I went to a high school that valued journalism and funded it well, but not to the extent that some high schools do. It was in high school that I discovered my love for journalism and where I was able to foster its growth. I was a member of the yearbook, newsmagazine and multimedia clubs. I will forever be grateful for my high school journalism program, as it turned me into the Walter Williams Scholar, Illinois Journalist of the Year and all around jerd (journalism nerd) that I am today. Here are three essential tips to running a high school journalism program to teach the future of our reporters, photographers, videographers, designers and editors.
1. HIRE JOURNALISM-SPECIFIC TEACHERS AND ADVISERS
When an English teacher has to take on the role of a journalism teacher/adviser on top of his or her original job, it adds stress and acts as a distraction. While it may not be financially possible, school districts should strive to hire journalism-specific teachers/advisers that will focus all of their energy, time and effort towards the advancement of student journalists. While I know many success journalism programs that are run by English teachers, in an ideal world, high schools would prioritize journalism as a study and reflect that by hiring teachers/advisers devoted to it.
2. COMBINE ACADEMIC LEARNING AND FIELD EXPERIENCE
Part of the reason I enjoyed my yearbook class so much and why it was successful was because it struck a delicate balance between classroom learning and lab experiential work. Three months of the school year was devoted to teaching all aspects of journalism, including ethics, AP Style, structure, captions and everything else essential to producing solid journalism content. The rest of the year was spent creating the yearbook, conducting interviews, photographing events and all other activities involved in producing the yearbook itself. Without the classroom portion, we would blindly be creating a subpar yearbook. Without the lab portion, we would know the rules of journalism but not how to use them effectively.
3. HAVE TEACHERS ACTIVELY SEEK JOURNALISM POTENTIAL
I joined yearbook because my freshman English teacher saw a great writer in me and encouraged me to pursue journalism. Had he not suggested it to me, I would have never done it or even known we had a yearbook class. Have photography, English, design and multimedia teachers and organization advisers suggest journalism classes to students who show talent or interest in honing their trade further. A personal conversation in which the student feels special makes for the most success in recruitment.