Pages Navigation Menu

Celebrate and reflect: getting the most
out of conventions with your students

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


by Kristin Taylor
It’s April! For student journalists and their advisers, that means it’s time for another JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. As many of us head to San Francisco Thursday, it’s a good time to think about why we attend conventions and how to get the most out of our attendance.

First and foremost, I remind myself every year that these conventions are about student voice. We come together to learn from the experts, but the moments I always find most inspiring are centered around students.

Whether listening to Meghan Bobrowsky — last year’s National High School Journalist of the Year — speak during the Opening Ceremony, attending workshops led by students or judging write-off submissions from talented reporters, I know this convention will leave me feeling great about dedicating so many hours to the world of student journalism.

If you are a new adviser or have never attended a large journalism convention with students before, you might be wondering how best to make sure you and your students have a great experience. It wasn’t that long ago I was in your shoes, and I remember how overwhelming the convention felt at first.

For this blog, I’ve put together five tips gathered from my own experiences and the wisdom of my colleagues. I hope they will prove useful to a few of you out there planning to bring students for the first time.

  1. Make a plan. At least a day or two before we leave, I bring my students together to look through the convention program, download the EventMobi app and talk about how to make the most of our time. Students are often reluctant to go off on their own, but if they all go to the same workshops, we’ve missed an opportunity to learn as a staff. We talk about what our publications most need and make a plan to spread students out to attend a wide variety of workshops. We also talk through some of the other logistics of the trip, such as how travel will work, how we will communicate as a group (we use GroupMe), when we will be meeting up (we always sit together for ceremonies and awards as well as gathering to reflect each day) and what they can expect to do each night.
  2. Articulate a purpose. One of the best things I’ve started to do with my own students is to find a time to discuss why we are going and what we hope to learn. You can do this before you leave, but I think it’s most valuable to do as close to the start of the convention as possible. I’ve had these conversations at school, at the airport gate waiting for our plane, and even on the hotel lobby floor before giving them their room keys. My goal is to have them articulate their purpose before setting them loose so we can come back to that purpose throughout the trip. If they are stumped, I suggest this question: What can I learn about the power of student voice from this trip?
  3. Hold them accountable. Some students will dutifully attend every workshop and speaker without any prompting, but others need a bit more structure. I require them to select four workshops Friday and Saturday (unless they are participating in a write-off contest Friday, in which case they only required to attend two). I’ve experimented with a variety of accountability methods over the years, but the one that seems to work the best is also the most old-fashioned: a notebook. I discourage students who have laptops from bringing them. They are bulky and distracting. Instead, I ask everyone to practice their note-taking skills during the workshops they attend, recording questions, ideas and takeaways with paper and pen. This leads me to the next tip, which is…
  4. Reflect each day. Thursday’s reflection is usually a quick discussion of the keynote speakers and opening ceremony. Friday is our first rich discussion of their learning. We sit in a circle, and the students reflect on their experiences that day, using those handy notebooks to connect their learning to practical application on our publications. Since Saturday is so hectic and the awards ceremony even longer this year, I plan to have them journal their reflection in their notebooks after their last workshop so we can come back to them on Sunday. I like to reserve Saturday night for a celebratory group dinner. Our final reflection happens before we leave, which is usually Sunday morning. This circle allows them to share final thoughts and ideas and come back to the purpose they articulated before they left. It’s also important to reflect with the rest of your staff when you return from a trip like this, and those notebooks will be handy yet again.
  5. Celebrate as a group. Depending on your plans and budget, you may have shared time seeing the city or attending an event together. If this isn’t possible, however, I think it’s crucial to set aside at least one meal to enjoy as a group. We usually do this Saturday night. Restaurants near the convention that can accommodate large groups tend to book up fast, but if you haven’t made a reservation or want to keep the meal more affordable, you can order in and have a pizza party in a common area of your hotel. Many of my favorite memories from past conventions have come from these meals as students share funny stories, tell jokes and bond. And you never know what may happen — I took a group to Indianapolis right after the 2016 election, and as we were walking back from the restaurant, we realized we just a block ahead of a protest march. My students still call that trip “The Time We Led a Protest by Accident.” 

On a final note, I want to encourage new advisers to attend advisee events (don’t miss the Thursday orientation in the afternoon and reception in the evening) and introduce yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice from your colleagues, especially if something goes wrong. I cannot say enough about the wonderful people in our community who have steered me through a variety of issues — you are never far from someone who has been there and can help you solve any problem than arises.

