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Promoting School Journalism by John Dabell

Getting children interested in the news isn’t rocket science. They are surrounded by news all day long but don’t take much notice of it even though they are producing it.

They hear and exchange personal tales and family stories all the time and playgrounds and classrooms are filled with rich chatter about their news.

Although their life events might be mundane and ordinary to most of us, they can be big news and highly significant headlines in their own lives.

Every child is a journalist

We can capitalise on the daily news children naturally share with each other about what’s happening at home and elsewhere and make their stories newsworthy. We can tap into their personal worlds and unique circumstances by encouraging them to write about what matters to them. They are far more enthusiastic about writing issues they care about.

This also provides an opening for us to support young journalism and to promote a wider interest in other news events happening around them, near and far.

School journalism can start off small but end up big and there is so much potential for making news and reporting news. Journalistic writing also provides children with one of the most effective ways of learning to write.

Promoting school journalism enables us to help children write in different styles and they can practise features, news, opinion and reviews to learn about ‘tight writing’ and good sentence structure.

You might decide that a journalistic club is the way to go and focus on writing skills as an extra-curricular enrichment activity or you might actively integrate journalism across subjects within your main teaching week.

Either way, establishing a learning community of news reporters helps children adopt a mindset, take on the roles of professional writers and motivates them to write often and well. It also encourages important life skills including collaboration and interaction skills.

The YJA

But how do you engage and immerse children in a media rich environment in a fun, accessible and realistic way?

One creative way to promote journalism and 21st Century media literacy in your school is to get involved with the Young Journalist Academy (JYA), the UK’s leading youth journalism programme.

They encourage pupils to engage with the news and current affairs by creating their own School Newsroom which provides pupils with a meaningful purpose for writing.

The scheme provides schools and young people with access to professional levels of training in media production and journalism. This includes:​

  • Article Writing
  • Filmmaking
  • Radio Production
  • Photography

Signing up for their full media programme for writing, film and radio means schools receive full guidance on setting up a school based newsroom, monthly video content and lesson ideas, cross-curricular activities, music, editorial feedback and opportunities to publish articles, broadcast radio and films every month on their website. It comes with regular access to exclusive JYA reporting opportunities across the UK too.

Interactive workshops might be the thing you are looking for too and so you might want to think about what Journalism For Schools offer run by an award-winning journalist with 25 years of experience.

Why become a young journalist?

There are lots of reasons why junior journalism is worth considering. It can help and encourage children to:

  1. write for different audiences
  2. identify the 5Ws and 1H of news stories – who, what, where, when, why and how.
  3. look at structure, language use and narrative structure
  4. empathise and value different perspectives
  5. create their own work and explain choices
  6. work to deadlines
  7. understand rules for conduct and behaviour
  8. conduct interviews, investigate issues and ask searching questions
  9. research, find sources and attribute the work they use
  10. craft and create reasoned and balanced reports
  11. appreciate the world beyond the classroom and how they connect to it
  12. improve their understanding of different local, national and global communities
  13. share, revise and edit their work in a community of writers
  14. build a wider vocabulary and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
  15. evaluate images, blogs, adverts, editorials, articles and essays for credibility, bias and factuality
  16. publish their own content which provides an authentic purpose for writing
  17. interact and work together
  18. appreciate their role as agents for change
  19. improve confidence
  20. market and publicise their work

Signing up for a YJA programme or creating your own version teaches children a myriad of skills especially how to be intelligent consumers of news, be truth detectives and skilful creators of news pieces.

The different jobs of a newspaper can also engage children who might be reluctant to write and so creating a newsroom is all-inclusive. The different types of journalism you could explore together include:

  • Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
  • Broadcast journalism – written or spoken journalism for radio or television.
  • Citizen journalism – participatory journalism e.g. people sharing their opinions, personal stories, photos and videos of news as it happens.
  • Data journalism – using numbers to tell stories.
  • Drone journalism – using drones to capture photos and video footage.
  • Interactive journalism – online digital journalism.
  • Investigative journalism – in-depth reporting that uncovers social problems.
  • Photojournalism – telling stories and sharing news through images.
  • Tabloid journalism – writing that is light-hearted and entertaining.
  • Yellow journalism – fake news, exaggerations, scandal-mongering and sensationalism.

Learning journalistic skills is a fun, interesting and challenging way to build greater English self-efficacy and helping children become newshounds is incredibly rewarding for teachers too because it gives children a voice and puts them centre stage.

Links:

Find out more about the research connected to the Young Journalist Academy by visiting the Education Endowment Foundation.

BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme Student Journalist of the Year

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