From watching nightly newscasts or reading daily papers, it might seem as though media members exist solely to report detrimental news. However, there is also much more to the craft than that and what meets the eye, and local students were introduced to the many uses of the profession last week.
From July 10-15, at least 40 students aged 10-13 got the opportunity to speak with media and law enforcement professionals, hone the media craft on all fronts and develop necessary skills for the career at The Leader’s inaugural media camp at Lutheran High North.
“We wanted young people to get exposed to community news. There’s so much news out there, and the kids told me yesterday that so much of it is terrible news,” Leader publisher Jonathan McElvy said of his intention for the camp. “I wanted to expose them to what we do, which isn’t that.”
Controlled chaos breeds learning
The week-long camp was chock full of activities as throngs of students filed into the large-group classrooms at LHN, as McElvy said he attempted to bring in a vast array of professionals to educate students on the value of journalism when utilized to its fullest extent using its multitude of diverse mediums.
“We know what’s going on, we talk through stories and sources. We’re not just going to hear something and just write it,” he said. “We’re trying to show them what journalism is, and this is what media is supposed to be. I think it’s important right now that we teach young people its value.”
To kick off the week, students spent Monday morning learning how to interview people and then how to write, and spent the afternoon session with a photographer who works for the Associated Press and has shot for publications like Sports Illustrated, who taught the children about photography.
On Tuesday, Constable Alan Rosen and Deputy J.C. Mosier held a pseudo “press conference” for the students. They provided students the details of an old crime, after which students used their interviewing skills learned on Monday to ask questions and craft stories based on the press conference.
“The media is our partner in what we do, and we can’t do the job we do as well without it,” Mosier said.
Students would learn about designing websites Wednesday morning, after which they were asked to compose a short biography about themselves that morning, and got the chance to build a camp website featuring profiles on the students that afternoon. The following morning, our news partners at KHOU sent a reporter and cameraman to LHN in the interests of teaching children about what it takes to produce a news story. That afternoon, the students were grouped into “news teams” of four and began planning a newscast they would film the next day.
Following the 8-minute broadcasts with each of their news teams on Friday, students were introduced to a social media session with Christina Martinez, the Leader’s social media manager, who worked with the students on how to create effective posts, share great pictures and build a brand.
That afternoon, Officer Angela Douglas from the Houston Police Department wrapped up the camp by reiterating the importance of being smart on social media and how safety is a real concern for the younger generation today.
Immediate, local impact
Overall, McElvy said another goal of the camp was to break through the noise created by a multitude of various trustworthy (and sometimes untrustworthy) sources while planting the seed that pursuing a career in media and its intricacies and value are about more than what students see on TV and movies, especially in a local neighborhood and community.
“We’ll talk about crime when it’s important to the safety of the public, but what we want them to know we cover our community, and hopefully make our community better,” he said. “I was once told ‘where you have a great community newspaper, you have a great community,’ and I still believe that.” As it so happens, several students appear to have immediately taken the message to heart as they progressed throughout the week.
“We made storylines and wrote a little story on it, and I really enjoyed that, because I’m really into writing and making stories,” a student name Toliver said. “I’ve always been good at English and everything, so I enjoy it.”
“It’s a really good opportunity to improve your writing and photography skills and learn more about the media,” added Lindsey Mattenson, who made the decision little more than a year ago that she wanted to pursue a career in journalism. “I like the opportunity I have to learn and talk to real professionals, because they have better experience that can be handed on down to the younger, future generations, and I also like the opportunity to meet new people.”
Mosier said he was pleasantly surprised Tuesday morning at the students’ thorough inquiries and previous knowledge as the enthusiasm appeared to shine through during his session.
“These are young kids, but they’re asking great questions that I don’t get from adults,” he said with a laugh. “They’re interested, and they know more than I expected of kids. I’m happily surprised at the good, quality questions I was getting.”
In a time of constantly evolving mediums of receiving and reporting news, Mosier believes it is important for students to think critically as he saw Tuesday instead of accepting the first available news source as gospel.
That said, he also believes the flood of information available for students and their parents to access at their fingertips has caused a powerful change for the better when correctly utilized.
“With phones like kids have, they can know everything they want to right now,” he said. “Parents and guardians can see something and call us right after it happens. It’s even more powerful now, and I think these kids are into that thinking.”