So you have a show, and it’s just “okay.” You cover school events, interview kids about the dance, or the game, highlight teachers now and then, and keep up with the Student Council as needed. When your principal asks you to cover something, you do it.
None of the above is bad, but you and your kids are dying to make your broadcast more relevant and yes, a little more edgy. You just aren’t sure the boss will approve. You might ruffle some feathers. Colleagues may start complaining.
This is where most Broadcast Journalism teachers eventually find themselves: Your comfort zone collides with your desire to push the envelope. What do you do?
I always think you should let your young journalists responsibly cover issues they care about the most, the things that impact their lives. If you are just starting into potentially controversial waters, let me offer a suggestion that helps in the beginning. Do not focus on school-based or district-based topics. Look outside the world of school. There is plenty to cover, trust me.
Social topics are everywhere. So are characters that will fascinate a teen audience. So are off-campus events that involve young people.
The quickest way to raise red flags and invite scrutiny from within your district or your building is to cover issues that directly impact your boss or his boss.
Students can take on all sorts of topics that are more universal, such as poverty, social networking, bullying, drug abuse, and other things that impact teenagers everywhere. You will have much more support covering those than if your staff questions how funding is allocated at your school for various clubs, or why the district has been spending so much money on sports.
My suggestion is pretty simple: Cover the tough topics that are not centered around life at your school. Just think bigger.
When you have established credibility and have shown you can handle those tough topics, then your students will be in a better position to challenge school or district policies as needed.And yes, kids should be taught to question authority now and then.
But if you are a fairly new program, or you have stayed away from such content in the past, it would be wise to find the really controversial topics off campus. It will be safer there for everyone.