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Student wants to be columnist or feature writer


For the Call

Experience as the editor of the Oakville Senior High School newspaper and yearbook has left an indelible mark on Shannon Burke.

Eighteen-year-old Burke, a senior at Oak-ville High, wants to become a journalist thanks to her high school experience.

"Journalism was something I was interested in, but I didn't know that I loved it until I got into it and Mr. (Mitch) Eden helped me see how great journalism is,'' Burke said. "It's a positive environment to learn in.''

Her introduction came as a high school sophomore. She worked on the yearbook staff. Her junior year she enrolled in the school's introductory journalism class. After that she was hooked, a phenomenon journalists since Ben Franklin have referred to as "ink in the veins.''

"This year I have an independent study newspaper class with Mr. Eden,'' she said. "Mostly, I've tried to concentrate on school publications just because they take up a lot of time. They are really important to me. Since I'm editor, it gets really hectic around deadline times.''

For Burke, the camaraderie around the Prowl newsroom is a large part of the industry's mystique.

"When we're all together during production cycle we stay up at school until 10 at night and get all the layout done,'' she said. "There have been nights when everyone is at my house until two in the morning with our laptops trying to get things done. It's just crazy stuff. Everyone in there has a great sense of humor.''

The young journalist at times seemed on the threshold of her struggle between duty to readers and sensitivity for her subjects during the interview.

"We've covered some pretty controversial things in our paper,'' she said. "In the last issue we covered Mr. (Nathan) Hopper's situation. We covered it last year when that whole soccer player situation evolved.''

Hopper, an Oakville Senior High School science teacher and coach, recently resigned after being accused of sexual contact with three 16-year-old female students. In the second incident, disciplinary action was taken by the administration against several of the school's best soccer players was upheld by the Board of Education.

"We cover features that affect teenagers,'' Burke said. "That's what appeals to me about writing. You put the words together. I just like the idea of being able to inform people.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing something that I think is good,'' she said. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of getting a note, or a letter, or somebody coming up to me in the hall and telling me they really liked my column, it touched my life, or something like that.''

She's developed some practical skills along the way as well. Her class is learning newspaper design, photography and photo editing in computer programs like Photoshop.

"In the setting we have for the Prowl, everybody does a little of everything,'' she said. "I've had a good experience, a broad array of newspaper and yearbook.''

Next year, she'll take that experience with her to the University of Missouri at Columbia.

"I would like to be a columnist or feature writer,'' Burke said. "After I get some experience, I would like to go back and teach on a high school or college level.''

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