By Luthea Sweeney, Media/ Photo Editor
Sam Shelenberger, Panther Press editor-in-chief 2019-20, recently visited the newsroom. He discussed the struggles of keeping the community informed, how he still uses his journalism skills, and writing the “Saegertown Shut Down” stories during the pandemic.
Currently, Shelenberger attends Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he is studying music education. Although he is not working in journalism, he has carried the lessons with him.
“The most important thing I learned from journalism is that everybody has a voice and your freedom of speech is protected,” Shelenberger said. “My freshman year of college, they were trying to eliminate 136 professors, a lot of departments were losing teachers and student organizations organized protests from the library. We worked with faculty on this big protest, and we had two hundred people protesting. They ended up not cutting as many people and programs.”
During his time as a Panther Press journalist, Shelenberger won several awards. In 2018, he (along with fellow broadcaster Dustin Steiger) received first place in broadcast in the Student Keystone Awards sponsored by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA). He also placed second that year for his review of “Ready Player One.” In 2020, he and current editor-in-chief Brennen McWright (who was a freshman at the time) placed second in Public Service Package for their coverage of the Saegertown reverse parade that was held during the pandemic.
In 2019, Shelenberger planned and acted as moderator for the first student-run PENNCREST school board candidate forum that brought together media from all three PENNCREST high schools to provide information on candidates. Less than a week before the election, mysterious flyers targeting two of the candidates were found throughout the district. Shelenberger wrote a story, and the Panther Press was the only publication to report on it.
During his recent visit, Shelenberger offered some advice to his fellow journalists, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Shelenberger said. “One of the things that plagues high school journalism is that we think what we write isn’t going to matter, but our paper was the only news outlet covering some stories. If you don’t ask questions, the story might never get told.”
NewsMedia Program of Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School