Students as Journalists

by Jeff Camp | May 1, 2022 | 0 Comments
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No school paper? Start one!

One of the great privileges of orchestrating the Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders has been the occasional opportunity to connect people with a shared passion. Last summer, we brought together Katina Paron and Esther Wojcicki to talk about student journalism as a pathway to leadership opportunities for students.

Wojcicki, a leading American educator and journalist, is famous for three things: teaching a high school journalism class that has changed the lives of thousands of kids, inspiring Silicon Valley legends like Steve Jobs, and raising three daughters who have each become famously successful. Often called the Godmother of Silicon Valley, she speaks and writes passionately about the “TRICK” to raising successful people, including “the power of giving kids control.”

Katina Paron, a Brooklyn-based journalism educator, has been creating byline opportunities for teens for more than 25 years. Among other work, she is the author of A NewsHound's Guide to Student Journalism, a comic book-style resource that can help a new high school news team form and function.

Every community needs a school paper

Both Wojcicki and Paron argue that every high school can benefit from a student newspaper.
“A school paper builds community,” says Paron. “It’s a form of participatory civics for young people who can’t vote. It’s an action-focused skill that not only betters your community but makes you a part of it.”

“Local journalism is dying,” says Wojcicki, “and high school journalists can actually fill that role.”

California law protects student journalists

The potential power of student journalism is particularly great in California because the California Student Free Expression Law, passed into law in 1977 as Ed Code 48907, “affirms the right of high school newspapers to publish whatever they choose, so long as the content isn't explicitly obscene, libelous, or slanderous, and doesn’t incite students to violate any laws or school regulations.”

Both speakers repeatedly emphasized that the door is wide open for students to start a publication. “You are the right person to start a journalism program at your school,” said Paron. The key to getting started is to collect a few friends and a faculty advisor, which can be an educator in any subject.

Wojcicki underscored the value of recruiting friends to get started. “It’s like how to have a good time with your friends, supported by the school,” she said. Creating and running a paper isn’t just about writing, and there are all kinds of ways for students to get involved if they want to.

The whole process is easier with good tools and examples. Wojcicki and Paron collaborated to develop a handout for students at the conference with links to some of their favorite resources. Excerpts in the table below:

School journalism tool suggestions from Wojcicki and Paron

ISSUU

Publish your school paper digitally in PDF format

Aprintis

Affordable color-printed magazine printing. “Like a dollar each,” said Wojcicki. “Hand it out at lunch! If you hand it out at the end of the day everybody wants to leave.”

SchoolNewsOnline

Online school paper platform with a workflow built in.

Journalism Education Association

Helps teachers get started as journalism educators. “Don’t know how to do it?” Wojcicki asks. “No problem. They’ll show you how. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s exciting.”

California Scholastic Press Association

Holding a workshop this summer. Application required. Scholarships offered.

Student Press Law Center

Understand your rights as a student journalist — and how to know the limits.

Media outlets for teen writers

A list of publications that accept submissions from teen writers (including ones that pay).

Wojcicki highlighted the opportunity for students to develop content for younger students on Tract.app, a platform that she has helped develop. Students who contribute content on Tract can earn a small stipend. Two students who have been “Tract creators” presented their experience in a separate session of the conference. Watch them here.

The 2022 Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders will be held online June 20-22. Learn more about it, including how to attend. It’s free for students and faculty advisors.

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