Best quotes from 2018 Lit Con

The Mayborn High School journalism camp has been amazing. Spending time with people who have the same love of journalism I do, being around some of the most well-known minds in journalism, and getting to spend a lot of time (including eating and sleeping) at a college campus was an eye opening experience that excites me for my future. I learned how important the truth in journalism is, especially in a time when fake news is prolific, and particularly inspiring were the two keynote speakers Friday and Saturday night at the convention. Diana B. Henriques and Lindy West are ambitious, courageous women, and as they shared their stories about their lives in journalism, I found myself scribbling down more and more quotes. So here’s a treat for all those who missed it: the best quotes from the weekend with some photos from my journey along the way.

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My Post (1)


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Plus a bonus quote from my amazing workshop leader Leah Waters, said while we were discussing how to report on the Mayborn conference:


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An Outspoken Journalist’s Call to Action

Keynote speaker Lindy West shares the importance of opinion and truth in storytelling

I’ve been told my opinions are irrelevant in journalistic writing, and people only want to hear the facts. I’ve been told this was the way to become successful. I’ve been told a loud and opinionated woman is just bossy and whiny. That was until I heard Lindy West speak.

At the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, West gave a keynote that left people speechless. Her political discussions divided the room and caused many to feel uncomfortable. Here are a collection of her quotes that left me thinking about the impact that storytelling really has.

“When we don’t hear people’s stories, our collective reality becomes warped.”

West conveyed power through her words. I learned that words have the power to educate and change minds. They can affect someone’s political views or personal bias. After hearing Lindy West, I was completely inspired. Never before had I heard a journalist, especially a female journalist, speak so expressively.

“You can’t fight for something you can’t say out loud.”

Being a journalist means using your influence and outreach to voice your opinions. West showed that it’s important to fight for your beliefs. She did so by discussing her own stance and personal experience with abortion. Knowing she would be faced with criticism, she made the conscious decision to still bring up such controversy. West was confident enough to stand before a large audience in a conservative area and still strongly voice her support for abortion. I saw a courageous woman who was determined to spread her truth.

“We can choose to say yes to the truth and protect the truth-tellers.”

West additionally acknowledged how writing should be honest and adds that “dishonesty is toxic.” Storytelling isn’t all fairy tales and fiction. Most of it is actually sharing true stories and expanding movements. Movements such as #MeToo that has brought people together to support survivors and end sexual violence.

“Storytelling matters because once we’ve declared ourselves, there’s no going back.”

In a time where people are full of ignorance and hatred, stories can be our most useful weapon in killing this hatred. The current “Trump Era” has given light to how many people are hateful and have prejudices towards minority groups such as the LGBTQ community and immigrants.

The truth is revealed through stories. It sets the record straight on what people are really like rather than relying on other existing preconceptions. Personal experiences and narratives have a greater lasting impact that can break down stereotypes that were present for years before.

Listening to Lindy West has fueled my love for journalism and given me a new perspective on exactly how important it is for our world to have strong, determined storytellers.

Silencing student voice

A commentary by Neha Madhira

How censorship proves administrators care more about school image than quality journalism

“When you censor blatantly, lies are just as valid as the truth.” – Lindy West

The New York Times opinion writer Lindy West was the keynote speaker at the Literary Lights Dinner, and there were around 300 people in the room. As she spoke about topics such as Donald Trump, abortion, sexual assault and the importance of speaking up, everyone fell silent, eyes widened and it was clear the room was divided. Occasionally, there would be applause from people including myself who were empowered by her, but as soon as she spoke about censorship, tears welled up in my eyes. All I could think about was the censorship at my school and the firing of my adviser.

I was Assistant Editor of our online newspaper last year and our new principal John M. Burdett censored our stories, banned editorials and fired our adviser, Lori Oglesbee.

Since Hazelwood gives administrators the power to silence us, I set up meetings with Burdett to reason with him and our editorial board sent a letter to him, the superintendent and the school board. In the last meeting I had with him and my father, I created a document for him with the help of Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Director Lori Keekley and Student Press Law Center Legal Consultant Mike Hiestand, but there were still no changes to the policy.

After the third time we were censored and editorials were no longer allowed on our paper, all I could think about were the students left in the dark about what was happening at our school. We could not talk about injustices or anything we felt could be improved, because our voices were belittled.

What West said resonated with everything we were going through because rumors or inflammable tweets about our paper and our adviser became just as believable as the truth, especially when there was no way we could set things to rest. For the last 30+ years, administrators have censored student voices with the concern that we will cast our school in a negative light, but in reality, it shows administrators care more about the image of their school than students learning about quality journalism.

Even after local and national media publications such as The New York Times covered our story and 17 press associations along with the SPLC sent our administrators a letter, we received nothing but a deafening silence.

Through West’s speech, it felt as if she acknowledged this and understood that even though we will never stop fighting, it is still painful. The blatant censorship of student expression still exists. Although I knew our focus had to be on the importance of student voices, it still hurts knowing that we had to trade our adviser for wanting the right to publish. West understood that censorship is a painful process.

To our administrators, it didn’t matter that we were reporting the truth or that we had a teacher with 35 years of experience who coached her students writing and photography so well they advanced to UIL Journalism State and won 175 awards in one year. If they didn’t agree with what we had to say, it would not be published.

This is why I started fighting for New Voices, a student-led movement which not only legally protects students from censorship by their administrators when they are reporting responsibly, but it also protects advisers from being fired or pushed out under these circumstances. West mentioned, “You can’t fight for something you don’t say aloud,” and if we don’t speak up, all of this will happen again. A movement can only succeed when students move out of their comfort zones and stand up for what they feel is right.

Neha Madhira