During the first weekend of February, four Rampage writers and Dr. Milowitz attended the Jewish Scholastic Press Association Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was co-sponsored by Shalhevet High School and took place at the Beth Jacob shul in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The conference, which ran from Thursday morning through Shabbat lunch, included various sessions about journalism and gave students the opportunity to meet high school reporters from other Jewish day schools. Four schools were represented at the conference: Shalhevet, Milken, Atlanta Jewish Academy, and Ramaz, with a total of about 35 students present.
“I was so impressed by talented, enthusiastic and dedicated writers in my peer group nationwide,” said Samantha Sinensky ’21 “This exposure was both intimidating and exhilarating. It definitely made me want to become a better writer.”
The conference began on Thursday morning with sessions about Torah and journalism, how to run a high school news website, and video news stories. Additionally, students from each school had the opportunity to meet with Kathleen Neumeyer, a journalist and journalism teacher at Harvard-Westlake, to get advice on how to improve the layout of their paper.
“I found the overall conference productive,” said Rebecca Massel ’21, “Comparing our paper to other Jewish high school newspapers gave me the opportunity to learn from my contemporaries. I also learned about the ethical issues surrounding publishing in papers, including the issues of copyright and considering the positive outcome of an article. I found the layout meeting particularly useful.”
At dinner on Thursday night, Ramaz students enjoyed getting to know students from the other schools represented at the conference. Additionally, after dinner, Kathleen Neumeyer and Susan Freudenheim, two professional journalists, awarded the annual Jewish Scholastic Journalism Awards. Rebecca Massel ’21 won third place in the News and Feature category for her article “Speaking for Those Who Can’t: KJ Yom Hashoah Program,” and Josephine Schizer ’20 (the author) won an honorable mention in the first-person opinion category for her article “Would You Like to Carry the Torah?”
On Friday morning, participants attended sessions covering copyright laws in journalism, how to write an effective news story, representation of Israel in college newspapers, getting started as a professional journalist, and what makes something a news story as opposed to a feature or opinion article.
“My favorite part of the conference was Mrs. Fax’s session ‘Covering Your Own Community,’” said Zach Buller ‘20. “I learned about the dangers of covering controversial stories in one’s own community and having to face readers that might believe that the article should not have been published at all as it defamed the institution.”
After the morning sessions, there was a break in the conference for students to eat lunch at one of the numerous kosher restaurants on Pico. To conclude the conference portion of the weekend, there was a final session about freedom of the press in high school journalism, after which the conference adjourned for Shabbat.
The Shabbaton portion of the conference included davening at Beth Jacob and meals at the shul where Ramaz students spent more time with the students from other schools. At Shabbat dinner, keynote speaker Andrew Sillow-Carrol, Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, shared life-lessons he learned from journalism. Shabbat lunch included a philosophical discussion about whether or not it is ethical to publish certain news stories. Students were given Shabbat afternoon off to relax and spend time with other students from the conference.
During breaks in the conference throughout the weekend, Ramaz students toured LA and enjoyed the warm weather at Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Sunset Boulevard before taking a red-eye home on Saturday night.
“I think the trip was great for the students,” said Dr. Milowitz. “They were able to get an opportunity to discuss various journalistic issues, both practical and philosophical. I think the conference offered a great many applicable ideas that we can use going forward in order to make the Rampage more topical, more relevant, and more interesting. Beyond that, I think the kids had a great time simply meeting other high school journalists, listening to experts in the field, and being in warm weather and getting a chance to explore California a little.”