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A four-part blog:


Emma’s story Part 1 of 4
One student journalist attempts to reach a larger audience

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One student journalist attempts to reach a larger audience

by Candace Bowen, MJE

My original blog idea started as a simple little suggestion to encourage high school student journalists to cover school board meetings and educational topics in communities without commercial media – those rural and urban areas considered news deserts. But it’s grown much bigger than that. These will be the weekly installments to – follow the story

Student journalists’ role in reporting on education grows where there are News Deserts  

Part 1: We’ll explore what happened when a student reporter offered a story about her school to a local “news and digital marketing platform.” It was posted – and then….

Part 2: What do those involved with student media legal issues say about aa597this? We’ll talk to the Student Press Law Center about what rights such young journalists have.

Part 3: How do the hyperlocal web outlets see their role when working with students – or do they see that as a possibility at all? 

Part 4:  Are there ways we – advisers and journalism teachers – can help students and communities get vital information, especially about local education? How can we educate those who might be working with student journalists but have no background in scholastic media and student rights and responsibilities?

by Candace Bowen, MJE

She reached out to TAPinto, “a network of local news and digital marketing platforms,” opening in towns that have no local newspaper or news website. The franchise currently has nearly 100 such outlets across the nation, many in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. 

It was spring 2023, right after yet another school shooting, when junior Emma Levine decided those in her New Jersey community needed to hear local student voices about this issue. 

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Emma didn’t work on her student newspaper, though she had taken journalism and hopes to have that as her college major in another year.

“The whole idea behind what I wanted to write was to reach more people, to be a student voice.”  She said she hoped to show how her school was reacting to school shootings. To do that, she interviewed a student, a teacher and the school’s principal at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey. 

All three of her interviewees knew her purpose and her plan to have this published in TAPinto so community members would know what the school was doing.  She carefully double checked her facts with all three. “I wanted to be sure it was correct,” she said, and she did make one minor change. 

The article was posted on a Wednesday, and, by Friday, Emma heard from her editor.  She said “it had to be taken down.” According to Levine, “The school’s communications officer insisted the three interviewed had no idea this was to be published.” So the TAPinto editor removed the story.

The editor wanted to know “what else I could write” because Emma was considered an unpaid intern. But Levine said she was “super determined to get it back up, even if that meant making some changes.” She tried talking to the superintendent, communications officer and principal, but none of that happened until June.

“I thought it was important to get the piece out there,” Levine said, but the communications officer said the superintendent had “grave concerns” about what was posted in the article. Because Levine was working for “an outside entity,” she should have gone through the communications officer to get to talk to the principal. And, no, even taking things out wasn’t a solution.

Levine said she “took that hit and moved on,” writing two more articles for TAPinto during the summer. The principal later approached her about being “the student voice as part of an internship for credit through the school.” She said she told him that was “great idea” but she didn’t want credit for this. She never heard more about that proposal.

Levine does encourage other students to try to write for their local news outlets. She said she learned a lot about how the (news) process works.

Emma said, overall, she learned some “big takeaways,” including that “education is about putting out fires.” She was not being supported as an opportunity-seeking student. Her hardest takeaway, however, was that a lot of education is about “putting out fires.”

“My principal wasn’t going to bat for me – but my journalism teacher was,” Levine said.

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