Member spotlight: Bill Phelps on inspiring journalism students

Bill Phelps

Bill Phelps recently joined SPJ Georgia because he works as a journalism instructor at Harrison High School in Kennesaw and wants to make the best use of local resources available. The chapter is hopeful its college journalism students will work to mentor and encourage Georgia high school students interested in journalism.

He answered two questions for this mini-feature:

  1. What inspired you to pursue journalism?I have two reasons why I am pursuing journalism.  First, I teach Audio-Video Technology & Film and advise the Harrison HoyaVision Broadcast program.  I’m always looking for ways to improve our story-telling and teaching my students the proper way to effectively tell their story – no matter the medium.  As the lines blur for hard-copy and broadcast journalists, it is important I teach all styles of journalism.  Second, coming from the corporate world, one of the biggest missing skills new-hires lack, whether they’re from high school or college, is the ability to effectively communicate in all forms. Journalism provides an opportunity within my class to help my students develop that skill.
  1. How do you work to continue inspiring future journalists?I try to continually inspire my students to consider journalism by providing authentic opportunities for them to tell stories that matter to others.  I then share with them the effect their stories had on the target audience and publicly recognize them for their work.  Where possible I try to get their work published/aired so they can add that to their portfolio.  The more students see the value of practicing their journalistic skills and the impact it can have on others as well as their own college/career plans, the more they want to continue on with the career path.

We are currently developing a Broadcast Journalism Club, patterned after Cox Media Group’s Atlanta operations with the AJC & WSB-TV.  I have enlisted the help of a language arts teacher from Harrison High School, Lindsay Riley, who majored in mass communication and is trained in writing for all forms of journalism.  She has a number of students in her language arts class who are interested in pursuing journalism.  We believe this joint venture will allow for more authentic opportunities for our students to learn, develop and showcase their talents.

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