Richland students featured in national magazine

Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Sophomore Alex Porter and junior Cassie Bess, two students on Kyle Carter’s yearbook staff at Richland, were featured in Communication Journalism Education Today. A photo by Porter was chosen for the front cover.
Dexter Statesman photo

ESSEX, Mo. — Two Richland High School students earned national recognition when their photography work at the 2021 Richland prom was featured in a national magazine.

Sophomore Alex Porter and junior Cassie Bess, two students on Kyle Carter’s yearbook staff at Richland, were featured in Communication Journalism Education Today. A photo by Porter was chosen for the front cover.

The magazine is produced by the Journalism Education Association (JEA). Carter said this magazine is produced quarterly by JEA and the company goes through all of the submissions for the two contests it holds per year for photo content. Additionally, Carter said JEA monitors a number of advisors, such as Carter, for photo content.

“How Alex’s (photo) got selected was I posted some of our prom photos in a how-to, like how to do this a how to do that,” said Carter. “The guy that is the editor of the magazine saw it and was like hey would you guys mind doing a little story, a little interview on how you did prom.”

Carter said he along with Bess and Porter agreed and were sent about a dozen questions which they answered and returned. Carter said they were asked for artwork from the prom to go with the story. Carter said the editor was sent all the photos shot at the event.

“Basically we had files of everything everybody shot and he selected what he liked the best and what fit the best and he really liked the picture of Devin (Duffie, the Richland Yearbook editor at the time along with Rylee Taylor are in the cover photo),” said Carter. “And it fit the cover, there were two others he was looking at but they didn’t fit the space.”

Carter and the yearbook staff chose to surprise Porter with the news that his photo made the cover and he was called to come speak to Carter.

“At first I thought I was in trouble because my mom was in here and she was giving me the stink eye,” said Porter. “I was just going through everything I had done in the past week or month, trying to figure out where I screwed up.”

As he approached Carter’s desk, Porter was trying to figure out where he went wrong. Carter holds his yearbook staff to a high standard and members of that staff know that a violation of school rules could lead to their dismissal from the staff. Carter said his staff quite possibly is held to a higher standard than the athletic teams.

As Porter neared the desk, Carter rotated his monitor and Porter saw the cover on the screen for the first time. Carter showed a video of Porter’s reaction to the cover and the staff members congratulating him.

“It’s cool to see Alex progress because when he came on the staff I was just freshly the production coordinator and I had probably been on there a year maybe half a year,” said Bess. “It’s really cool to see how Alex has gone from little baby Alex on staff to one of the hardest workers we have.”

Bess spoke of her work in the magazine as well.

“I was more happy for Alex, its like ooh the cover,” said Bess. “It’s also cool to share my experience because I don’t normally talk about this stuff with other people because we are the only people that care about this. I can’t talk to other people about how we hung the lights because nobody cares. But it was cool to share my opinion because people who do care will see it.”

The photography setup was planned and drawn up beforehand.

“The planning is all Carter,” said Porter. “The setup is us (students).”

“We will sit down and even like this (prom) we will draw this out. We draw it out by hand,” said Carter. “Alex, you and I went and covered the PBR this summer in Little Rock. We drew it out by hand and said this is where I want to sit, this is how I shoot (photograph) through, this is what we are looking for, it’s planned. I have done hundreds if not thousands of different shoots through the years. And it’s teaching them how to do that planning and to execute it.”

The shoot itself was challenging due to inclement weather and lighting. Carter explained that they initially set up the promenade inside in one of the hallways leading to the gym where the prom would take place. This was done due to the threat of inclement weather. However it was decided to move the promenade outdoors because it was thought the weather would hold off and so the parents could view it. Inside there was no room for anyone to line up and view the students walk. Carter said there was basically only room for the photographers.

Once outside the wind caused issues by lifting up the red carpet. Porter and Bess solved this problem by running to the weight room in the school and returning with 25-pound weights to place on the edge of the carpet. This created an additional challenge, photograph the student without the weights getting in the photos. This wasn’t possible for all shots but this was solved through photo editing.

Lights were set up outside because the sun set behind the school building. By the end of the 20-minute photo shoot the sun behind the building caused a great deal of shadow to deal with.

Once in the prom the lighting was dim but the photos make it appear otherwise. Carter explained the only lighting was the lights on the dance floor and two or three red hot lights above them, which did not provide much light. Carter said a two-light strobe system placed overhead and his photographers each had a pocket wizard used to set off the strobe lights. The strobe lights acted as the flash for the cameras.

Because each photographer had a pocket wizard, the one who set it off first got the photo. The lights needed a few moments to recharge. Bess explained that they would find a good shot but someone else would take a photo on the other side of the floor and take the light. Carter said this happened because the lights were on the same channel. He said this shoot was a learning experience.

Carter said over 40,000 students will read this magazine and see Porter’s and Bess’ work and read how they pulled it off.

“It’s a national magazine but having a number like that shows how big it is,” said Porter in regards to appearing in the magazine.

Carter said this is the third JEA cover, along with one cover of Quill and Scroll, that Richland students have earned.

“Stick with it and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Porter advised students entering Carter’s program at Richland. “Whenever you ask a question you will get a very good answer and probably learning more than you were asking about. Just listen when they (Carter and the older students) are teaching and you will probably learn a lot of stuff.”

“I think for me I want people to realize – and it probably sounds really corny – but (how) much we all grow as a family,” said Bess. “Like Dacie Ritch and I. I was terrified of her and for the longest time couldn’t talk to her at all and now we work at the same place (outside of school) and we talk to each other. It is just cool to see everyone grow. Obviously people quit but it is cool to see the relationships of the people who stick around. A lot of it for me anyway is just watching people grow. I am happy to see Alex grow from little baby to my assistant editor.”

Bess is slated to be the Richland Yearbook Editor and Porter the assistant editor for the 2022-23 school year.

“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of people don’t want to do it,” said Bess. “But I feel like that makes it more rewarding for the people who stay. I think that is why we are genuinely all so close. After crying into our computers, bleeding into our computers, it is nice to have those shared experiences because when people get their books they don’t care. Half the time I am sure they don’t read the things. They will look at the photos they are in and read what they said. They don’t realize that it takes us. Basically, when we finish one book we start the next one.”