PITTSBURG — The Booster Redux’ “Pittsburg 6” and their advisor have been invited to speak at the Kansas Scholastic Press Association Fall Conference in Topeka on September 25, which is also the 25th anniversary of the Kansas Student Publications Act which provides students with first amendment rights.
The staff, Trina Paul, Patrick Sullivan, Connor Balthazor, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden and Gina Mathew, of Pittsburg High School’s The Booster Redux, found discrepancies in their new principal Amy Robertson’s educational background and then published a story which questioned her credentials.
Their story went viral nationally, which brought attention to student journalism throughout the states, The Booster Redux Advisor Emily Smith said.
A couple weeks ago, Smith announced to her students that they were asked to the present at the conference.
Poenitske said she is excited and nervous about presenting, but she looks forward to sharing her story with other student journalists.
“The main thing I would want to share is that you have to persist even if people tell you are not right or there’s no other information or nothing to see, but if you know there is something keep working for it — keep trying,” she said.
Baden said she is nervous too, but to be able to share their experience is exciting.
“Even though we’re just student journalists we still have a voice — we can make a difference,” she said.
Balthazor said he was flattered when he found out. He said he would like to share about truth and how those facts are important.
“You have to keep in mind, the truth is more important than someone's opinion,” he said. “Someone might tell you to not pursue it, but if you know they are wrong it doesn’t matter what you think.”
The Booster staffers said the experience and life lessons will follow them throughout their career — even if they do not become reporters.
Balthazor said he gained people skills and how to deal with people who don’t necessarily agree with him.
“I learned how to ask tough questions while saying them in a manner that wouldn’t be offensive and would elicit a good answer,” he said.
“We learned to keep persisting, but also how to make decisions — especially difficult decisions — and so I think that will be what I’ll take those away the most,” she said.
Smith said it is an honor to be able to tell the Booster’s story at the conference.
“It’s an honor to be asked to tell our story — to give people an opportunity to take something away they can apply to their situation,” she said. “They have been all-in for the experience that resulted from the story.
“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and situation for them and I think that they also feel a sense of duty and a sense of responsibility to share their experience so other student journalists can learn.”
Smith said she thinks student journalism is important at every school at every town and every state.
“The principal story obviously garnered a lot of attention, which was not our attention at all, but these kids also write important stories every day,” she said. “They write about fellow students who are homeless, our students who are overcoming certain situations, they write celebrations and successes.
“While that story is the story that caused the attention, what they do every day in here is important and that is the same in every school. If anything, the attention they brought to scholastic journalism is what should be celebrated and supported.”
On a separate trip the several Pittsburg High School student journalists will be going to Dallas for the National Conference for Journalism and because of their experience with investigative journalism, they will be assisting their advisor with a workshop.
Balthazor said this trip will be a little more daunting as it will be at the national level.
“There is going to be a lot of high-caliber student journalists that are really good at what they do,” he said. “It will be interesting to be teaching to people who are the same age as us.”
“I think it’s pretty cool to be considered to help students and teachers learn more — it’s pretty cool,” she said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.