Do Journalism...Or Don't

“I’ve been teaching broadcast journalism for six years and we are yet to tell a two-sided story.”

A teacher from a very accomplished high school program said this aloud at a workshop once.  You know what?  It was not that shocking.

Many scholastic broadcast staffs are under the watchful eye of administrators who only want the “positive” stories out there.  Or they require students and teachers to produce announcements shows that have no basis in journalism.  In some schools, the video program might as well be an arm of the athletic department.    

It all brings me to this:  Teaching journalism is one thing.  Practicing it is another.  

Theory is lost on teenagers if they are not given the opportunity to actually do journalism.  Would you lecture your basketball team about jump shots and zone defense, but never let them scrimmage?   Of course not.  

So why cover journalism in the abstract?  Let students take those type of classes in college.  Right now, in your high school or even middle school class, you have a golden opportunity to let kids experience the excitement of tackling a news topic, and everything that means.  Finding sources.  Editing for balance.  Being accurate.  

One reason we see non-journalistic shows in so many high schools is that many of those programs are guided by a teacher with no journalistic training.  BUT…I do not blame the teachers.  Most likely, if they had not stepped up to teach the class, the school would have no video program at all.  They are to be applauded for trying to pull it all together.  But journalism is hard.  It is not for the faint-hearted, or for the untrained. 

What am I suggesting?  Simply this.  Schools must provide teachers who are tasked with overseeing a broadcast journalism program with proper training in journalism.  

To that end:

*Summer workshops are vital.  Schools should help teachers attend at least one.  (And yes, the ASB Workshop is one of the best) 

*Finding local professionals to share techniques is crucial.  

*Entering contests for constructive feedback can also give teachers another valuable tool.

*Taking kids to a regional or national convention is a wonderful way to get them excited about journalism, and to see “best practices” by pros and by other teens.

But there is one more thing to consider.  

If the teacher is not comfortable producing a journalistic program, stop.  Go a different direction.  Productions such as short films, talk shows, interview programs, short documentaries, and yes, live sports, can provide kids wonderful experiences with video.   It does not have to be journalism to be valuable.  

But it does have to be journalism if that is what you are calling it.