Intern earns award for local ag coverage

Jun 5, 2012

By Jeff Grimes
General Manager | Centralia (MO) Fireside Guard
CENTRALIA, MO—Small town weekly papers remain the heart of many agricultural communities and a high school senior used that connection to earn a statewide award from the Future Farmers of America. Gina Olsen of Centralia, MO, was looking for an FFA project for her senior year when she hit upon the idea of working with the Centralia Fireside Guard, a 3,400-circulation weekly. This spring, the Missouri FFA awarded Olsen its top education award for her efforts as an agriculture intern for the newspaper.
In prior years, Olsen had served as the local FFA chapter reporter and submitted articles to her local paper. Competing at the state and national level meant she had to turn things up a notch.
“I wanted to compete at a higher level and this was a way to do that,” she said.
Supervised education projects in FFA require an outside person to act as a supervisor. She worked with Fireside Guard editor James Smith to pick out topics as well as with the technical aspects of the job. Smith assisted Olsen with her writing and photography skills and was in phone contact with her two to three times a week.
Olsen was given the task of preparing an average of two agriculture articles a month. She wrote about a wide variety of topics during the year. When a local woman was named the state veterinarian, Olsen did a profile piece, which was reprinted in a regional livestock trade publication. A number of times throughout the year, Olsen spoke with farmers about weather conditions and how that would affect final production and thus the local economy. She prepared features on youth and adults involved in the local agricultural scene.
One assignment, that had to be reworked, was the local fair. Olsen was assigned to cover the three fairs in our area and bring back pictures and some copy. What was not taken into account was that intrepid reporter ended up being elected Centralia Fair Queen this past year. It was one of those occasions where she became a big part of the story.
“My favorite thing is the state fair. I would go and stay there for the entire event,” she said.
When Olsen came to me, the paper was looking for a way to beef up its agricultural coverage. As the general manager, I was a little skeptical. But having her on the ground enabled us to cover events and make contacts that we were unable to do in the past. This is a big accomplishment for Olsen. Agriculture is the lifeblood of our community. Being able to be a part of something like this is great for our newspaper and for our community.
Olsen’s school FFA instructor, Scott Stone, said Olsen was able to combine her print work with electronic media—something with which his students are familiar.
“It was the first project I had ever had of that type and it was nice to see one of my students bring a new perspective. She is young enough she can figure out how to use social media. Watching her work on websites and Facebook it was nice to see how far and wide that went,” Stone said.
 “It feel’s pretty awesome,” Olsen said. She graduated from Central High School in mid-May. “Working with the newspaper gave me chances I would not have had otherwise. To be able to get to represent our little town at the national level is pretty great.”
Olsen’s project is entered into the national FFA contest, which is expected to announce a winner in late summer.