The Future of Scholastic Journalism
The 21st Century Committee Task Statement and Survey Methodology
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The year 2000 is approaching much too quickly for most of us. Although no magical year, it certainly sets the stage for an exciting century, getting many of us to focus, or refocus, on the role of scholastic journalism within the secondary education curriculum.
With the next century in mind, the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association's 21st Century Committee spent the past two years developing a blueprint, if you will, on the possible future roles of scholastic journalism. Scholastic press association directors were questioned; publication advisers from around the country were surveyed; pertinent literature related to scholastic journalism and mass communications was reviewed; relevant articles were written by individuals interested in areas of importance to scholastic journalists; and recommendations were made by 21st Century Committee members concerning what we, collectively, can do to help ensure a prosperous future for scholastic journalism.
We already have some noteworthy statistics about journalism students performing better than non-journalism students in 10 of 12 major academic areas and writing better in 17 of 20 comparisons of collegiate writing. Thanks Jack Dvorak, Larry Lain and Tom Dickson for Journalism Kids Do Better. Quantitative research in the book certainly escalates the stature of journalism in the secondary education setting.
We also have 12 qualified recommendations for improving high school journalism programs, including getting local news media outlets involved in supporting scholastic press efforts and getting school administrators to recognize the value of student expression. Thanks Freedom Forum for Death By Cheeseburger and other worthwhile endeavors on behalf of scholastic journalism.
And we already have dozens of scholastic journalism and press law books, including High School Journalism, Journalism Today, Law of the Student Press, The Radical Write and Scholastic Journalism, assisting us teach our scholastic journalists design, photography, reporting, writing, law and ethics, and desktop publishing skills. Thanks H.L. Hall, Don Ferguson and Jim Patten, Mark Goodman, Bobby Hawthorne, Earl English, Clarence Hach and Tom Rolnicki, and dozens of other authors of scholastic journalism materials and resources.
National scholastic press associations continue to educate scholastic journalists through newsletters, magazines and reports, including C:JET, Quill & Scroll, Report, Student Press Review and Trends. Thanks Journalism Education Association, Quill and Scroll, Student Press Law Center, Columbia Scholastic Press Association and National Scholastic Press Association.
Most of the 50 regional and state scholastic press associations also contribute thoughtful articles of interest to publication advisers and staff members on a regular basis in their monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly newsletters. Although the focus is usually on association information, many run articles that educate members about necessary skills of the scholastic journalist and publication adviser.
Support for scholastic journalism also comes from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund through their National High School Journalism Teacher-of-the-Year program, their Adviser Update tabloid newspaper and their numerous publications that promote scholastic workshops and educate students about journalism and mass communication colleges and careers. Thanks to Richard Holden, his staff and the fund's directors.
On-line resources continue to assist scholastic journalists as well as more publication staffs and school districts effectively use the Internet to research teen-age issues of interest, get information off scholastic press association home pages and stay in touch with other broadcast, magazine, newspaper and yearbook staffers through electronic mail. Hundreds of high school newspapers are already online; yearbook companies have developed home pages; correspondence between scholastic press association directors is usually via e-mail instead of snail-mail and telephone these days.
Education organizations also may have a tremendous impact on the future of scholastic journalism. How nice to read in Breaking Ranks, a 1996 report of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, that "...student leadership can be seen in student publications, where editors practice analysis, critical thinking and decision-making (as) they also learn the importance of such democratic principles as open, public examination of current issues, fairness and a respect for a variety of viewpoints."
There's a lot of information available that will help us analyze, calculate, conjecture, contemplate, forecast, predict and/or speculate on the future of scholastic journalism as it impacts secondary education, higher education, general mass communications areas and scholastic journalism organizations. Consolidating the information was a task worth doing, especially if it ultimately benefits journalism teachers, publication advisers and scholastic press associations.
With those general words of overview said, the specific methodology and timeline for this multi-faceted research project included:
- 1. Contacting one of scholastic journalism's leading researchers, Dr. Jack Dvorak from Indiana University, to get his unique perspective on a few areas of concern for the future of high school journalism and to serve as a starting point for developing survey questions. His six areas of concern: A. The role of journalism in the language arts curriculum; B. The training of journalism teachers/advisers; C. The professional media support for scholastic journalism; D. The support from higher education for scholastic journalism; E. The effects of new technology on what we do; and F. The role of a free press within the school, as well its importance to the educational mission of the school (April 1996);
- 2. Beginning an extensive literature search in the areas of secondary education reform, journalism programs at the collegiate level, publication design trends, the use of multimedia, the technological changes in photojournalism, emerging technologies of interest, publication writing information and general scholastic journalism resources of the 1990s (September 1996);
- 3. Developing short qualitative survey questions for scholastic press association directors and publication advisers (November 1996);
- 4. Securing qualified authors to address areas that impact scholastic journalism, including secondary education trends, journalism on the collegiate level, publication design trends, the possible use of multimedia, photojournalism's future, emerging technologies and their impact on scholastic publications and broadcast endeavors, and the importance of writing to scholastic journalists (December 1996);
- 5. Sending surveys out to 46 state, small regional and regional-within-a-state scholastic press association directors and asking their support of the project by forwarding CSPAA's publication adviser survey to a minimum of five of their active association members (January 1997);
- 6. Inputting responses to open-ended questions on scholastic press association director and publication adviser surveys (beginning February 1997);
- 7. Sending out follow-up letters to directors who had not yet responded to the initial survey mailing (February 1997);
- 8. Preparing a preliminary summary survey report, for sessions at the Southern Interscholastic Press Association spring convention and the March 1997 Columbia Scholastic Press Association convention, to elicit critical feedback on the direction of the report (early-March 1997);
- 9. Writing an article concerning the research project for CSPA's spring issue of Student Press Review (April 1997);
- 10. Continuing to update the literature search (Summer 1997);
- 11. Securing qualified authors to address a few issues of concerns to scholastic journalism, including civic journalism, yearbook copy trends and support for scholastic journalism from higher education institutions, to emphasize the point that publication advisers and staff members should stay current on emerging issues to the field (September 1997);
- 12. Writing an article concerning the research project for Quill and Scroll's October/November 1997 magazine issue (September 1997);
- 13. Writing and editing preliminary summary of the report for discussion at CSPAA's November board meeting (October 1997);
- 14. Finalizing literature searches, editing articles and designing project format (November 1997); and
- 15. Finalizing recommendations based on survey summaries, literature searches, articles of interest and appendix information (November 1997).
