The Glue that Holds Journalism Together
By Maranda Bernal (Staff Writer) -9/2/16
In every unit, there’s always that beacon of light that leads its team out of darkness, the glue that holds them together, and the one that inspires them to do better. In Journalism, many of the staff writers of 2016 agree that the adviser and English Department Chairman, Timothy Ritenour, has been one of, if not the most important person, in guiding The Word along.
John F. Kennedy hasn’t always housed Ritenour though. He was a substitute in the Burbank School District prior to his work here at Kennedy. In the 2005 Spring Semester, he earned his place teaching Expository Composition and American Literature, securing his “first and only” permanent teaching position, stated Ritenour.
It wasn’t until his third year however when he became the adviser for the school newspaper. “At the time it was Sara Samson; she and I were friends, and she was going on maternity leave, and someone needed to fill that position, so she handpicked me because she knew I worked well with students and had a journalism background,” explained Ritenour.
With the faith of a friend invested in him, he decided to give it a shot, but he knew it was not going to be a walk in the park, as he further realized. “It was the most stressful year by far [because] I was inheriting, not recruiting.”
Although it was not easy to adjust to the new role, the most challenging part was trying to build a relationship with the students. The recruitments that ventured forth into the next years would prove to alleviate that difficulty. Ritenour recalls that he felt closer to the recruits, but in asking which ones he had built more of a base with, he answered as an English expert would answer when the subject of a sentence is not singular but is plural. “There was no one student, but the students.”
He appreciates all of his pupils and trains them about what fine writers should produce now and in the professional world. He urges them to find good, credible sources, to learn the crafts of photography and layout design. Also, “What I think is the most important,” expressed Ritenour, “is to be objective and fair, because — including the professional media — there’s such a lack of objectivity.”
Moreover, his training has gone beyond a business platform and speaks to the character of the students. He encourages them to “branch out of cliques, think beyond the simple and go into complex, and to expand personal boundaries and horizons.”
Breaking down these walls and getting the students to interact with the school and each other is becoming more of a challenge as the size of the class has increased from about twenty to approximately forty. Not only are there more papers to grade, but “it’s harder to band people together;” which also presents the fear of not having that one-on-one with each student as he wishes to have.
His belief in the team goes unwithered as they had numerous writers place in the regional and state writing competitions of the Southern California Journalism Teacher’s Association. Even so, the way he spoke about his present and past students proves the potential and talent that are seen through his eyes as he bursted with joy, conveying how each group is genuinely special to him.
Ritenour hopes to give these young, aspiring writers the tools they need to make it in the industry. Yet he “wants to have a place where you feel you belong.” Many of the journalists, including this one, that were observed and spoken to have grown in an environment that is just the opposite of cold or negative, and have indeed widened some of their once, somewhat narrow margins. Their actions seem to coincide with Ritenour’s goal: “As long as the students walk away having enjoyed their time here and grown in some way, I feel I have done my job.”