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Student journalists are the real deal

As editor Gillian McGoldrick and former editor Tanvi Kumar tell their stories to NPR co-host Audie Cornish, another former student who stood up for her right so speak — Mary Beth Tinker — tapes the presentation. (photo by John Bowen)

by Cyndi Hyatt
A few weeks back a student reporter asked a school administrator if she could cover a school-related banquet at a local country club, an event much touted and advertised.

Sure was the response, but she would have to buy a ticket.  

She was not expecting that response, nor was I.  After some adviser-led investigation and nudging, the reporter was granted access to the event and the story appeared in the latest issue of the newspaper.  

The student reporter was even approached by the district’s public relations people for photos to use on the district website and in press-releases.

But what got me thinking was the initial assumption about her – that a student reporter was not a “real” reporter.

And that is a gross misconception to say the least.

Would the response be the same if the local news van showed up to cover the story?  I doubt they would have had to dish out $100.00 for entrance to the event. I imagine the organizers would have welcomed the professional media, grateful for the coverage.  

And, as it turned out, the only coverage was from the school student-run newspaper.

Facing the challenge of having students recognized as legitimate, trained journalists will never go away, but this most recent incident had me thinking of three steps we take every year to help others recognize the credibility of our young journalists.

  1. Press passes for everyone.  Each year we have our photography editor take head shots of all staff.  A local printer makes us complementary color photos so all we pay for are the sleeves and the logo lanyards.  All passes are dated and signed by the advisers.
  2. Staff apparel.   Student reporters are identified further as journalists by the tee-shirt or fleece jacket they wear to events.  It’s a uniform approach, recognizable in school and community.
  3. Assertion.   In the case of a paid event, our students are encouraged to approach the organizers with a statement rather than a question.  “We would like to cover your event Saturday” is a lot stronger that “May we come to your event on Saturday?” A few adjustments in language can make a difference.

A solid student journalism program needs to command the respect it deserves.  Don’t settle for no when you are doing the community a service, telling others’ stories or spreading the news.

Look the part and be assertive. The results are worth it.

 

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