HSJ Headline News
Beach future journalists balance print, web
March 23, 2010
It was deadline day at Cape Henry Collegiate School's student newspaper, The Lighthouse.
A group of students packed the newsroom, logged on to computers and hurried to make last-minute fixes for their print edition.
"What's wrong with that headline?" asked journalism teacher Kerry Kisa, pointing to one student's screen. "Make sure you check that article for errors," she told another student.
Students spend weeks brainstorming article ideas, interviewing sources and writing several drafts to prepare for production day. The entire process is great hands-on experience for her students, said Kisa, explaining that things are often hectic for her young journalists.
That's one reason Kisa isn't pressed to create an online news site to compl ement the print edition. She said their nearly 10-page issue that's released eight times per academic year gives students a challenge.
"Most of the students on the newspaper staff have other extra curricular obligations, such as athletic teams or art clubs," said Kisa, who was a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot for 12 years, until 1996. "If they had the responsibility of daily maintaining an online site, it would probably be too much."
According to a recent Pew Research Center study titled "State of the News Media 2010," former journalists are creating community sites and citizens have local blogs. Newsrooms are shrinking, and managers want employees to be able to break news online faster.
The study also found that 6 in 10 Americans log on to get their news on a typical day.
However, some high schools are lagging when it comes to teaching digital skills, said Kelly Furnas, the editorial advis er for student media at Virginia Tech. Some teachers are inexperienced with new media, and many don't have the time or resources to teach these skills, he said. In addition, many school administrators are concerned about the safety of going online.
Furnas, who teaches high school students the basics of writing, designing and photography at a summer journalism camp at Tech, said students who don't learn these skills early will have a "severe disadvantage" entering a field where the online platform is becoming dominant.
Valerie Kibler, the Virginia state director for the Journalism Educational Association, said many teachers are simply not aware of how affordable online sites can be. Many schools, including Granby High School in Norfolk and First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach, have taken advantage of a free Web hosting service through the American Society of Newspaper Editors' high school journalism program. The service provides schools the Web space and online tools, and students can post articles, photos and videos to the site.
Still, said Kisa, teaching students the basics of journalism is what's most important. "No matter what form it's in - the Kindle, on a computer, or on a cell phone - the basics are still the same. The first step is learning to write an accurate and balanced story."
Robert Knuth, editor of Cape Henry's newspaper, agrees. The communication skills he's learned at the newspaper are useful for any career. Yet, he said, a switch to online will eventually be necessary.
"It'll be a great way to save paper," he said pointing to class mailboxes full of last month's edition.
Copyright 2010, The Virginian-Pilot . Reprinted with permission