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Student journalists make a difference


Part one of an eight part series.

by Jane Blystone

In today’s world of global interconnection the staffers of the Arrow at Renton High School, in Renton, Wa, have found a way for the student voices within their school to speak, even if it is in Chinese, to the world.  They challenge our definition of the word ‘ghetto’ as voices jump from the pages of another issue. We feature their work here.

Be aware that you may need to create a soundcloud account to hear the audio parts of the New American Voices package the students created at a local NPR affiliate. Additionally, if you wish to read the PDF files you will need to download Acrobat Reader to gain access to the files.

In May 2013, JEA SPRC asked advisers to submit student work that had been published during the year to the Making a Difference project. The project’s primary goal is to showcase scholastic journalism that makes a difference in the students’ school or community.

Instead of compiling these entries in an e-book or paper version, the SPRC has chosen to showcase them here with links to online storage so you can see the power of the work, and to provide a public venue beyond schools for this work.  We will feature one school’s package per month.

The team of judges select entries that have taken risks in storytelling and provided depth of coverage on a topic.  One of the questions we ask of advisers was to tell us if the publication had been subjected to prior review or censorship during the year. As you view these works, consider the impact of student journalism in schools where free speech is honored and in schools where free speech is not honored.

Adviser Derek Smith writes this about the submissions we feature this week. “What if we allow print to do what it wants to do? What if the turning of each page feels like an event—like a children’s book? What if the publication asks a single question (“Is that ‘ghetto’ part of our community actually ‘ghetto,’ and what does ‘ghetto’ mean anyway?”)?

What if our whole issue tells the story of one evolving, developing perspective? What if we rename our Editor-in-Chief “The Chief Storyteller”? What if section names are organic and fluid—the name and size always changing?” The reader will see in part I of this package how students voices jump from the page.

Ghetto issue

Part II of this submission addresses the English language learners at Renton and the power of their voices. Smith explains the impact this way, “As part of a themed issue called “The Perfect Language,” reporters worked with English Language Learners to record stories of coming to America. Reporters conferenced with ELL students, edited the 1st-person narratives those students composed in English and other languages, and traveled with the students to a local NPR affiliate to record the stories as MP3 files. The MP3 files were included in the “The Perfect Language” issue on a complimentary compact disc titled “New American Voices” – glued into the double-truck. The print edition and “New American Voices” CD were distributed to students and community members during Multicultural Week …” You can also hear their voices a this soundcloud URL  and read their work on these PDFs.

World 1,World 2, World 3

In a time when student voices are being silenced across the land, we celebrate the student journalists at Renton because they demonstrate how to tell the stories of their peers in print and on air.

Week 7 blog of a series

The post on Make a Difference is the seventh in a series of blogs that will run each Wednesday. Topics discussed, in order, will include FOIA, news literacy, journalism education, positive relationships with administrators, private school journalism, prior review and Making a Difference. We hope you will enjoy them. If you have other topics you feel we should address, please let us know.


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