Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
Short green grass, trees reaching to the sky, a winding sidewalk and aluminum double doors enclosed the high-school campers for the journalism camp at Eastern Illinois University.
Before meeting anyone, the campers played Frisbee with each other in the lawn next to Thomas Hall, the place where they would soon be sharing laughs and moments that they would remember for their whole life.
After going downstairs to a classroom, everyone would share their name, where they went to school and something fun about themselves.
No one knew what would come as soon as Isabel Riordan opened her mouth to introduce herself.
“Hi, my name is Olaf and I like warm hugs!”
“All I was thinking when I said that was that I wanted to make people laugh, make friends and I hoped they had seen “Frozen” and that they would find me funny,” Riordan said.
After spending the first night in the dorms, the campers went to class for two days before they were put out on campus to find stories and tweet about them using the #ipfcamp hashtag.
“I thought it was great challenge,” said Tara Schumal. “It showed us how to cope under with stressful situations when it comes to reporting.”
Additionally after getting trained, the directors sent out the campers to Teutopolis and Arcola on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
“In Arcola, I was scared at first to go out and just interview people I didn’t know,” said Shelbie Murphy. “After finding the story about the Primitive Goose antique shop, I was so excited. Now, I feel awesome about interviewing people on the street. This activity and the camp in general really gave me awesome skills to interview strangers with confidence”
One of most of the campers’ favorite activity was interviewing strangers on the street.
“My favorite moment of the camp was when we got to go out and interview people in small towns in the first week because I was not expecting us to go out and find stories so soon by ourselves,” said Katlyn Campbell.
“What surprised me the most about the camp was the fact that they put us in small towns and knew we were going to be able to find a story,” said Taylar Tramil. “I loved that they had so much confidence in the kids who just got to camp.”
Along with going out and finding stories in visits to Teutopolis and Arcola, the campers also went to three-day internships at different sites including the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Mattoon Journal Gazette-Times-Courier, Decatur Herald and Review, Robinson Daily News and Taylorville Breeze-Courier.
“I loved my internship because the people at Decatur were amazing,” Schumal said. “They treat you like you’re one of them and they taught me a lot. Before this camp I wanted to be a journalist, and even after the internship, I now want to be a journalist even more.”
“My favorite thing to do at the camp was the internship because I was able to see how it would be like working as a journalist and feeling the atmosphere of the people,” Tramil said.
Aside from all the serious working and internships, the campers had a lot of fun during their free time and on Saturday and Sunday.
“I think the most fun thing we did was play capture the flag,” Schumal said. “When we played, someone fell in a puddle when running to get our flag and everyone thought it was hilarious even though only a couple people saw it happen.”
The campers made new friends they will cherish for a lifetime.
“I’m going to miss the people the most,” Murphy said. “In less than two weeks we’ve all gotten so close, and not seeing these people everyday is going to be weird, but I know we all made lifelong friends, and none of us can forget that.”
“The camp was quite the experience,” Schumal said. “Some days were better than others, and I met a lot of great people that inspire me to keep writing. The fact that I can see myself holding a future job among these people because they’re that great of people is amazing.”
Now that it has been two weeks, most will miss crazy breakfast conversations, staying up with each other, and everyone’s presence overall.