Very quietly – one might even say “shadow-like” – 17-year-old Patrick Foster and his 16-year-old classmate Jordan Terry observed the goings on in the Jacksonville Daily Progress newsroom.
However, when a firetruck raced by outside, sirens blowing in full glory, their reaction was the same as the news staff: Heads popped up and eyes shot to the back door, where an employee was trying to figure out where the engine was going, and the degree of severity of the call based on the number of units responding.
Yep, we told them, just another day in the newsroom.
“Sometimes it's like this,” reporter Ben Tinsley said during an earlier staff meeting. “We'll be trying to come up with ideas, but then in the middle of the day something will happen and then we've got a number of different things we're trying to file on deadline.”
Foster, a senior, and Terry, a junior, were part of this year's Job Shadow Day, sponsored annually since 2004 by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber launched the program as a way to give interested high school students – on average, about 100 participate each year, though this year's number was just three-quarters of that – an opportunity to experience the type of jobs they may be interested in pursuing after graduation.
It's the second time Foster taken part in a job shadow; last year he was part of a group who went to East Texas Medical Center – Jacksonville, who partnered with both a nurse and a CNA.
“The pace of it was really fast,” he said, recalling some of the information the health professionals passed along. “The CNA said that if the light came (on a switchboard at the nurses station), her job was to go and see what the patient needed and turn the light off. If they needed a nurse, she would call a nurse for them.”
Mostly, he was curious about their jobs “because at the time I really wanted to go into the health profession, and now I'm kind of looking at doing some kind of public relations job,” he said.
He serves on The Drum Beat, the high school newpaper, and they both serve on the year book staff, so they're familiar with deadlines and not knowing how things are going to shape up on a particular edition.
“The paper comes out every so often, so we have to think ahead about what's going to happen, and then what's happening in the time period that we're working on the paper,” he said.
And as business editor for the school yearbook, Foster has an idea of what a newspaper's advertising director deals with on a daily basis: “I have to make sure that everybody gets the advertising sold.”
Like her classmate, Terry said she initially was interested in a health career – “Last year I wanted to be an ultrasound technician, then I got into yearbook and started really getting into that, so I thought, ‘Maybe I want to get into that profession.’
“And then I found out I was really good at InDesign and PhotoShop, and I thought maybe I could do something with that because I really like it,” she said. “I wanted to go somewhere that had all this – I've always wanted to see how a newspaper is put together. I've come in a couple of times when the staff at The Drum Beat (was composing) theirs, and it's similar to that. And I think it's interesting (seeing it come together), because I like reading stories.”
During their three-hour stay at the newspaper, the two high schoolers said they've come way with a new perspective of the work done to create a periodical from scratch five days a week. They toured the paper, met with Regional Sales Manager Jake Mienk, participated in the daily news budget meeting and went out on interviews about Job Shadow Day.
“I have a lot more respect for y'all,” Terry said. “I always have respected people who go interview others, but actually trying to find stories, I didn't realize it was going to be that hard to do. You hear stuff all the time, but whether it's true or not, you can't just go out and say 'I heard this on the street,' if it's not true you can't print it, stuff like that.”
Foster described the experience as “fun,” but noted that whether being the subject of an interview or conducting an interview, the experience can be “nervewracking.”
“It was nerve-wracking on that end,” being interviewed, “and I can kind of tell … for me, it's nerve-wracking on the other end, trying to think if you've asked all the right questions and all,” he said.
The two students represented Jacksonville High School very well, said Jacksonville Daily Progress Editor Amy Brocato Pearson.
"I was thrilled when I heard we had not one, but two students coming to shadow us," she said. "I hope they got a good taste of what a day in the newsroom can be like. I appreciate their willingness to be thrown into the work dynamic for the morning.
"Come see me when you graduate," she added.