By Coby Shapiro
Commack High School
With a focus on entertainment and headline news up until now, 16-year-old Janet Song is ready to explore other aspects of journalism that she has never experienced.
“I work for the school paper as mainly a journalist, but I wanted to explore the photography and video production portions of journalism as well,” Janet said. She hopes to do that through the Greene Institute.
After writing for her school paper at Ward Melville High School for the past few years, she has been hired as public relations director for the paper starting this fall, at the onset of her junior year.
“I got into journalism once I signed up for the newspaper club in my junior high school,” said Janet. “There weren’t any other writing clubs out there, so that seemed like the [right] thing to do.”
During this period, she said she really discovered her love for journalism.
But her interest in writing and reporting actually began as early as second grade, when she would write down creative articles and stories she made up in a blue notebook.
Looking back, even though she can recall some funny headlines from those days, she confesses that she can barely read those stories today because of her poor handwriting back then.
“I kind of just made up stories,” Janet said. “I was really fascinated with the format of newspapers. I would go around school with the notebook and start drawing that format and writing what I saw.”
Janet learned about the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists after receiving a flyer from her English teacher, Ms. Roughton, who thought the program would be a good opportunity for Janet to expand her writing skills.
Janet’s father, Jie Song, agreed that this program is a great fit for Janet because she is a good writer and a great critical thinker. “She has been writing a lot since she was at elementary school,” he said. “She wrote short stories, poems, diaries and journals when she had free time.”
After learning about the program and having multiple people support the idea of her enrolling, she did and was accepted.
The idea of writing for an audience about important ideas and issues appeals to Janet. She was inspired by an article, by William Grimes, in The New York Times that put an amusing spin on a story about a chicken that strayed into a neighborhood backyard. “I thought it was interesting that William Grimes is able to write about something so mundane and still write a qualitative article,” she said.
Janet was also influenced by a Columbia press conference she attended on investigative journalism. In particular, she was impressed by the lengths that the journalists are willing to go to in order to research their stories, even to the degree of putting themselves in life threatening situations. “I learned it is important for journalists to have empathy because you need to get both sides of the story,” she said.
Political journalism is sometimes confusing to Janet, but she is interested in learning more about it. She also likes to read about “what’s going on in the world” and entertainment-related news.
Janet said she decided to attend the Stony Brook program because of the great opportunities to expand her knowledge in this area. “I hope this camp will help me learn the tools of journalism.”
Janet is not completely sure whether or not journalism will be her career, but she has a passion for writing and is motivated to learn as much as she can about the different areas of journalism. “I cannot wait to learn the different areas of journalism in the Greene program,” Janet said.