Last March I wrote a blog titled, "Teach Journalism...Or Don't." It was about teachers who are asked to take on a broadcast journalism class, and facing that daunting task with no journalism training in their background. It is a really tough way to go.
Now, as many of us look ahead to next year, and students and counselors start working on schedules, it might be time to remind the teens who want to sign up for your class that they need to make a serious commitment to actually do journalism.
If your class has the word "journalism" in it, kids should know they will be expected to actually produce news stories and news features. Not skits. Not music videos. Not morning announcements. Those might be part of your class now and then, but they can not be the focus of your class if you teach Journalism, as Les Rose says, "with a capital J."
In many ways, Broadcast Journalism is a harder sell right now than it's ever been. Our gear is not as special as it once was. Kids are walking around with HD video cameras in their pocket. They can even edit on their phones, and of course publishing their work online is a snap. The bright, high-flying kids often take one look at what a beginning reporter earns and move on to consider dozens of other career options. Finally, has any profession lost as much respect from the public in the last 10 or 12 years? Viewers want reporting that aligns with their political or moral beliefs, not stories that force them to consider things from a different point of view. Objectivity is not valued, and I am not sure it is not even recognized anymore by so many jaded consumers.
It is a crucial part of our nation's DNA--a free, diligent, aggressive press corp, holding the powerful accountable, and reaching out to tell stories of those who fall between the cracks. Before kids sign up for your class, talk to them honestly about these issues. Give them a clear picture of what is expected next year.
Your main goal? Find out who has a heart for reporting the truth, because that is where a journalist is born.