LHS journalism students keep the presses rolling

LHS journalism students keep the presses rolling

Doreen Picozzi’s journalism students, pictured before school closed, have continued their reporting through the pandemic.

LINCOLN – It has been eight weeks since students walked out of their classrooms on their last day of traditional school, unaware at the time that they would not be returning.

For student journalists at Lincoln High School, being forced out of the Lion’s Roar newsroom and broadcast studio due to the coronavirus pandemic meant choosing whether to abandon ship or continue their coverage.

The student news team did the latter, shifting their content online while navigating the new realm of online learning.

“We operate like a news team,” said their teacher Doreen Picozzi. When school shut down, “they just kept on operating. They’re always in touch, they’re always meeting, they’re always producing something.”

Jakob Potemri said, “While the day-to-day interactions and routines are different in a sense, our news team is so dedicated to what we do, and what we do needs to be done. I really appreciate that aspect.”

Since transitioning to online classes, students have documented an unprecedented time in their school’s history. Rather than limiting them to writing, Picozzi said she has been allowing her students to choose the medium most appropriate for their message.

“Some people can focus on writing, some editing, some online content, some create videos,” said Potemri, who serves as copy editor. “In a way, coronavirus and quarantine has only made this program stronger.”

Before school closed, the LHS Advisory Report served as a morning announcement broadcast to the school community, sharing items such as upcoming sporting events and schedule reminders.

Now, Lauren Germani addresses the student body from her home in her twice-weekly online report, updating her peers on the latest directives from Gov. Gina Raimondo and news from Principal Rob Mezzanotte. The reports, which are uploaded to YouTube, are blended with humor in an attempt to lift spirits.

Looking back, Germani said, “you can see the Advisory Report become more serious and start delivering more facts” as the pandemic began to pick up steam in the U.S.

Germani, who said she has been experimenting more with video since the paper moved online, is working on a video filled with some ideas on ways students can stay busy, safe and sane during the time they’d normally be in school.

Students such as Olivia Wodogaza, this year’s statewide student Journalist of the Year, are using the popular app TikTok to film recipe videos, along with longer, more in-depth video reports.

Before COVID-19, Rachel Smith wrote a food column called Savor the Flavor, where she reviewed new restaurants. Since being home, Smith has been writing about her own cooking and sharing family recipes.

Smith, who said she feels it’s important to write about the coronavirus to document this time and to help inform her peers, has been working to strike a balance between providing factual updates and offering more positive content that will make people feel inspired while they’re stuck at home.

Her father urged her to write something every day to document her experience during this time.

“I’m doing that with journalism,” she said. “It’s really important that we have this to look back on some day to read a firsthand account of what was happening.”

The students are acutely aware that they are occupying an important place in history.

“Mrs. Picozzi says that journalism is history’s first draft. For me that’s really important, even for just a high school news team,” said Hannah Broulliard. Among her recent stories, Broulliard wrote about her family’s experience starting a new equestrian business weeks before the pandemic.

Principal Mezzanotte said he has been impressed with the journalism students since the first day he arrived in Lincoln, noting “how professional they were, their love for their school and how seriously they took their jobs,” he said. “Mrs. Picozzi sets the tone with them. She puts so much pride into her work and it really filters down to the kids. I’m grateful for all of their hard work.”

Picozzi, whose journalism program has churned out a number of successful young reporters, said of her students, “They’re so wonderful, they really are. I think this is what keeps me going.”

Germani said the feeling is mutual, and that the reason she and her classmates have managed to continue to produce content and work hard is because of Picozzi.

“From the very first day, Mrs. Picozzi has treated our journalism class like it was a job and like it was a work environment,” she said. “So even with the pandemic, it was really no question that we were still going to produce the same, if not more, content during this time.”

Visit lincolnlionsroar.com, follow @LincolnHSRoar on Twitter, or subscribe to LHS Journalism Academy on YouTube.