some things that worked better for us,” Ball said.

Hyde has been a fearless leader of the class for the past several years. She said her interest in journalism started when she took Appleby’s Current Events class while she was in middle school. Since then, she’s embraced the program, working in every position available and serving as a mentor for younger students. Ball said they often joke that Hyde is the teacher, due to her dedication and self-starter attitude.

Hyde said her favorite part of her role as editor is being a point of contact for anything happening around the school.

“People come to me when they need something. They’ll have an idea, or say ‘can we do a segment on this?’ or ask for help with their video project. Because of the role that I hold, people know my capabilities and know that I’m really willing to help. It burns me out a little bit, but I really enjoy being the ‘go-to’ person,” Hyde said.

She said in recent years they’ve tried to shift their focus more to utilizing their social media pages. After letting their engagement wane for a few years, Hyde said they decided to use their Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter to their fullest extent.

“This is a platform we can use to get out to our community, that a lot of community members follow and to update parents about what’s happening at the school, to give kids some credit for what they’ve done, reminders about school and advertising sponsors,” Hyde said.

She said they’ve also changed how they’ve approached the morning announcements, which they put out as a weekly video segment. The students switch roles often, so everyone gets a chance to get experience anchoring, writing or being behind the camera.

“Previously, our announcements for broadcasting have been mostly funny segments and we’ve transitioned back into focusing more on news— which hasn’t always been well-received by high schoolers, but it’s a little more true to journalistic pursuits,” Hyde said.

The Norse Code newspaper runs bi-monthly and includes news and sports features as well as political cartoons. Since the paper only publishes every other month, she said it’s been a challenge to write features that remain timely for publication. Because of this, they focus less on hard news and instead find stories within the students: highlighting athletes, events and accomplishments.

Ball said a challenging aspect of the class for most students is getting them “out of the classroom and engaging with adults,” for interviews and sponsorship opportunities. She said much like a real newsroom, there is little time to catch your breath.

“From the beginning we are just going; like you got to get on board and learn all of these skills from the start that we continue to build on and improve upon throughout the school year,” Ball said.

Hyde said the journalism class teaches students how to work.

“If you’re looking for an easy A, journalism is not that class, because it teaches you motivation. We don’t have time to pull you along, you have to get your stuff done for the good of the paper, not for the good of your grade,” Hyde said.

When she won High School Journalist of the Year, Hyde was praised by Montana Journalism Education Association’s Beth Britton and Missoulian publisher Jim Strauss, who hailed her work and promise as a young journalist. But, Hyde said she feels like the award is a culmination of her hard work for the class and doesn’t plan to pursue journalism as a career. She said she considered it for a long time but has set her sights on a different path. She fell in love with photography during the start of the pandemic and has recently been shadowing a local professional photographer. She said she’s happy to be embarking on a new chapter in life, but will miss the friends she’s made along the way.

“I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it. It’s days like today where we’re setting the paper, it’s the final deadline and we’re all kind of stressed out. But, there are so many things happening in the room: we’re eating quesadillas and joking about my dating life— we’re doing all of this while we’re working together and it’s become so much of a family to me … but at the same time I’ve burned out a lot of my creative ideas and I have to go find out who Liz is outside of journalism,” Hyde said.

She said she is hopeful to see where the class goes after she graduates. She said she believes Sophomore Zoe Sellers is going to make a great editor. She said Sellers “is on the journalism track,” attending workshops across the state and showing initiative in the class. Sellers also recently won first place in the “Voice of Democracy,” essay competition held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4042 for Veterans Day. Hyde said she is excited to see how Sellers grows in her role as editor.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Norse Code can check out their website