Jim Jones' Eastword column: So, how the heck do we find the pulse of the community?

March 24, 2013 

Journalists are always trying to get their fingers on the pulse of a community.

It's an inexact science to be sure, and probably more of an art -- a matter of judgment, intuition and hard work.

To say nothing about the importance of having good sources in the community, folks who will offer news tips or call to talk about something that concerns them.

We have had a number of high school students shadowing some of us in the newsroom, and asking that very question: How do you find the elusive pulse?

Savannah Edgens of Manatee High School, and Thomas Reese and Enriqueta Balandra, both from Braden River High School, come to mind as precocious young students who can accomplish probably just about anything their hearts desire.

Each of them also asked what we enjoy most about working at a newspaper.

If you were to poll a newspaper person, each would probably have a different answer.

For me, it's simple. I like the opportunity to meet new people and learn a little about them.

I like working in a job where I learn something new each day.

Want to be a journalist? Be curious, be keen to learn something new and, most importantly, talk to people, and listen to what they have to say.

That's exactly what Savannah, Thomas and Enriqueta are already doing.

When a high school student visits the newsroom, it gives us an opportunity to get a rare insight into their world as well.

Through the Journalism Next program, the Bradenton Herald's partnership with virtually every high school in Manatee County, we can bring some of their insights to all of our readers.

Look for the latest student journalism from Arianna Bartolome of Southeast High School in Monday's newspaper. She writes a terrific article about homelessness in Manatee County.

We hesitate to single out any student or any school, because they have all exceeded expectations. Manatee School for the Arts, a first-time participant this year in JNEXT, is no exception.

By the way, a key factor in the student journalism partnership is the teacher. It wouldn't fly without them.

Participating in Journalism Next with the Bradenton Herald are Ashlee Alstrom of Manatee High School, Camela Giraud of The Out-of-Door-Academy, Tom Honsa of Lakewood Ranch High School, Jillian Bieber of Braden River High School,Art Durshimer of Bayshore High School, Nadia Watts of Saint Stephens Episcopal School, Nelson Lopez of Palmetto High School, Randy Funderburke of Southeast High School, and Tea McCaulla of Manatee School for the Arts.

And we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge Frank Anderson, who retired -- for a second time -- earlier this year as journalism teacher at Lakewood Ranch.

Frank pioneered the student journalism partnership with the Herald years ago.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, cam be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet@jajones1.

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