May 8, 2013

Among Journalists

Pub Notes

Photo Credit: Porter McLeod

David Ragsdale

The annual banquet of the Clarke Central news and literary magazines Odyssey and Iliad Saturday evening at the Classic Center provided an opportunity to see the student journalists who have won so many awards. They are just as impressive in person as they are on the page and online, and so is their mentor, David Ragsdale, the Clarke Central English teacher who has made the magazines such a growing and learning experience for his students.

They regularly win top honors at state, regional and national conferences, and reading their publications it is easy to see why they do. Odyssey is the monthly news magazine that reflects what's happening at Clarke Central High School. Iliad is the annual literary magazine chock full of photographs, drawings, poetry and other writing. As Odyssey chronicles the lives of the students at Clarke Central, Iliad gets inside their heads and shows what they've been thinking and seeing.

Both publications drive students to the disciplines necessary to get their work down on paper and up online.

Anybody who has ever worked on a publication knows what a cacophony of demands it makes on your time and attention, and these student journalists have done their work after school hours and on weekends, not for pay but for the satisfaction of seeing all their work turned into a visual, tangible communication that reaches readers.

There is just something about journalism that makes it a special kind of endeavor. You've got to be able to work hard, paying close attention, and at the same time you've got to be able to use your mind and your imagination, and you've got to be able to do things on time, sometimes very quickly, and you've got to be able to cooperate with others, frequently under a great deal of pressure, and it's got to be accurate. You need a strong sense of what you want and the willingness to accommodate the vision of your colleagues. You need to be able to keep your nose to the grindstone, your eye on the ball and your finger on the pulse of the public, all at the same time.

Hearing these students speak Saturday night about their experiences on the staffs of Odyssey and Iliad demonstrated that their hard work has paid off, not just in the table full of awards they've won but more importantly in what they've learned about working together on a common goal—the friendships, the fun, the crazy things that happened, the memories of coming in an awkward freshman and coming out an assured senior. It was obvious that they have been challenged and that they've risen to the task.

Ragsdale is the guy behind all this growing and learning. He seems to be one of those people who can befriend his students while demanding and getting their best efforts, without losing sight of where they are in their lives and what they need to help them grow: a teacher in the best sense of the word.

Excellence doesn't happen in isolation. There's obviously a lot of support at Clarke Central for this kind of effort, and it is backed up by the room full of parents who were there Saturday and who have been there throughout the year, working in concession stands and other efforts to raise money, while also accommodating the schedules of their busy students.

After the banquet, Julie McLeod, mother of Porter McLeod—Odyssey and Iliad photographer, writer and designer (whose pictures, like the one in this column, appear in Flagpole)—summed it up.

"We shouldn't worry about the future," Julie said, "they are the future."