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Writing school news in a digital world

While some high schools have student newspaper programs or have had them in the past, students at Farmington High School are producing district news content for an online platform, which is how many members of their generation are consuming information.

Farmington High School TV Production and Convergence Journalism Instructor Adam Steel said after trying to get an online school newspaper going last year, it finally got started in January.

“I got the information sent to me and I tried to get it started last year,” Steel said. “We hit some roadblocks, but we finally got it going this year. We were able to launch it in the second semester and it’s been met with a lot of positivity. The administration loves it, the parents love it and the community loves it.”

Students in the program produce at least one story a week on a variety of topics. While standard school news is covered, the students also produce interest pieces like movie or game reviews and opinion articles. Steel said the program provides a lot of opportunity for the students to write about what they want to write about.

“Staff Spotlights are really good,” Steel said. “It’s a good chance for everyone to get to know some things about the staff they wouldn’t normally know. I was the first one. A lot of the kids still don’t know me. I have a very small group of kids I work with, compared to the 1,200 that are in the school.”

Senior Shawn Nguyen is responsible for writing the weekly Staff Spotlight, which he said presents the opportunity to approach each staff member from a different angle.

“My first article was about Mr. Steel,” Nguyen said. “I’m the one doing Staff Spotlights, so I interview people — staff of the Farmington School District.

“We do it every week. We try to ask whoever is being interviewed this week who we should do next. If they don’t recommend anyone, I pick someone out of a hat. I try to tailor it to each teacher. Like with Mr. Steel’s situation, we’re revamping the whole department, so I was trying to build questions around that. And since he’s a newer staff member, I asked some other questions, wanting him to share a little bit about himself.”

Nguyen said while he produces a lot of written content, his favorite aspect of the program is photography.

“I’m a photo guy,” he said. “I like taking photos. I’m starting to take photography more seriously this year, as far as the intricate stuff like the exposure triangle. I got a DSLR last year and I’m starting to take more photos.”

Whether or not Nguyen will continue on into a career in journalism, he said he hopes to take the skills he’s learning into a similar creative field.

“It’s more hands-on than your traditional class, with taking notes,” he said. “You get to think a little bit and be creative. You’re on your feet doing things. Class isn’t always the same. It’s something new every day.

“I always thought it would be cool to go into a creative career like maybe journalism. I have a niche for technology, so I think I’m going to go down that path first and see what the future holds.”

Steel said the students are using the web-based software, “Fusfoo” to produce their content, which provides the ability for students and faculty across the nation to compare their work.

“Fusfoo is a fairly new program and almost all the schools involved are big East Coast or West Coast schools,” Steel said. “We are the first school in Missouri to have this. It’s been awesome because after the first week, a lot of our students’ articles have made it to the national front page. It gets them more page views and then our students look at other schools and see what they’re doing.

“Colleges can also look at it like a portfolio. Every student, you can click on their name and it will show you all the articles they’ve written.”

While the program and department continues to grow, Steel said he has hopes and plans for the department that involve more opportunities for Farmington students.

“We’d like to grow as a department,” he said. “They’re renovating our studio right now, which I think is going to help out a lot.

“And we’d like to get more involved with the community, honestly. I think with more community exposure, it would help lead to some more changes, add-ons and chances for the kids. It would be cool to get some more equipment for these kids, because what they’re already doing is really great. It’s great for kids that want to go into this in college and go that way for a career.”

Nguyen said as the program develops, the community can expect to start seeing more and more things produced. For now, however, it’s under wraps.

“A lot is planned,” he said. “I can’t really say much right now, but we’ll get there and the public will see it soon.”

To view content produced by Farmington students on Fusfoo, visit

Farmington High School students work on their stories for the week while brainstorming ideas for the next week in Convergence Journalism class.

Farmington High School students work on their stories for the week while brainstorming ideas for the next week in Convergence Journalism class.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at

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