Black journalists cultivate future writers

J-SHOP teaches youth fundamental journalism skills

Students of Journalism High School Workshop
Students of Journalism High School Workshop

A “multimedia boot camp” for nearly two dozen high school students recently took place in North Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center (UROC) was the site for the 2015 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Journalism High School Workshop (JSHOP) held August 5-7 in conjunction with the 2015 NABJ annual convention in Minneapolis. JSHOP serves as a beginning point in efforts to involve more Blacks and other people of color in all facets of media.

“It is designed to expose and inspire high schoolers with an opportunity to learn journalism basics firsthand,” stated a program description. This year’s JSHOP class — 23 students — was the largest in its six-year history.

“They are very sharp, very inquisitive, and asked a lot of questions,” observed Terry Collins, a former Minneapolis news reporter who was the group’s contributing editor. The students were given “man in the street” assignments, explained Collins.

“We gave them a topic of the media coverage of Cecil the lion,” Collins said. “We wanted them to go out and ask people where their thoughts are on this national story but having a local side. They came and asked us what people think about Black Lives Matter. They are very conscientious. Instead of us assigning something to them, they said can they do this.”

“To see how these young people are learning from the pros and be able to use these skill sets wherever they happen to be going is extremely important,” added Carole Copeland Thomas, a Boston radio talk show host. She was among 10 faculty mentors and five volunteer mentors.

JSHOP Multimedia Director Eva Coleman, a high school multimedia instructor in the Frisco, Texas school district, said the students already are “digital mavens” because of smartphones and tablets. They already understand how to use video as a result, she noted.

All but five of the participants were locally based. The group published a two-page section in the NABJ Monitor for the convention attendees, as well as produced content for their own website.

Sydney Kuykindall co-wrote an article on NorthPoint COO Kimberly Spates. “I think I’ve gained how to interview people on the spot. I think I made my writing better, and [learned] how to shorten my writing but still make it meaningful,” said the 14-year-old from Waconia, Minnesota.

JSHOP Director Russell LaCour of the Tulsa World recalled a former NABJ official who pushed for the organization to reach out to high schoolers. “We need to develop programs to get them sooner involved in journalism and to encourage them to think about a career in journalism,” said LaCour, now in his sixth year as director. “It took us five years to do our first workshop” in 2010.

“For NABJ to have a program like this, it’s forward thinking,” added Coleman, who has worked with JSHOP for four years.

Among the program objectives are “to teach the fundamentals, going back to simple stuff,” continued LaCour. “We want them to do it right.”

Co-director Sheryl Kennedy Haydel said that she wanted the youngsters to “see the bigger goal” of becoming future journalists. “I want them to look beyond what it looks like right now,” noted the Xavier University mass communication instructor. “A lot of people are counting on them to tell the story and tell it accurately.”

Will Rogers, age 16, of St. Louis, told the MSR that JSHOP helped him learn how to “ask deep, thought-provoking questions” and improve upon existing writing skills.

JSHOP is a very valuable program “to plant seeds” in the young people, said Thomas.

“I think this is something I can pursue in the future,” said Kuykindall.

Collins said he hopes that these young people will start thinking about journalism as a career. “You hope that it will be an impetus to inspire them to go on to higher education [then] go on to become journalists or another form of media. If we get a fifth or even more majoring in journalism or some form of media and communication, that’s great.”

“If we can touch one student to get them interested in a career that we love so dearly, that’s all worth it,” concluded Coleman.


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