JAGWIRE: another first for Carrboro High School

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In the heat of battle: Journalism teacher and JAGWIRE Advisor Jan Gottschalk, left, works with Carrboro High School newspaper staffers on a thorny technical issue, left to right, Gottschalk, Emile Toscano, news reporter; Mariah Norris, section editor; Tony Powell, reporter and photographer, Editor-in-Chief Daniel Matchar (at computer); and Lavanya Rao, editor of Top Spots.
Jock Lauterer photo

by Sam Giffin
Carrboro Commons Writer

This year has seen many firsts at Carrboro High School. Students got their first glimpse of the new school this fall, the young football team tallied their first notch in the win column and students published the first issue of Carrboro High’s newspaper, the Jagwire.

The Jagwire is the brain-child of former Carrboro High School English teacher Jan Gottschalk who, last year while she was teaching at Chapel Hill High School, began advertising the idea to students planning to transfer to the new school at Carrboro.
It was Daniel Matchar’s guidance counselor who originally brought Gottschalk’s idea to his attention. Matchar, who was the only sophomore on Chapel Hill High’s exclusively junior and senior paper, decided to take his experience to the new school for his junior year.

Long before the first school year even began, Matchar and Gottschalk started preparations for the paper. Matchar came to Carrboro High most days during the summer to get everything ready for the Jagwire’s start-up in September. The two spent time making decisions about how the paper was going to be set up and how to get students involved.

“We had to figure out job descriptions, what sections we were going to have,” Matchar explained. They asked themselves, “What is going to be our policy on this or that?”

Back at CHHS towards the end the school year, Matchar had been recruiting staffers for the new paper, but the future of the Jagwire did not look stellar. At the beginning of summer, the Jagwire staff consisted of only four students: Matchar, two editors and one writer. By the beginning of the new school year however, Matchar had talked several of his friends into signing up for Gottschalk’s class, which now consisted of about 25 juniors.

The experience levels of different students varied greatly before they signed up for the class. Tony Powell, a reporter and photographer for the Jagwire, is from New Jersey where his high school did not have a newspaper. “I just wanted to try something new,” he said.

Daniel Pearce, a section editor, became interested because his brother was the editor-in-chief of Chapel Hill High’s newspaper.
Lavanya Rao, an editor, had Gottschalk for English the previous year and heard about the Jagwire through her former teacher. “I said ‘Hey I’m gonna’ give newspaper a try,’” Lavanya remembered, “but I wasn’t really thinking about editing.”

Almost all of the students had to learn fast in order to make the startup successful. By early December, the Jagwire had already published two 12-page issues and was completing a third. When the class met this Friday, the students were all in good spirits. They talked amongst each other, playing on computers until Gottschalk called the young writers and editors together. The class slid their chairs towards the middle of the room to form a make-shift semi-circle around a white projector screen to do the final edits for the Jagwire’s third issue. This would be their first 24-page issue, with twice the material they had included previously.
The entire week had been a crunch to finalize articles, edit and perfect the layout for the massive issue. Gottschalk and the students had put in long hours outside of class and finally they were able to see the near-finished product on a white screen in front of them in PDF format.

Computer issues had led to most of the Jagwire’s headaches. After completing their first issue using Microsoft Publisher, the Jagwire had switched to a more aesthetically pleasing, though more complex program, Adobe InDesign. This program allowed more layout freedom, which was needed considering the Jagwire’s heavy use of large graphics and creative page designs. However, most of the paper’s staff knew little or nothing about how to use InDesign when they launched into their second issue.

“InDesign was hard to learn,” said Matchar, although Gottschalk attributed much of the class’s ability to turn out such great issues to their use of technology.

While this editing period was full of laughter and jokes it was also very serious as there were several important problems to fix. Gottschalk led the class’s discussion of each page. However, the class made most of the suggestions and spied all of the tricky little errors. Gottschalk made sure that afterwards each student knew what he or she had to fix before the end of the day.
“We’re uploading this within the hour,” Gottschalk warned.

However Jan’s words were also full of commendation. “These are beautifully designed pages,” she praised her layout editors. “What’s cool about this page is how quickly the facts are given.”

When asked about the laid-back atmosphere in the classroom, Powell answered, “It depends on the day,” but that it is “not too stressful.”

Pearce added, “Sometimes we’re in trouble with things we don’t know how to do,” referring to messy computer issues. Despite a few minor issues such as misspellings and border sizes, the class was able to quickly make the necessary changes to send the polished product off to their publisher electronically.

The diversity in students’ experience and creativity was matched by their goals. Matchar has a desire to go into medicine and will leave the journalism to his sister, Emily, who inspired him by writing for the Chapel Hill News and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Rao said that her greatest experience was just having everything done and being able to look at the final product, but that she does not want to make a career out of editing. However, For Powell, the class may have instilled a permanent joy for photography in him.

With the growing success of the school’s brand-new newspaper and the incredible experience students have had with the class, the Jagwire may indeed be Carrboro High School’s most impressive first.

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