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High School Journalists Cover Execution

October 31, 2012, 9:56 PM by Brady Mallory

High School Journalists Cover Execution

When you heard Kaden Greenfield let a long sigh of relief at his desk, you know he was getting his thoughts together after a long night.  Even though Donald Moeller's execution, which had happened the night before, was over, the questions in the newsroom were just beginning.

"Did you get a lot of good pictures last night?" Greenfield said to his colleague and photographer Michael O'Hara.

O'Hara took some time to ponder such a simple, yet important inquiry.

"120, or so," O'Hara said.

Greenfield and O'Hara are working on a news story focusing on the facts and particulars of the Moeller case, as well as another story about the impact the death penalty has had on people in South Dakota.  They were not the only reporters at the South Dakota State Penitentiary for Moeller's execution.  In fact, if you looked around the press room, you could probably spot a lot of familiar local journalists from the area.  However, these two were the only high school students covering the story.

"I think it'll definitely be one of these stories that stays with you," Greenfield said.  "Something that made you who you are as a journalist."

It took some negotiating.  In fact, Greenfield said he pleaded with a Department of Corrections spokesperson so they could even be at South Dakota's second execution in two weeks.  However, these 17-year-old journalists said they wanted to bring the controversial statewide topic of the death penalty to the student newspaper, and more importantly, to the student body.

"I was kind of interested in the experience of what I'd be seeing, what I'd be hearing and what I'd be taking pictures of, of course," Greenfield said.

When Tina Curl, the mother of Becky O'Connell - the nine-year-old who Moeller kidnapped, raped and murdered 22 years ago- went to the podium, photographer O'Hara recognized an important moment.

"I got one of her kind of smiling as she reminisced about her daughter.  I liked that one," O'Hara said.

The Lincoln High School Statesman has had some cool achievements in the past, including national recognition and awards.  Depending on how the story turns out, Greenfield and O'Hara hope it could be a future contender for other awards.  However, they will tell you it is not about another trophy.  Editor-in-Chief Greenfield said the experience of covering an execution is about moving the conversation forward and hopefully answering the never-ending questions about a topic that can divide so many people.

"Who doesn't think a lot about things like this about this nature?  I think it's good for students to get exposure to this, things like this and to understand the world does affect everyone regardless of your age," Greenfield said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
The person who gave permission to Greenfield was corrected.

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