Annual KSPA Fall Conference educates, inspires student journalists

High school journalists from across the state gathered at the annual Kansas Scholastic Press Association Fall Conference at Fort Hays State University to develop their skills and learn more about their rights as journalists. 

Each year, the conference brings in professors, professionals and expert advisers to teach a range of topics dealing with photography, yearbook, newspaper, broadcast, design and more. 

KSPA executive director Eric Thomas opened the conference by unveiling a documentary about the creation of the Kansas Student Publications Act, which provides students the freedom and responsibility to determine the content of their schools’ publications. 

“We want to make sure students understand that controversial things can be written about in their school newspaper,” Thomas said. “They should lean into those things and try to cover them as much as they’re comfortable with.” 

After viewing the documentary, the 2019 State Journalism Awards were given. Hays High was the runner-up in the 5A division. 

Editor-in-Chief Allison Hillebrand said her favorite part of the conference this year was the table discussions she was a part of during the breakout sessions. 

“It was great to bounce ideas off of people experiencing the same difficulties as my staff,” Hillebrand said. 

Senior Michaela Austin said the tour of the Tiger Media Network convinced her to continue journalism in college. 

“It was a great way to learn how to get involved for next year at FHSU,” Austin said. “I think the Media Network would be a fun thing to do while I’m in college.” 

Former Hays High journalism adviser Bill Gasper taught two of the conference sessions, one being “How to Rethink the Stories Your Publication Covers.” This is what helped junior McKena McBride overcome her writer’s block.

“I liked it because Gasper was the one leading it, and it also helped me get out of my head to write my own stories that I’ve been trying to write in Newspaper,” McBride said. “It was really nice to hear Gasper’s input and to feel inspired to write.”