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News Literacy Week: Billings Central Catholic students take journalism from club to class

BCC Students
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 19:44:54-05

BILLINGS — At Billings Central Catholic High School, the passion for journalism starts early in the day in a class growing in popularity.

"It started off honestly with five, six kids and we were publishing off of Microsoft's Sway," said Amelia Bergum, a BCC English teacher who also teaches the journalism class. "Starting this year, we had 28 students so it's grown."

While Bergum may teach the class, she says it's really the students who lead it.

“They’re the ones running the show, they’re the ones training each other, it’s impressive," Bergum said.

The student-led journalism initiative started at Central about four years ago, spending two years as a student club before becoming a class with credit towards graduation.

The club-turned-class publishes an all-online student newspaper called The BC Chronicle.

While a core of students has stayed with the paper for all four years, the group credits BCC student Hank Jagodzinski, with kindling the effort at the school. Jagodzinski, who is editor-in-chief of the BC Chronicle, says he recognized the need for the student news organization long before he got to high school.

“We had a student newspaper in middle school and I originally wanted to start a student newspaper in fifth grade, because I thought that would be really, really cool," said Jagodzinski, who is now a senior.

The paper is published about every two weeks and students delegate duties to each other from copy editing to social media promotions to photography.

"I have reported on a number of stories over my time here. One that I'm really proud of is when I wrote a story about our school's Superfund site," Jagodzinski said. "Another story that I'm working on reporting right now is about the City Street Tree policy, and I'm talking with a couple people who work for the City of Billings on that effort and the Urban Forestry grant as well that the city recently received."

Olivia Jensen is a senior who is the paper's lead photo editor and co-manages its Instagram account.

"My favorite part about doing it is that it really helps people engage, right? When you look at a news story, you're not just necessarily reading the article or reading the headline, you're looking at the photo and how that relates or draws you into the article," Jensen said. "That's what I'm really interested in is how can the photos that we take impact said articles, whether that's a positive or a negative opinion of the article."

While the students have designated roles, they end up wearing many hats. Jack Milroy is a photojournalist who co-manages social media accounts with Jensen. But Milroy says he has found a specific interest in chasing environmental stories.

"Up at Lake Elmo when they drained it, I did a story on that," Milroy said. "More of the community-based stories—that's kind of what I like to report on."

While Jensen, Milroy and Jagodzinski dedicate a lot of time and effort to their journalism class, all of them have plans to pursue other topics in college, such as political science, social work, and healthcare. But they know their skills in journalism and news literacy will serve them well.

"Even if I'm not a student journalist myself, I know I'll be following and appreciating journalists who work in that space," Jagodzinski said.

But as these students are set to graduate Bergum says they will need to recruit more students and keep the passion alive, to carry on the legacy of student news at Billings Central Catholic High School.

“Youth have such a different view of events than us as adults. Their world is so raw and so to get their journalistic fair, it’s special and I think it’s a gift," Bergum said.