High school newspapers are important

2 Jun

 

Scott Simon reports in the NPR story, High School Newspapers: An Endangered Species:

 

Does your local high school have a student newspaper? And in this day when a social media message saying, “Tonight’s Green Design and Technology class homework sucks!” can instantly be sent to thousands, does it need to?

 

The New York Times reports this week that only 1 in 8 of New York’s public high schools has a student newspaper — and many of those are published just a few times a year. A few more are online, which can leave out poorer schools.

The national figures are a little higher. But as Rebecca Dwarka, an 18-year-old senior in the Bronx who works for her student paper, The Dewitt Clinton News, told the Times, “Facebook is the new way of finding out what happened. Nobody wants to actually sit down and read a whole article about it,” which makes a “whole article” sound a little like a long sentence in solitary confinement.

I am not nostalgic about high school student newspapers and never worked for mine. I put out what was then called an underground magazine with a group of friends because we wanted to write about peace, war and rock n’ roll without school officials admonishing us not to make jokes about the local alderman.

But we learned. Trying to convince a local druggist to buy an ad in your slender rag can be humbling and make you determined to turn out a paper he’s proud to have his name in, too.

Hearing that school newspapers are in decline because students now “find out what happened” in social media bites is a little discouraging because it confirms that for millions of Americans, journalism is becoming a do-it-yourself enterprise….

But truly good journalism is a craft, not just a blog post. It requires not only seeing something close-up, but also reporting it with perspective. It uses an eye for detail to help illuminate a larger view. And even journalism that conveys an opinion strives to be fair. If school newspapers begin to disappear, I hope there are other ways for students to learn that. http://www.npr.org/2013/06/01/187534165/are-high-school-newspapers-an-endangered-species?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share

 

The American Press Institute 2008 report High School Journalism Matters finds:

 

 

High school journalism students earn higher grade point averages, score better on the ACT college entrance examination and demonstrate better writing and grammar

 

skills in college, compared with students who do not have those journalism experiences. http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/docs/foundation/research/journalism-matters_exec.pdf

 

 

College Media Matters has an interesting perspective on school newspapers.

 

In the article, Are High School Student Newspapers in Trouble? Dan interviews Kansas State University journalism professor, Kelly Furnas.

 

 

Furnas: “I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that there’s a connection between the newspaper industry’s profit margins and the state of high school journalism programs.  However, this article looks at a segment of high schools– especially those in low-income areas– that have the hardest time maintaining elective or extra-curricular activities.  You could have just as easily replaced ‘student newspaper’ with ‘foreign language classes’ or ‘arts’ and the article probably would have read the same way.

 

There are a ton of variables that affect the viability of a student newspaper, and finances are certainly part of the equation.  While sometimes advertising helps support student newspapers, staffs also fund printing through fundraisers, sponsorships, state support, and booster programs.  Unfortunately, those schools in areas where advertising sales are challenging also are going to struggle with those other funding models, too.

 

However, I’d argue the most dangerous threat to a journalism program is the turnover of teachers in those schools.  Teaching journalism can be an especially stressful, time-intensive and lonely position, and the lack of support can be a real threat to their longevity.  Without a steady hand overseeing a journalism program, small problems can suddenly become major threats to the newspaper’s existence.” http://collegemediamatters.com/2013/05/30/are-high-school-student-newspapers-in-trouble/

 

Working on a high school paper has pros and cons.

 

Scott Free writes in the SparkLife article, Pros and Cons of Working at a School Newspaper:

 

Pro: A better environment than you’ll ever find working at a college. Student employees can only have so much fun serving coffee or tutoring math pariahs, but at a newspaper people are usually doing what they love—whether it’s writing, photography, videography or pagination. Plus, writers are just cool people. We at SparkLife should know.

 

Con: Long hours and/or little to no pay. The long hours don’t apply unless people strive to do their best, and it can be frustrating if they don’t. Sometimes a paper pays its students and sometimes they’re volunteers, but there’s never a lot of money put into campus newspapers.

 

Pro: You can put out a product to show off for years. You won’t always be proud of the result of all the sweat, blood and tears, but the times you are will outweigh the times you aren’t.

 

Con: Not everyone will take you seriously. Even students who work for the paper.

 

Pro: You can find out what you want to do for a career. If writing or photography or editing isn’t your thing, it’s a good thing you didn’t get a degree in it and then figure out, right?

 

Con: It can be frustrating while you’re figuring it out.

 

Pro (for guys): You’ll get all the girls. When people think “reporter,” they usually think “Clark Kent unbuttoning his shirt,” and when they think of “photographer,” they think of Peter Parker in spandex. All of this is 100% true. Ask anyone. http://community.sparknotes.com/2012/11/29/pros-and-cons-of-working-at-a-school-newspaper

 

High school newspapers report on local news.

 

Fran Collingham writes the Guardian article, Local news crisis: why newspapers remain so important to the public:

 

So why bother buying a local newspaper (or listening to the local radio station) when the news is out there in the digital world for us all to share and contribute to, updated constantly, and without a cover price?

 

The best local newspapers are embracing this challenge, and proving that in a world where there are a million views and interpretations of the news at the touch of a button residents, more than ever, need their local media to make sense of the digital cacophony around them.

 

What was the first thing Gandhi would suggest for a village? Setting up a newspaper, a central point through which all the news is filtered and which brings the people together. It may be he didn’t have to deal with Twitter in
those days but even so, he saw the careful and controlled dissemination of local news as being vital to the thriving heart of any society. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/jun/25/marketingandpr-local-newspapers

 

High School newspapers are important because they teach students writing, investigative, and critical thinking skills. These skills are useful whether students pursue journalism as an avocation. These newspapers report stories of local interest which are often overlooked by other media.

 

 

Resource:

 

 

The Student Press Law Center’s High School Top Ten List http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/legalresearch.asp?id=3

 

 

 

Where information leads to Hope. ©  Dr. Wilda.com

 

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