Teaching Tomorrow’s Journalists

Katina Paron is the director of NYC High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College and the editor of Teen Voices at Women’s eNews. She will be co-teaching Digital Skills Intensive for Journalism Teachers and Advisers at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

On May 8 and 9, a few dozen young reporters will meet at the CUNY Graduate School for NewsHive, a pop-up newsroom and digital storytelling event. Based on a hackathon model, which germinates ideas through execution in 24 hours, NewsHive will give high school teens and CUNY undergrads hands-on experience with digital news tools framed by a tight deadline and fueled by pizza and mentors.

By the time our participants are in professional newsrooms, there are bound to be new tools for them to learn, so our aim is to give them practice telling stories and reporting events using a medium beyond text, photo and video. These technological toys aren’t meant to fast track young journalists into newsrooms. More than ever they need to thoughtfully learn the craft, including the rules and the public service of journalism. But if we want these students to find jobs, if we want them to help redefine the news industry, if want to keep them engaged in this business, then we have to guide them to play with technology. They need to be enduring learners who want to experiment with and employ new forms of communications.

Many of the high schools newspaper advisers I work with have a hard time understanding the value of getting their paper online. They say that the students want print. They are worried about NYC Department of Education policies about student images online. They don’t have the resources they need. This all make sense. But if they are not teaching their students to work online and encouraging them to play with technology, they are doing their students a disservice. These young journalists won’t be prepared to work in the newsrooms of the future, where media organizations understood how to transform, where journalists will be hired for knowing “how to use powerful tools the web makes possible,” as Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, said recently at University of California, Riverside, about 100 recent hires.

And while younger generations may be digital natives, that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. Most are comfortable with the digital landscape, but they need to understand their potential — the potential of the tools and their own ability to create.

By the night of May 9, participants will leave NewsHive with skills, a product and contacts in a field they are interested in. It’s just a start, but an important one.