Article

February 24th, 2020

Educator Voice: How journalism builds curiosity and confidence in our students

Arts & CultureELAEnglishSocial StudiesU.S.

 

By Mitch Schwartz, Cynthia Booker and Amy Woods

As Scholastic Journalism Week hosted by the Journalism Education Association kicks off this week, three teachers explain why journalism matters and how the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program plays a key role in their teaching.

Mitch Schwartz

Teaching journalism in high school was something that I was always passionate about, but I lacked a clear direction until becoming part of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL). This has altered the course of my teaching career, taking me from a journalism teacher without a clear path to a creator of new programs in my county.

One of my students, Alison P., shared how journalism has opened her mind to learning about new perspectives and the world around her. “Opportunities provided by SRL like attending the D.C. climate strike made me realize the power of the majority and how the media can influence these movements,” she said.

My student, Morgan F., also shared how journalism has made her more aware of her community and American and global politics. “I have become a more informed citizen because of it, and now as an 18 year-old, I feel informed and ready to make decisions and be an informed voter.”

“Journalism teaches. Journalism creates confidence. Journalism inspires exploring the world around you.”

I am inspired and challenged by my students every day. They have awakened in me the desire to take my teaching beyond the classroom walls to share how journalism teaches. Journalism creates confidence. Journalism inspires exploring the world around you.

Cynthia Booker

Journalism skills are reinforced regularly in my digital video production program. While the end goal is for students to produce quality and visually pleasing video pieces, it first begins with a script. Teaching journalism helps me to reinforce essential writing skills in my students.

My students gain confidence and learn how to ask leading questions when they produce video interviews. They discern which are the best shots to film and make better selections of footage when editing a project. It’s interesting to see how they will critique another student’s work and catch some of the same ‘teachable moments’ that they saw in class.

It’s interesting to see how they will critique another student’s work and catch some of the same ‘teachable moments’ that they saw in class.

Journalism allows students to build relationships, an extremely valuable life skill. They have the opportunity to get feedback from another journalistic voice, outside of the classroom teacher. When another person like an SRL producer gives the same piece of feedback, students often realize that they’ve heard ‘this’ before, so there must be ‘something’ to it.

Students are getting the opportunity to apply those classroom skills in project-based learning settings with community agencies. They are videotaping community events and adding all of this to their demo reel. They will leave high school with demonstrated technical skills that they can use for college or in their careers.

As a former news anchor/reporter, I feel that I’m in a position to help empower students. When students see how their work appears on a platform, be it the school website, SRL or social media outlets, they have a sense of belonging. For me, teaching what I used to do in my previous professional career is gratifying.

Amy Woods

The impact of news literacy on my students is profound. They have become discerning consumers, questioning content and checking multiple sources. Most importantly, they have gained the skills and confidence to make their voices heard. While students seldom see people and issues that represent them in mainstream media, SRL gives them the opportunity and tools to tell the stories that matter to them most, and actually represent their demographic on screen.

One of my former students, Fernando, started his junior year with no previous experience in journalism. Fernando was mentored by SRL producers and had his story on DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals Act) and education air on the PBS NewsHour early in his second semester. He explained how SRL not only impacted his life but helped him to find his passion in storytelling, saying “…the stories found within local communities are brought to light with the help of youth journalism, bringing a new and valuable perspective to these conversations.”

For my student, Andre, his love of journalism only strengthened through his experience covering youth of color at The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.

For my student, Andre, his love of journalism only strengthened through his experience covering youth of color at The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. “I think it’s important, being a person-of-color, to have my voice heard. Not just for myself but for the kids and people that look like me. To be able to inspire them and have them say, ‘If he can do it, then so can I.’”

Watching my students cover hard hitting topics like gun violence and the impact of active shooter drills in schools has absolutely blown me away in terms of the kinds of reporting I once thought my high school students would take on. As a journalism teacher, I have learned how to share stories that matter the most to my students.


Mitch Schwartz has been teaching journalism since 2005 at Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia, and created the broadcast journalism class in Loudoun County Public Schools in 2018. The school’s SRL piece, Tiny Coders, aired on the PBS NewsHour on April, 2018. Students also produced digital content for the PBS NewsHour site about the Virginia Senatorial Election during the 2018 midterm elections.

Cynthia Booker is the Digital Video Production and Television Club advisor at Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland Heights, OH. A two-time Emmy award-winning news reporter, Cynthia’s honored to bring her years of experience as a news anchor/reporter to the classroom. Cynthia has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a Master’s of Education in Workforce Education and Development from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Amy Woods is a media arts and broadcast journalism teacher at Northview High School in Covina, California. Prior to becoming a teacher, Amy worked as a freelance producer for over a decade on non-fiction television series and documentaries. She holds credentials in Media Arts and Special Education.

If you would like to contribute to Educator Voice, please send your idea to Victoria Pasquantonio at vpasquantonio@newshour.org. For teaching resources on Election 2020, sign up here. For short NewsHour education story highlights, sign up here.

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