Hands-on learning, Greene style

By Celia Bever, Brittany Stapelfeld, and Jessica Suarez
The Greene Team

Nineteen juniors and seniors roamed the campus of Stony Brook University with pens, notebooks and cameras in hand at the second annual Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists.

According to its website, the program, named for a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor at Newsday, is an “intensive, seven-day residential summer workshop” that aims to teach the “basic skills in news reporting, writing, editing and using video.”

The Greene Team used state-of-the-art still cameras, camcorders, and double-monitor Apple computers in a multi-media newsroom, learning skills required for success in the competitive and rapidly changing field of 21st century journalism.

Greene Team Program

Greene team members, from left, Megan Murphy, Caitlin Gargan, Celia Bever, Maria Perez and Jessica Suarez at a news conference in the program. Photo by Brittany Stapelfeld.

Within the first two days of the weeklong program, students learned a variety of valuable tips.

The first morning included a lesson by Professor Charlie Haddad about the journalistic method and the role of journalism in society, instruction on operating a camera by Professor John Williams, and a workshop on shooting video by Stony Brook University Professor Rick Ricioppo.

Less than 24 hours after Ricioppo’s lesson, the students applied the techniques they learned on the campus. The Greene Team broke into four groups assigned topics that showcased their newfound interview and broadcast techniques.

Haddad taught basic news writing: how to write a compelling lead, how to frame a profile, and how to “think like a writer.”

Students said they enjoyed learning the material.

“I enjoy waking up to a lecture about journalism,” said Rebecca Anzel, of Hicksville High School. “The way he leads lectures makes it fun for everybody.”

They learned photography from Newsday photographer and editor John Williams, who spent the first session teaching the basics of using a camera.

He followed up by sending students out onto campus to capture an image that portrayed the day’s weather.

Following that, students volunteered to showcase their pictures to each other and to Williams, who said he was impressed with their work.

He mentioned that he was unable to get some of his college students to achieve the composition and exposure of the Greene Team’s photos. However, he was also honest about the pictures he saw and did not appear hesitant to critique.

The feeling was mutual.

Nicole Sganga of Cold Spring Harbor High School looked vaguely star-struck when she recalled meeting a photographer who took all of the photos in a Pulitzer Prize-winning package.

“I’m so honored to have met him,” she said.

Although Sganga had some experience with photography before, she said she always put her camera on “default” and is glad to have learned the technical aspects of working a camera from Williams’ lesson.

“Now I feel like a photographer,” she said with pride.

During the critique portion of the photography session, Sganga was one of the students whose pictures were displayed and who received feedback directly from Williams. She said this experience was “amazing.”

Ricioppo spent his first session with the students – many of whom had never operated a video camera before – teaching them how to use cameras for journalism.

The lesson especially captured the interest of Jon Glover of The Stony Brook School. Glover looked like an experienced videographer when he stood behind the camera. In reality, this workshop was the first time he has dabbled in video recording.

“I was fascinated by it,” he said. Taking the lead on the video aspect of his team’s assignment, Glover used what he learned from Ricioppo as well as his own knack for technology. He said that when he leaves the workshop he would definitely continue. He added with pride, “Everybody asks me for help with their videos.”

The Greene team also was able to venture into the world of broadcast journalism with Marcy McGinnis, associate dean of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. McGinnis let the students take turns co-anchoring and reporting a newscast in the School of Journalism’s broadcast center. They also toured the control room and learned what happens behind the scenes. Later, they visited the newsroom of Cablevision’s News12 and saw reporters, producers and editors in action as they put together the day’s broadcast.

“Being in a studio makes watching news on TV a different experience because [I] know what’s going on there,” said Samantha Lacovara of Shoreham-Wading River High School.

For many of these aspiring journalists the experience solidified their intention to pursue journalism as a career goal.

It opened others’ eyes to the diverse jobs in the field.

“I always thought ‘newspaper, newspaper!’ in regards to my future career” said Baldwin High School senior Maria Perez. “But my experiences with Marcy made me consider the field of broadcast and possibly being a script writer.”