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|| News Item: Posted 2008-04-29

Leading Off: High School Inspiration
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Jim McNay (right) and Bryan Farley look over photos during the Journalism Education Association national high school convention at the Anaheim Marriott.
April was another tough month … a controversy over Major League Baseball's credential use agreement threatened whether news organization would cover the baseball, another highly public instance of digital manipulating of a photograph and the continued downward spiral of the newspaper business.

Despite all of the above (and more), April had several inspiring moments for me and I'd like to share one of them.

I admit, I forgot and when reminded, I wanted to blow it off. Fridays are often my only day off from work (and Sports Shooter) so when the emails started arriving in my in box reminding me about the commitment I had made months earlier to help out with the annual Journalism Education Association national high school convention in Anaheim, I wasn't sure I had the energy to do this.

But a commitment is a commitment.

Through a good friend of mine Lee Terkelsen, I had volunteered at JEA conventions and helped local high school journalism programs while I worked in Visalia as the chief photographer of the Times-Delta. (I was even recognized by the organization in 1989 when they honored me with a "Friends of Scholastic Journalism" award.)

Having started my journalism career while in high school working for the campus paper, I always had time when a school or teacher needed me for something.

Last year, I had told Redondo High newspaper advisor Mitch Ziegler when I was on campus to photograph one of his students, who was named a USA TODAY Academic All-Star, that if he ever needed help just let me know.

Fast-forward a year and I'm staring at iCal on my desktop Mac with the notation on April 18 "high school convention - all day".

Oops. I just plain forgot about it.

But that day I spent at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel a couple of weeks ago was one of the best times I've spent at ANY journalism event.

No kidding.

The first thing I noticed when I wandered through the hotel convention center were kids …EVERYWHERE. Almost 5,000 of them! But they weren't just kids hanging around …they were in small groups and large groups and they were talking about journalism. They were all excited about journalism.

With all of the bad news we've been reading about the problems with journalism and the death of newspapers, it was refreshing and inspiring to see so many students in one place all excited about journalism.

I had volunteered to help judge the JEA's photo competition and while I wandered around looking for the room I was suppose to be in, I spotted a familiar face: Former San Jose State and Brooks Institute of Photography instructor Jim McNay. My fears about why I was there and what I was going to be doing instantly subsided!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Bryan Farley (far left); Bradley Wilson; Tamra McCarthy and Jim McNay look over contest entries at the Journalism Education Association national high school convention.
Jim and I were to judge the portfolio competition…10 photos max per entry. But here was the catch: The first judging was in a small group of students who would listen in on each critique. So this was not just a contest, but also an open evaluation.

I was now terrified. Again.

What do you say about a 15 or 16-year-old kid's work? How hard can you be? What level would the photography be? And damned, I hoped I wouldn't make some kid cry like I had seen once at a one-on-one critique session at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.

(Ok, ok … I'm the one that made that student cry …)

Sitting in a circle, with 12 students, I marveled at how good the work was. As a matter of fact, some of the photographs were way beyond what I expected. Photos of daily school life were insightful and told me a story. A lot of the sports photographs didn't depend simply on someone having a thumb that could press a back button. Yes there was peak action, but there was also creative use of light along with provocative composition and cropping.

During my comments, the students were all attentive, asked a lot of questions, on a couple of occasions took me to task on some of my comments and truly were interested throughout the two-hours of the open judging.

This format is something I think some contests at a higher level might consider. This makes this not just a competition, but a true LEARNING experience.

The sort of ringleader in the photo section of the JEA convention was Bradley Wilson, Coordinator of Student Media Advising at North Carolina State University. His energy, good humor (mixed in with a bad joke or two along the way) and single-mindedness kept the long judging session moving and seemed to be the glue that holds the whole thing together.

Everything was not all rosy though as I overheard several teachers during the day talking about funding cutbacks at their schools and over-zealous administrators wanting to exert more editorial control over publications. But listening to these same teachers talk about fighting to keep the campus papers and letting the students determine its content was … yes, inspiring.

The JEA's fall national convention is in St Louis, I hope those of you working in the area contact the local organizing committee and offer to volunteer to help out. For more info: And next year's spring convention is in Phoenix:

* * *

Sports Shooter #110 features two perspectives on digital manipulation of news photographs. A recent incident spurred Greg Cooper and Kim Komenich to contribute their thoughts on the issue.

I didn't want a camera-bashing piece to run in the newsletter I told Preston Mack when he first approached me about an article he wanted to write on why he switched systems. But he had a simple and logical reason why: It was a business decision. This piece will certainly stir up the Canon versus Nikon wars, but if you really read what Preston has written, this is not intended to do that at all. This is a matter of photographers examining their careers and their business and making a decision that is best suited for them.

The winners of the Sports Shooter Newsletter Annual Contest write about their photographs, giving us a behind the scenes look. Gerry Melendez reports on the recent Masters and Al Diaz laments on the passing of a South Florida icon, the Orange Bowl.

"Mad Dogs & Englishmen" (deluxe edition) Joe Cocker's fabulous live album, Moby's new release "Last Night" and "Cowboy Town" from Brooks & Dunn are on heavy rotation on iTunes. On the nightstand are John Bogle's "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing", "High Profile (A Jesse Stone novel) by Robert Parker and "Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond" by Paul Shirley.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Paul Myers and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Greg Cooper, Kim Komenich, Preston Mack, Gerry Melendez, Chris Detrick, Scott Strazzante, Albert Dickson, Jaime Rhodes, Steven Achiam, Ashley Page Wilkerson, Al Diaz and Gary Bogdon.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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