I hope to see many of you in San Francisco as we celebrate the power of student voice.


Read More

Students, join movement to make change:
Mary Beth Tinker

Posted by on Mar 19, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 3 comments



Mary Beth Tinker claps her hands while sining a song to high school students in the grand ball room on Tuesday October 1, 2013 at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The engagement was part of the Mary Beth Tinker Bus Tour.(Photo by David Dermer)

by Mary Beth Tinker
The student uprising for safer gun laws is going to rock gun culture to its core.  It already has.

As it does, student journalists will be on the front lines, proving again they are not only the future, but the present.  In this, they also have an opportunity to join with student leaders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland who promote youth voices often left out of student journalism, those of low income students of color.

This week, Parkland students met with students from Chicago, where gun death is  epidemic. Students discussed how gun tragedies affect their very different communities.

[pullquote]”Those who face gun violence on a level that we have only just glimpsed from our gated communities have never had their voices heard in their entire lives the way that we have in these few weeks alone.” –– Emma Gonzalez, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Parkland student leader[/pullquote]

Emma Gonzalez, a student leader at Parkland tweeted,  “Those who face gun violence on a level that we have only just glimpsed from our gated communities have never had their voices heard in their entire lives the way that we have in these few weeks alone.”

Emma made a commitment to share the platform  Parkland students have established with “every person, black or white, gay or straight, religious or not, who has experienced gun violence,” saying “hand in hand, side by side, We Will Make This Change Together.”

In Baltimore, hundreds of students from different racial and economic backgrounds joined in a  walkout March 6 for a march to City Hall in protest of gun violence.  They expressed solidarity with Excel Academy, where seven students have been killed by guns in the last two years.

David Hogg, a student leader at MSD who is also a leader in broadcast journalism there,  tweeted words of support, saying “Yeah Baltimore!!!!!!!! Let’s do this !”

‘Tinker Tour’ finds common fears, causes among students
Last week, as part of my “Tinker Tour” to schools around the country, I visited with students at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Ward 8 of Washington DC. According to its website, “almost 100 percent” of the students in school are African American and 75 percent qualify for free lunches.

Students at Thurgood Marshall have lost two classmates this year from gun violence, Zaire and Paris.  Zaire’s twin brother, Zion, told me his brother was killed by a person wearing a prison ankle bracelet, and there should be more limits on who can get guns. Washington DC has strict gun laws, but guns flow in from elsewhere.

Zion’s father testified at President Trump’s ‘listening tour’ on gun violence, saying his tragedy began on Sept. 20 and the family struggles to recover from their grief.

Students at Thurgood Marshall Academy won’t express any of this in their school newspaper or in broadcast journalism class. Like most Washington DC students, they don’t have a journalism program. In fact, only a handful of high schools in Washington DC do.

One is Wilson High, where students at the award winning Beacon decided to do s

omething about that. With The Paper Project, student journalists at Wilson meet with students at schools where there is no journalism program to share skills and help with publications. They raise money through student fundraisers and contributions.

Too often, young people must endure policies they have had absolutely no part in making.  Funding for journalism is one. For some, cuts to journalism budgets are retaliation for articles. For others, journalism education was never an option to begin with. As I travel the country to schools and communities, that is most often the case, with  a “sliding scale”  for First Amendment rights, particularly student press.

Bringing these voices together as an issue in civics
Frank LoMonte, past director of the Student Press Law Center, advocates for an increased connection between civics and journalism, natural partners for an active citizenry. But, civics education shares the same gap that afflicts journalism education.

The Civic Mission of Schools, a coalition of civics organizations, cites this disparity and attributes it to an education system that a provides “far fewer and lower-quality civic learning opportunities to minority and low-income students.”

Despite all of this, young people find their voices and make them heard.

You can hear one of them, Jonothan Gray, in a powerful twitter video highlighting the coverage to gun violence in schools (mostly white students) compared to that out of school (mostly kids of color). Jonathan says in Baltimore, like so may places, gun violence “has become the norm.”

At a stop at Kent State University during her Tinker Tour in 2013, Mary Beth checks out the May 4 Visitors Center. Members of Ohio’s National Guard shot and killed four students in 1970 during a time of national protests against the Vietnam War. Photo by John Bowen.

Great movements begin from civic awareness, student voices
From great tragedy come great movements. The civil rights movement, also a story of the free press, was surely one. The current movement by students for safer gun laws, with walkouts and plans for rallies throughout the country Marcy 24 will be a story of the free press as well.

