Magazine article Editor & Publisher

High School Journalism - Educational Tool or Extracurricular Trash?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

High School Journalism - Educational Tool or Extracurricular Trash?

Article excerpt

HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM education is of significant educational value, yet its value is largely ignored.

The merit of journalism education was well documented in a 1987 report of the Journalism Education Association which showed that students with journalism experience achieved higher American College Testing scores and higher grades than students without such experience. In addition, the report showed that high school students considered their journalism experience more beneficial than their experience in other language arts courses.

Some years earlier Jack Dvorak of Indiana University had concluded that journalism education was potentially more effective than English courses. In 1978, Reid Montgomery, who worked with high school, collegiate and professionally journalism, commented, "High school and college journalists can spell and write better than English majors."

To determine whether professionals and high school organizations are working together to promote journalism education, questionnaires were mailed to 154 directors of high school press associations with membership in the journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Sixty-one percent of the responding high school press association directors indicated that they believed they have a good working relationship with their state's newspapers. An even greater number (67%) believed that they enjoy the support of the newspapers in their states.

One respondent observed that the support varied from newspaper to newspaper: "Some of the newspapers in our state are excellent. Many newspapers print the high school newspapers at cost or for free. However, other newspapers do nothing."

In spite of the support they believed they are getting, the high school press association directors overwhelmingly concluded that the support was not enough. Ninety-two percent indicated that newspapers could be doing more to support journalism education in high schools. Eighty-eight percent believed the professional press should take a more active interest in state department-of-education policies and decisions that affect high school journalism. Ninety-three percent wanted the professional press to be more actively involved in high school journalism education.

The high school press directors were asked to suggest specific ways the professional press can increase its high school journalism programs. While 61 % believed the professional press should sponsor more competitions, some respondents contended that contests should not be the focus of newspaper involvement.

One remarked, "Too often competitions draw only those schools which consider themselves good enough to compete. Most newspaper advisers and staff need help, not rankings."

Another observed that "The contests and awards serve no instructional purpose, and even, in some cases, discourage sharing ideas among advisers. We are too few in number to weaken one another. We must focus on support."

Other suggestions for building closer relationships with the professional press received stronger support. Ninety-five percent of the directors indicated they believed that the professional press should provide more scholarships for high school journalists. Eighty-eight percent wanted the professionals to provide more consultation to high school editors and advisers on legal and ethical issues. Nearly as many--87%--wanted newspapers to help students when their press rights are violated.

Are newspapers attracting talented students? Are high school journalism students choosing other areas for their careers because of low starting salaries in the profession? The majority--61%--of the directors appeared confident that journalism was attracting talented students, but an even greater number--believed 65%-low starting salaries were diminishing interest in journalism as a career choice.

Overall, the responses of the high school press directors did not appear to echo the alarm expressed in recent years by some journalists, educators and organizational officers. …

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