Young reporters star in chronicling activities

Amid the flood of young athletes coming to San Francisco to compete in the Maccabi Games, a small group of budding journalists will be putting their skills to the test.

Ten “star reporters” will be furiously scribbling notes and snapping photos to put into a daily publication, The Star, the JCC Maccabi Games’ online newspaper. The kids will be easily distinguishable by their official Maccabi Reporter T-shirts.

The enterprising Bay Area teens, ranging in age from 121⁄2 to 16, signed up for the program through their local JCCs.

Like their peers, the reporters will be attending Maccabi evening activities, socializing during “hang time,” and participating in the Days of Caring and Sharing parks cleanup. And, like the others, they’ve already begun “practice” as well.

The reportorial program is a boost to kids such as Matthew Levin, who will be covering some of the evening events. “Even if you are not an athlete, you can still participate in the games,” said the 14-year-old. Levin is anticipating that the evening gatherings will be a lot of fun — “I expect it to be like a bar mitzvah party, with a DJ and dancing,” he said.

An incoming freshman at Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, Levin has already interviewed some of his peers on the baseball team for a Star story. An avid baseball player himself, Levin couldn’t make the tryouts for the Maccabi team, but he knows many of the local players who did make the squad — which made interviewing them that much easier.

For fellow reporter Abigail Kostu-kovsky, 12, who will be covering behind-the-scenes action at the games, interviewing her peers proved to be more of a challenge at times. “Kids aren’t used to being interviewed, so we try to ask them for full sentences, or use backup questions,” she said.

Reporters have been meeting two to three days a week to work on stories, attend writing workshops and learn the ropes of layout design from their advisers Steve Ganz and Peter Waldman, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal for 22 years.

After a recent workshop at the San Francisco Foghorn, the student newspaper of the University of San Francisco, the Star reporters met the Foghorn’s public relations, advertising and design teams, and learned about some of the computer programs that make the newspaper come to life.

After learning about programs such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, Levin was inspired to make personalized birthday cards using a similar design program, Pages. “How you can do all of that on a computer is amazing,” he said.

“We are going to have to be designing and writing our own paper and, for me, putting it all together is one of the best parts of the program,” said Kos-tukovsky, who enjoys writing fiction but is intrigued by newspaper journalism. “I like writing things in the real world that people get to see,” she said.

The newsroom is a new experience for Levin, too. But he believes the workshops have given him tools “to write a really good article, ask good questions and make it fun for the reader to read.”

When it comes to the group dynamic of the Star reporters, so far, so good, Kostukovsky said. “We’ve bonded really well.”

Beyond their reportorial duties, the journalists are hosting athletes — making the Games a 24/7 experience for almost an entire week.

This makes for a busy schedule, but the kids have a mission to accomplish.

“If no one writes it, no one will know about it,” Kostukovsky said.