When I was 13 and in eighth grade in 1965, like the students, I was moved to action by great tragedy and great journalists. I watched the horrors of the Vietnam unfold on the evening news, with Walter Cronkite giving a daily “body count” to keep track.

A group of us in Des Moines, Iowa, including my brother, John, wore black armbands to mourn the dead and to promote a Christmas truce being proposed by Senator Robert Kennedy.

For doing that,  we were suspended.

The American Civil Liberties Union took our case to the Supreme Court, and in 1969, the Court ruled that neither “students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The ruling was chipped away by three later rulings, with “Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier” in 1988 targeting student journalists and being the most harmful.

Young people are on the move.
They are winning in the court of public opinion, and they are winning laws to affirm the rights of young journalists through the New Voices movement.  Washington state is the latest, with the legislature voting for student journalists’ rights.

By coming together, young people will also win victories against gun violence. When they do, student journalists and advisers have a real opportunity to advance the First Amendment for all youth across the country.

Read More

Celebration and grief: Parkland journalists embody importance of student voices during Scholastic Journalism Week

Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Kristin Taylor
Normally, Scholastic Journalism Week is about celebrating the hard work of student journalists around the country. JEA spotlights great student coverage, publications staffs wear journalism t-shirts and sweatshirts and show off their mastery of the First Amendment. We make videos to share the inner workings of student newsrooms and get our communities engaged and excited about that work.

But this Scholastic Journalism Week, as our nation reeled from yet another horrific school shooting, the last thing on the minds of student journalists at Stoneman Douglas High School was celebration.

If you haven’t already read Alexandria Neason and Meg Dalton’s Columbia Journalism Review article “In Parkland, journalism students take on role of reporter and survivor,” start there. It describes how Parkland students began to think like journalists even before they had fully evacuated, getting footage and interviewing classmates.

The article describes how newspaper adviser Melissa Falkowski texted her students the next day and “gently nudged them to start thinking about how they might cover the events rapidly unfolding around them,” and how staffers Nikhita Nookala and Christy Ma volunteered to write that first, difficult story, using a Google doc to collaborate from home.

It’s a story about student voice and resilience in the face of unspeakable horror.

I sent this article to all my journalism students and asked them to reflect on its implications, and the conversation we had the next day was powerful. My students expressed their admiration for Nookala, Ma and the other student journalists at Stoneman Douglas. They wondered if they would have the presence of mind to think like journalists in a crisis like that and admired Nookala’s statement that she needed to “do something” to help her community in such a difficult time.

We also looked closely at this passage, which describes one reason why Parkland student journalists felt compelled to report: “This was their story. And telling it was as much about ownership as it was about beginning what will undoubtedly be a difficult reckoning with their own trauma and grief.”

Is there a more powerful statement about the importance of scholastic journalism than that? Seeking the truth while minimizing the harm done to an already traumatized community, being reporters who are also survivors and using journalism to own their community’s stories — these student journalists’ voices were and are important during this crisis.

As a complement to the CJR article, my class also talked about the op-ed in Teen Vogue called “Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years.”

The piece asks hard questions about the outpouring of support that the #neveragain movement has received in comparison to the nation’s response to black youth groups “organizing anti-violence rallies…meeting with presidential candidates, proposing policy ideas, participating in national debates, and organizing intensely to advocate for more equitable state and federal gun laws that impact black and brown people.”

Regardless of their personal opinions, this second piece was a great opportunity to talk about the concept of media framing. What role do news organizations have in framing one group as heroic and another as disruptive? Are student newsrooms also guilty of this? Do they have diverse voices in their newsrooms to ensure multiple perspectives? Why are these conversations so crucial to have when deciding how to cover teen activism and national tragedies?

For me, the answer to these questions comes down to this year’s Scholastic Journalism Week theme: “Student Voice, Student Choice.” When we support our student journalists, we support their efforts to grapple with these difficult questions and report as fairly and accurately as they can, making hard decisions about what to cover and how to cover it.

As I’ve listened to commentators marvel at the articulateness and poise of the Parkland students, I have to shake my head. They are amazing, no doubt, but anyone who thinks it’s shocking that teenagers can speak and write well, whether as journalists or activists, hasn’t spent much time around teenagers lately.

I hope no student has to report on a tragedy like Stoneman Douglas again, but I have every confidence they can if they have to.  Our job as advisers is to teach our students journalistic skills and ethics, empower them to own their stories and then get out of the way.

There is no truer celebration of Scholastic Journalism Week than that.

Read More