Staff Spotlight: Maddy Smith ’22

Meet the Trojan Epic Student Life editor in the second edition of Staff Spotlight.

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Bess Frerichs

Maddy Smith ’22 is a photographer, writer and editor for the Trojan Epic and the West Side Story.

West Side Story Staffer Maddy Smith ’22 is involved in all three sections of the West High journalism program. She is the student life editor for the Trojan Epic, and she writes and takes photos for the print and online edition.

“I overview the student life pages,” Smith said. “So those would be the pages like the Pantone color of the year and photos that focus on students having fun. I make sure all of those are good, and I’m the last okay before we send them to the editor-in-chief.”

Smith took Foundations of Journalism (FOJ), the prerequisite for joining the WSS, her freshman year and has now been on staff for two years. She took the class because she had always been interested in journalism.

“I’ve always been a writer. I wrote a lot of fictional stories … and then I started to realize how cool it was to be there for breaking news moments and to write and tell people’s stories,” Smith said.

Smith had experience writing, but she had never tried photography before. She was first introduced to the subject during the photography unit in FOJ and fell in love with it.

“I like being able to freeze memories and how [photos] really capture people’s memories [so you can] show them back to them,” Smith said. “Like out at a football game when you catch the touchdown or you get a photo of the coach as he’s celebrating with his team. I think that is one of my favorite things.”

I like being able to freeze memories and how [photos] really capture people’s memories [so you can] show them back to them.”

— Maddy Smith '22

Smith also really enjoys being on staff because of the community and the opportunities it creates.

“You’re with a bunch of people who are similar enough that you have common ground but also so different that you never run out of things to learn from each other and talk to each other about,” Smith said. “One of my favorite memories was when I got to box with a professional UFC fighter. And I never would have had that opportunity if I didn’t [join staff].”

Smith boxed with a few other staff members last winter for a Buzzfeed-style “staffers try” video with ICOR Boxing. She was recovering from an injury and wasn’t able to participate in the soccer club she played for, Iowa Soccer Club Dynamic, so boxing gave her the chance to stay connected and stay in shape. They boxed once or twice a week for a few months.

“There were just a few of us that signed up. And that first day—I think Tosh [a fellow staffer] did throw up—I almost threw up and I was so sore the next day I couldn’t move. But as I started going back I started to feel a lot stronger,” Smith said. “It showed me how much I can do and how you should never say no to an opportunity.”

Experiences like these are harder to come by this year due to the pandemic, but Smith still feels like she’s learned a lot from and has adapted to COVID-19. All of her photos have to be socially distanced and getting candid photos is harder, but she’s found it easier to send emails and get into contact with people online for interviews or photoshoots.

“I haven’t been able to cover as much breaking news as I’d like and sports have been different so that sucks,” Smith said. “But I think I’ve definitely grown as a journalist in terms of knowing what kind of questions to ask and knowing how to contact people.”

“[COVID-19] has definitely made it harder to feel like you’re connected to the school so I think that’s made it more important than ever for us to have the West Side Story,” Smith said.

In the future, Smith plans on continuing to improve her journalism skills and to write more articles. She hopes to be mentioned in some Iowa High School Press Association Awards and she is currently considering a career in journalism.

“My first year on staff I was surrounded by all these really incredible writers and I didn’t want to put myself out there as much,” Smith said. “But I’ve definitely signed on to take more writing assignments and interview more people.”

When Smith first took FOJ, she didn’t plan on continuing with journalism after high school, but her love for it has grown and now she wants to pursue it in college. Her three main areas of interest right now are psychology, journalism and law.

“I know for sure that I will be at least minoring or double majoring in journalism,” Smith said. “The skills I’ve learned and gained as a journalist have really helped me improve, and I definitely want to keep going with that.”