Packard named student Journalist of the Year in R.I.

Packard named student Journalist of the Year in R.I.

Kathryn Packard, a senior at Lincoln High School, was recognized as the Journalism Education Association’s Journalist of the Year in Rhode Island, qualifying her for the national competition. (Breeze photo by Brittany Ballantyne)
LHS senior moves on to national competition

LINCOLN – At 17, Kathryn Packard, a Lincoln High School senior, has been named Journalism Education Association’s Journalist of the Year in Rhode Island.

She is now eligible to win the national competition, the winner of which will be announced at a convention in Seattle in April. The winner will be awarded a $3,000 scholarship, and up to six runner-ups will score $850 each, but Packard said she’s focused on what she considers the real prize.

To her, reporting powerful news is just that.

“I love the chaos of it. For me, sitting in math class, there’s no chaos – nothing’s going to change. Numbers are numbers,” she said, sitting inside the journalism academy space at the high school. “I need the constant change and the surprise of what the next day is going to bring,” Packard said.

She runs the school’s student newspaper, The Lion’s Roar, an award-winning publication, with co-editor Delaney Cavanaugh, also a senior this year, and directs the daily morning announcements broadcast live throughout the school.

She does this while juggling three Advanced Placement classes and volunteering at Anna McCabe Elementary School in Smithfield to help produce a 16-page newspaper, stapled together.

Packard works with about 20 2nd- through 5th-graders who represent a “junior journalist” program to compile their movie and book reviews, poems, interviews with the school nurse and principal and pages of their artwork into a publication.

About 30 students make up the LHS Lion’s Roar newspaper staff, she explained, and students submit a few stories each month in hopes the articles will make the final cut and get published in the monthly publication.

Freshmen don’t typically have their work published, Packard said, but she was an exception. Her first piece, she remembered, was about soldiers overseas during the holidays.

After seeing her work in print, she said, she was hooked. From there, she quickly moved up the ranks, working as a copy editor as a sophomore and progressing to editor-in-chief by the end of sophomore year.

There’s still a copy of that issue hanging in her home in Manville.

Doreen Picozzi, English and journalism teacher at Lincoln High, oversees the student productions, but said, “I work for Kathryn.”

“She’s been a leader for quite a long time now,” Picozzi said, since Packard has been working as newspaper editor for about two years already.

Packard heads the broadcast class in newscasts, and she said she signed up for the course because she ran out of journalism classes to take.

“People say that journalism is a dying industry. I say, ‘Well no, it’s just a changing industry,’ ” Packard said.

Picozzi said she sees students enjoying LHS journalism classes, but for students like Packard, they truly believe in the work.

“They’re very aware of what’s going on in the world and the role that journalism … plays and they become very invested,” she said.

Whether that means reporting on the International Women’s March that students attended this year, concerns students have or publishing an open letter to President Trump, Packard said, that doesn’t come without some challenges.

Because The Lion’s Roar is a student-run newspaper, Packard said, people tend to not take the editorial board seriously.

“That’s a struggle, because I put my heart and soul into this,” she said.

With Cavanaugh, Packard decides what pieces and photos are published, creates the layout design and leads the group in meetings that sometimes begin at 7 a.m. on school days. Packard also runs the camera for the morning broadcast, rolls the credits and makes sure everything’s running smoothly in the studio.

She said she prefers to be behind the camera, rather than in front of it, and hopes to continue pursuing leadership roles after graduation this year.

She intends to study communications in college, but maintained that journalism is crucial. “I would be lying to myself if I said that I didn’t want to be a part of that,” she said.

Saying goodbye to LHS and her roles will be difficult, Packard said, explaining that she has just two issues left of the 12-page Lion’s Roar to publish. Northeastern University is her number one choice for college, but Packard aims to end up at a college in Boston, regardless.

Without Packard, Picozzi said, “We’re going to be lost next year.”

“The profession is going to benefit from having her in it,” she said.