IT WAS A sunny, warm May day, so it was not surprising that a few high school students with spring fever were skipping classes.
Many more, however, eagerly attended their lessons, offered by some of the Washington, D.C. area's top journalists.
The classes were part of the first Student Press Day in the District of Columbia, an event designed to give student journalists and their advisers in-depth lessons about the profession.
In the District of Columbia, 18 senior high schools have a student newspaper that appears at least once a year -- many American cities cannot make that claim.
Those schools, however, must share an ever-shrinking pool of $18,000 allotted them by the school system, according to Washington Post metro reporter Retha Hill. That $1,000 per paper allows for about four issues per school year, with no money left over for supplies such as film and journalism textbooks.
In addition, some of the newspaper advisers are English teachers who have no journalism experience and must take on the responsibility in addition to their full class load and often produce the yearbook as well.
In the face of all this, Hill, armed with a $90,000 grant from the Freedom Forum -- to which $25,000 was recently added -- took a year off from the paper to act as a journalist-in-residence, strengthening these programs "to prevent the demise of high school journalism in D.C.," she said.
The year came to a head recently, with the Student Press Day, which Hill hopes to make into an annual event.
Held on the campus of Howard University, students were offered instruction in layout and design, covering sensitive issues, editing, writing editorials, interviewing, student press rights, feature and environmental reporting, editorial management and a host of other subjects. …