Tips From The Top

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By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 10/06/11

Bourne High School print and broadcast journalism students may not yet fully appreciate how unique an opportunity they have been offered. Tuesday morning, eight teams of students from several classes got together to brainstorm how they might collaborate on a multi-media project that will allow them to present “a day in the life of…”

What makes this familiar topic a far from typical assignment is that the students began the morning listening to 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and multi-media storyteller Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Bourne High School graduate.

Her work includes the photo essay for which Ms. Fitzmaurice won the Pulitzer. She shot those prize-winning photographs while working for the San Francisco Chronicle, as part of a collaboration with Chronicle reporter Meredith A. May.

The photos documented the story of Saleh, an Iraqi boy who was being treated at an Oakland, California, hospital. Saleh was severely injured while in his home country. On October 3, 2003, when he was walking home from his school, he picked up what looked like a toy ball. That “toy” exploded, “ripping open his abdomen, tearing off his hands, blowing out his left eye and mortally wounding his older brother,” says a caption to one of the photographs taken in Oakland. Saleh was sent to the US as part of an international effort to assist him.

The photos, in and of themselves, show how the boy, then 9, weathered the aftermath of that devastation, both physically and emotionally, with the help of his family and others.

Saleh is now 17, Ms. Fitzmaurice said. She said that although he does not like using prosthetics, he is able to play basketball. She continues to follow his progress, adding that he is making the best of the abilities he has.

Just as Saleh has changed, so, too, has Ms. Fitzmaurice, who is now working freelance. She has continued to receive awards from 2006 through to this year, including a 2010 Best of Journalism first-place award for a video feature.

The August 1 edition of Sports Illustrated features her photos showing a boy from Texas, whose compromised immune system makes it impossible for him to go to school in person. Instead, he sends his robot to class. Using the “bot,” the boy can monitor everything from his home computer. The boy’s face, as videoed via computer, appears on the robot’s screen in the classroom.

The robot technology, Ms. Fitzmaurice said, had been used to allow executives to take part in conferences while they were out-of-town, but had never before been used in a school setting. Those offering the school the robotic system did not know about this boy when they offered the use of the robot to the school district, Ms. Fitzmaurice said. The school system, however, knew immediately that it would change that boy’s life, giving him a way to interact with his peers. He now hopes to find a way to show his love of sports: he cannot participate, but wants to be a sportscaster.

Ms. Fitzmaurice will work directly with Bourne High School journalism students at various times throughout this school year, as the students work on their multi-media projects.

This week, as groups of students each brainstormed ideas for their project, Ms. Fitzmaurice went around the room, talking with each cluster of students, not just about their choice of topics, but how they might approach their subjects. As the year progresses, she will be assisting them with technical and other issues, sharing her expertise at each stage of the productions.

The students, print journalism and English teacher Jennifer R. McDonald said, are lucky both to have her participation and to have the availability of a studio and equipment that Ms. McDonald only dreamed of several years ago, when she started a broadcast journalism class with just one camera. That program is now doing wonderful things under the direction of fellow teacher Theodore Mather, who is taking advantage of all of the new equipment and technology.

As Mr. Mather circulated the room, speaking with students, Ms. McDonald urged the students to plan to take advantage of the television studio to which the students have access, saying that some of them may never again in their lives have access to equipment as good as that at the school.

Much of the program equipment, as well as the participation of Ms. Fitzmaurice, were made possible, at least in part, by a Grace Swift Nye Grant. Those grants were funded by a bequest from Ms. Nye, another BHS graduate.

The students themselves, whose ideas ranged from documenting a day in the life of a lunch lady to looking at glassblowers, a tattoo artist, a teacher, as well as unsung sports heroes (the team players who get the job done without getting the recognition they deserve), were getting ready to share their group’s ideas with all of the participating classes.

After that afternoon session, many were coming back Tuesday night, when Ms. Fitzmaurice, the daughter of Monument Beach resident Barbara V. Fitzmaurice, gave an hourlong presentation in the Bourne High School auditorium.

For those who missed that presentation, and who have wondered why there is a sign near the Sagamore Bridge recognizing Ms. Fitzmaurice, they can go online to www.deannefitzmaurice.com.

 

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