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Lincoln East adviser uses past experiences to prepare future journalists

Four-year-old Jane Holt reads a copy of the daily newspaper

Lincoln East High School journalism adviser Jane Holt reads a copy of the daily newspaper at four years old

By Hana Muslic
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Journalism runs in Jane Holt’s blood. Her father, a journalist, instilled within her a deep interest in what was going on in the world from the very beginning.

“It was a true newspaper household,” said Holt, now a journalism adviser and librarian at Lincoln East High School. “I loved it.”

A Lincoln native, Holt graduated from Lincoln High School before going to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for her undergraduate education. There, she majored in broadcast journalism but always held an affinity for print. Post-graduation, she went into a job editing commercials, where she met the person who would change her entire view of journalism.

At work, Holt shared the desk with a woman who was extremely unhappy with her job and would bring her negativity into the office. Holt began to feel its effects as well. On a day in which she was feeling particularly depressed with the idea of working long hours at a publication, she walked to the university. There, she was reminded of her love of journalism and the need for it in society. Holt headed to the Teacher’s College and decided then that she would enroll to pursue a secondary education degree.

“I did it because I wanted to help people figure out what their passion was or wasn’t in high school,” Holt said.

Now, Holt works with high school students daily, mentoring them in classes where students write for and publish a school yearbook and newspaper. She helps students find the best route to get where they’re going. There isn’t, however, a “typical day in the office” for her.

“Like most people in journalism, we, too, exist in some place along the deadline,” she said.

Holt loves the ability to problem solve most about her job. As the youngest of five with an inevitable sibling rivalry, she quickly learned to think logically and on her feet.

“I love when a student thinks that he or she couldn’t fly and I can help them go out and do brave things,” she said. “It’s bridge building and I really enjoy that aspect.”

Though giving students a voice is an incredible feeling for Holt, the idea of censorship still eludes her.

“I hate what’s most powerful…one of the most difficult things is to teach the audience of a high school publication that student stories are homework in progress,” she said. “They have good and bad days, so people can’t expect perfection – especially parents. I don’t like when really beautiful moments are glossed over simply because we’re afraid of offending someone.”

Another problem Holt faces as a journalism adviser is assisting students without altering their original work. Her first year at Pius X High School in Lincoln featured a wake-up call for the inexperienced new teacher. After editing a student’s humor column and handing it back to him the next day, he posed a question that still resonates with her: “Whose name should I put on this piece? Yours or mine?”

“It was humbling to hear this come from a student and have to realize my own bullheaded and naïve ways,” Holt said. “I was actually delighted that he asked that.”

Since then, she has found a way to honor student voices by carefully filtering their work and looking at it objectively. Every day she notices the role editing plays in her life and career.

“If you’ve been in journalism at all, you get mad at all the little mistakes,” she said. “I even self-edit everything I say as I want it to be a true reflection of what I mean.”

This is Holt’s last year as a journalism adviser at Lincoln East before she goes on to work in the library full time. Though saddened by this reality, she hopes that she has had an impact on student lives.

“I have enjoyed coming into work every day. I love working with the teenage mind and all the daily interactions I experience with the kids,” she said.

Ultimately, she wants them to leave high school as independent thinkers, valuable citizens and with the skills that she has prepared them with so that they don’t need her anymore.

“I really like that you can light a kid’s fire and get them into that uncomfortable place where they can possibly thrive,” Holt said. “There are little islands of freedom in the world and journalism is one of those. I can’t believe I get to be a part of that.”

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