This past July (2010), I joined 45,000 other Boy Scouts from around the world to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of The Boy Scouts of America. Although there were hundreds of exciting activities at the jamboree, one unique program was called “Hometown News”. This program was designed by the Boy Scouts to give Scouts the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a journalist. In this article, I will describe my experience as a Hometown News Correspondent at the 2010 National Boy Scout Jamboree.
When I first heard about the Hometown News Program from my Scoutmaster at an early troop meeting, I knew right away it was something that I would be interested in pursuing. I had already been publishing the occasional article on Associated Content for over a year, and I thought that the Hometown News Program would give me the opportunity to see what it felt like to be a real journalist. After looking at the details of the program, I let my Scoutmaster know that I would like to take on the responsibility of being the Hometown News Correspondent for the Troop. The next step was to contact local newspapers and ask if they would like to publish the stories that I would be developing at the Jamboree. I composed an email summarizing the Hometown News Program, and sent it out to multiple newspapers from my area. A received a few responses, and in the end I had made solid connections with two small newspapers. After the papers agreed to publish my stories, I was able to pre-register to become a Hometown News Correspondent. I filled out a short form online at the jamboree website, and provided them with information about myself, as well as the newspapers that I had made connections with. Shortly after submitting the form I received a confirmation email letting me know that I had successfully registered as a Hometown News Correspondent. The last thing I had to do was wait until I arrived at the jamboree, where I could finally begin my work as a Hometown News Correspondent.
When I arrived at the Jamboree in Fort A.P Hill Virginia, I spent my first day setting up the campsite with my troop. It was not until the next day I was able to walk to the media tent to begin my work as a journalist. When I arrived at the tent, I confirmed my registration, went through an orientation on the Hometown News Program, and finally got my picture taken for my personal Media Credentials. These credentials gave Hometown News Correspondents at the jamboree entry to special press conferences, and behind the scenes access at different shows and celebrity appearances that took place throughout the jamboree. Once I received my credentials, I became an official Hometown News Correspondent.
During the first few days of the jamboree, I attended a few press conferences at the media tent in which only Hometown News Correspondents were granted access too. Famous author Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series, was one individual who attended. Another press conference I enjoyed was when an astronaut came to speak about his experiences in space. Special press conferences such as these were one exciting benefit of being a Hometown News Correspondent.
As the jamboree continued I wrote stories for my newspapers back home summarizing the activities and events taking place at the Jamboree. After writing my first story, I was given a Jamboree bike for a day. Available exclusively to Hometown News Correspondents, these bikes were given out by the day as you wrote and submitted stories. They allowed you to get around to the different activities spread out in the jamboree without having to take a bus, or walk in the 100 degree heat. This was another benefit of the program I really enjoyed.
My favorite memory of being a hometown news correspondent came towards the end of the jamboree when Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler came to speak to the Scouts. Not having a bike that day, and unable to catch a bus, I had to walk 3 miles to get to the area of her appearance. By the time I got there, crowds of Scouts had taken up all of the available seating. Not sure what else to do, I went up to a staff member working at the event and quickly showed them my Hometown News credentials. Without hesitation they pulled me through the crowd to a special seating area reserved for the press right next to where Gretchen was speaking. I amazed that just showing my ID had gotten me from standing outside hundreds of scouts to being literally feet from the Olympic Snowboarder. Not only did I get to sit and listen to her talk about her life as a snowboarder from VIP seating, but I got to personally interview her during a short window of time that had been reserved just for press. Finally, I walked away with a shiny autographed picture and a memory that I will never forget.
Looking back, the Hometown News Correspondent Program at the jamboree truly gave me the opportunity to be a real journalist. I saw what it was like to go behind the scenes, sit in a press conference, and have my stories published for others to read. If you are reading this as a scout deciding to take part in the program for a future jamboree, I highly recommend it. You will be amazed at the level of “access” you gain around the jamboree just by wearing your credentials, and like me you will return home with memories you will never forget.