State of High School Journalism: Poor; Survey Shows Teachers Are Often Uncertified and Untrained to Teach the Subject; Allocated Funds Are Meager at Most Schools

By Hernandez, Debra Gersh | Editor & Publisher, April 2, 1994 | Go to article overview

State of High School Journalism: Poor; Survey Shows Teachers Are Often Uncertified and Untrained to Teach the Subject; Allocated Funds Are Meager at Most Schools


Hernandez, Debra Gersh, Editor & Publisher


Survey shows teachers are often uncertified and untrained to teach the subject; allocated funds are meager at most schools

THE HIGH SCHOOL teacher often are uncertified and untrained to teach this subject, which frequently does not even give students credits, is last on line for meager shool funds and which can be halted at the whim of an administrator.

This is the state of high school journalism.

Two decades ago, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial commissioned a report on the state of high school journalism in the United States, called "Captive Voices."

A follow-up study called "Death by Cheeseburger: High School Journalism in the 1990s and Beyond," produced the Freedom Forum, found that little has changed in the past 20 years.

Death by Cheeseburger gets its itle from a 1971 article in a North Carolina high school newspaper. The student wrote a satirical look at the school's cafeteria, but as a result, the newpaper was closed, and the adviser was fired and replaced by an inexperienced teacher who taught both English and journalism, but did not produce a paper.

The high school newspaper "offers the voice of America's young people within its own time," according to the study.

While topics such as teen pregnancies, AIDS, violence, racism, alcohol and drug abuse, family issues, college and sex are featured in the papers, they fall behind other categories.

Thirty-seven percent of the typical high school newspaper consists of school-related events and news.

Next was sports news, editorials and other subjects such as fiction and cartoons. Also popular were entertainment reviews, school surveys and student profiles.

Less than half the papers (42%) featured world or national news, and 63% included some community news in their pages, the study reported.

Sixty-two percent are in tabloid format, and nearly as many (57%) are printed in black and white only.

Ironically, while nearly 90% carry advertising, almost as many do not run classified ads.

In researching the study, its authors found that among the impediments to a good high school newspaper may be the adviser.

Many advisers are given journalism instruction duties in addition to their regular clases, and some of them have no journalism teaching experience; fewer than one-third hold state certificates to teach journalism, and no state requires a certificate to advise a publication.

Even those who are more qualified are hampered by a lack of resources -- and interest -- from school officials.

"Far too many educators and administrators rank journalism with metal shop, rather than Shakespeare," the study noted. "At worst, it's viewed as dumping ground for hard-to-handle students."

Death by Cheeseburger does feature success stories as well, and gives information about the various scholastic press associations, which can serve as valuable resources.

The 181-page, four-color report was conceived and headed by the Freedom Forum's Alice Bonner, director/journalism education, and Judith Hines, program office/journalism education.

In addition to real-life stories from America's high school newspapers, the report includes a series of recommendations and resources for educators and students.

J-school receives quake grant from Los Angeles Times

THE JOURNALISM department at California State University, Northridge, whih suffered heavy damage in the January earthquake along with the university, has received a $23,000 emergency grant from the Los Angeles Times.

Acting chairman Michael Emery said the money will be used to replace damaged and stolen equipment. practices than the threat of censorship."

As for how the press is seen here compared to other countries, Kohut expressed surprise that responses generally were the same.

"The press was similarly praised and criticized in just about every country," he said, nothing the main criticisms -- senstationalism, intrusiveness, lack of objectivity -- and kudos -- keeping the public current, keeping politicians honest. …

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