A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

Freshman year, I was told to sign up for Yearbook as my sister was successful in the journalism program. I remember being absolutely clueless about journalism for the majority of first semester, including the interview process. The journalism program at Parkway West High School has made it possible for me to carry out longer and deeper conversations than I have ever had. I, an introvert, chose not to speak whenever possible, but because of Yearbook I have been forced to talk to people.

Now, as a junior, the reward of taking journalism is in full force; my writing abilities have grown and have brought me from the bottom of the English program freshman year, to the Honors level currently and the AP level next year.

Because this was my third year in Journalism, I was offered the honors option. I was tasked with creating and facilitating a project. Initially, I struggled to produce ideas but with my teacher’s suggestions, I had an idea prepared.

I set up an event where I would bring Parkway Students into a nursing home to interview elders and upload the interviews to StoryCorps, eventually going to the library of congress.

Sunrise Senior Living, where my grandmother had lived for four years, was the last senior living home on my list to call. After a few weeks of persistence, I got a meeting with the activities director of Sunrise.

Besides my Eagle Project, I had never set up an event before. Having enough people show up was my biggest concern, yet everything worked out perfectly. Five Parkway West journalists, Mrs. Klevens, her daughter and myself were able to interview nine residents for StoryCorps.

A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

The two residents I interviewed were Warren Nelson and Jack Sale. Nelson was a navigator in the Pacific during WW2 for the Army Air Force, flying B-25 Mitchells. Mr. Nelson also dealt in commodities for the remainder of his career; I was shocked at what incredible life stories I was able to capture because of StoryCorps. When I asked Nelson about the hardest moment in his life he replied, not with a war story, but that it was watching his son die on 9/11. His eyes watered up, and I sat with him a bit longer. He told me his son had gone into commodities and predicted the outcome of crops and other goods on the market, just as Mr. Nelson had done. After the interview Warren Nelson handed me a book, and offered to let me read it. The book included his war diary as well as other life lessons he had learned.  

Another veteran of World War II, a Merchant Marine, Jack Sale spent his military career on liberty ships, in the Pacific. Liberty ships were armored cargo ships that were continuously being sunk by submarines. Miraculously Jack Sale’s part of the fleet was not lost, and Sale was able to be a Civil Engineer for the majority of his life. Sale was not considered a veteran until 1988, but Merchant Marines provided a crucial role in transporting food to feed Europe and supply military campaigns while leapfrogging, or island hopping, in the Pacific.

After both interviews had come to an end, I asked Warren Nelson and Jack Sale how they wish to be remembered. To my surprise, they both replied the same way — for loving their families and being good fathers.

My freshman year, I had not known the power of journalism. The secret to the interview process, I learned, was taking the time to really listen. Because of Sunrise Senior Living, I, and the group that attended, were able to hear the wisdom of our elders, a gift that seems to be overlooked. I encourage others to listen and truly hear our elders. It’s not only eye-opening, but rewarding as well.

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Source: Yearbook Discoveries

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