Survey research gave committee members original qualitative data concerning the issues facing scholastic journalists from the viewpoints of scholastic press association directors and interested publication advisers. Open-ended questions allowed participants to comment on their areas of concern. Purposive sampling of publication advisers allowed scholastic press association directors to select their active association members who would most readily provide beneficial feedback on the publication adviser survey.
The seven short articles that preview each literature search listing set the stage for readers about the importance of the topic to the field of scholastic journalism. Writers were selected for their knowledge base in a particular area as well as for their connections to scholastic journalism education. All were given a limited amount of space to address the topic; each could have written several more pages on their topics if not limited by the number of pages in this report.
Literature searches in eight areas gave committee members a plethora of information concerning areas of interest to scholastic journalism. More than 12,000 articles, books, reports, web sites and general resources were scoured over the course of the study to give readers an educated snapshot of the pertinent information available in all eight areas. Since not all readers are online, few web pages are listed; committee members wanted most resources to be readily available to the masses if they wished to read the full text of the source. On-line researchers will quickly note that a search concerning the topic 'secondary education reform' alone generates more than 300,000 pertinent 'hits.'
The final annotated bibliographies in each area represent an overview that, hopefully, give varying perspectives on topics and allow readers to draw some of their own educated conclusions. In most cases, article and book authors are noted experts in their respective fields. Readers may wish to find additional sources by these experts to assist in their understanding of a concern or issue.
Most secondary education sources focus on general reform that is currently taking place in schools across the country. Other education issues of concern: charter schools; cultural literacy; school choice; school-based management; year-round schooling; parental involvement; and home schooling. Readers may be served best by reading Jossey-Bass books on school reform, noting opposing viewpoints of E. Eisner and T. Sizer and/or keep current online through several web sites, including 21st Century Teachers (21st.org), EdWeb (edweb.gsn.org), The Electronic School (electronic-school.org) and U.S. News Online (onlinenews.com).
Staying current on issues concerning journalism at the collegiate level is relatively easy: AEJMC, journalism and mass communication schools' membership organization, often runs articles on this subject in their publications. Professional trade publications, including those in advertising, broadcasting, public relations and newspapers, also cover journalism schools from the perspective of whether the schools are meeting their needs in the industry. High school journalism teachers should keep abreast of trends in journalism and mass communication studies on college and university campuses so they can better educate their students about furthering their education in one of the many related fields.
Noted publication design sources don't necessarily try to predict design trends of the future. That might not be prudent. Most of the listed ones discuss basic design elements and changes in handling publications due to emerging technology. Most also give readers excellent examples of basic and sophisticated publication designs of the late 1990s.
Multimedia sources concentrate on giving readers basic information to get them up to speed in multimedia literacy. Since some scholastic publications, such as on-line newspapers and CD-ROM yearbooks, are already moving towards multimedia platforms, readers not yet enlightened by some of the possibilities of multimedia may appreciate this section of the report.
Digital photography is no longer a vague term to most scholastic journalists. Expense and resolution quality have slowed the move to digital cameras, but print and negative scanners have still allowed many staffs to enter the digital darkroom stage of electronic photojournalism. As prices decrease and image resolution quality increases, most scholastic publication staffers will need to become more knowledgeable about digital cameras, scanners and photo manipulation computer software programs, such as Photoshop.
In support of the multimedia section, the emerging technologies area of this report focuses more exclusively on the use of the Internet as a research tool and as a possible site for scholastic publications. Basic information on push technology, electronic learning, designing web sites and web database development highlight the annotated bibliography section.
Publication writing sources do not try to predict the types of writing that scholastic journalists may be doing in the 21st century. Instead, annotated bibliographical listings note the solid publications and resources currently available that can strengthen writing in publications. A focus on basic grammar, punctuation and agreement may seem simplistic, but 21st Century Committee members and article contributors felt compelled to emphasize the importance of correct language usage in scholastic publications.
Many of the sources are of the 'Cliff's Notes' variety: publications that have a limited number of pages that go directly to the rules of grammar, punctuation, agreement and other word-usage concerns and problems.
Several pages of scholastic journalism resources should assist readers as they build their own scholastic journalism libraries. The list is not complete by any means. Nor is it meant as the 'best' resources. It is simply a look at some of the general resources that broadly cover scholastic journalism, not necessarily specific skills within the field. Additional resources are available through most national scholastic press associations and related media associations, such as Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and The Freedom Forum.
The 18 recommendations concerning the future of scholastic journalism are purposely general in nature, to a degree. A national report cannot always effectively address individual state issues; the recommendations try to embrace the thinking of the participants of the surveys, the conclusions of the authors of the seven articles, the directions cultivated from the literature searches, the existing literature concerning scholastic journalism and the emerging issues of note to scholastic journalists. Although general in nature, they still directly address what needs to be done if scholastic journalism is to prosper as we enter the 21st century.
Readers are asked to add their own scholastic journalism resources and perspectives to this project.