Preview: High school journalism–‘We’re trying to inspire folks to believe again’

Preview: High school journalism–‘We’re trying to inspire folks to believe again’

Castaneda, Laura

Plagued in recent years by censorship, budget crunches, and embattled or inexperienced advisers, high school journalism is getting some much-needed attention from an array of major industry organizations.

Example: The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have launched an ambitious program to revitalize high school journalism, particularly in urban areas. Why? High school is considered by many to be the best place to generate interest in journalism as a career, especially for minorities, and to turn students into lifelong newspaper readers.

Knight awarded ASNE a $500,000 planning grant for three new high school initiatives:

* The ASNE High School Journalism Institute for teachers. Starting this summer, about 200 journalism teachers will participate in two-week, for-credit workshops at six universities around the country.

* The ASNE Journalism Partnerships, in which newspapers team with local schools to help them start student newspapers or improve existing newspapers. This year, $117,500 went to thirty-one schools and twenty-seven daily newspapers; another twenty-five partnerships will get funding this summer.

* A new Web site at www.highschooljournalism.org provides exercises, sample lesson plans, updates on scholastic press freedoms, and links to journalism schools, scholarships, and awards.

The Knight Foundation is likely to grant ASNE an additional $4.8 million to expand these programs for 2001-2003. In a separate but related program, Knight last year awarded a three-year, $825,000 grant to expand Harvard University’s Program on The Media and American Democracy to five additional universities. The six-day summer workshop helps high school instructors teach the media’s role in a democracy.

High school journalism is getting serious attention from other groups as well. The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) this year will release the Pipeline Project, a study looking at the role high school journalism plays in encouraging young people to seek newspaper careers. The spring issue of Nieman Reports contains a section on youth journalism. And Quill and Scroll is seeking funding to mail its updated Principals Guide to High School Journalism booklet to every public and private secondary school administrator in the country.

Educators and industry experts are concerned because one-fifth of all U.S. high schools do not have student newspapers, according to a national survey by Jack Dvorak, a journalism professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. He also found that students of color account for just 15.5 percent of high school media staffs. And about 30 percent of high school journalism advisers have been on the job for three years or less, and may not have much journalism training.

“We’re trying to inspire folks to believe again that this is a noble and useful profession,” says Hodding Carter Ill, president and chief executive officer of the Knight Foundation. “Whether or not they actually go into journalism, we want to touch as many students as possible with the kind of training and experience that will sharpen their appreciation for the First Amendment.”

– Laura Castaneda

Copyright Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism Mar/Apr 2001

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