- Kirsten Ballard
In August, The Washington Post hosted high school students for a week-long program on journalism. The program, originally called the Young Journalist Development Program, was established in 1997 by reporter Dorothy Gilliam. This year, it became The Student Journalist Program.
The idea behind the program is to draw young people to journalism through mentoring.
We spoke with Azhar AlFadl Miranda, who runs the program at The Washington Post to learn more.
NMA: How does the program work?
AM: Beyond demonstrating strong writing skills, we sought out applicants who exhibited curiosity and a strong interest in exploring journalism. On their first day, students pitched their story ideas to editors, who gave them guidance on how to refine or redirect their story focus. They worked on reporting, writing and editing their story during their week in the newsroom. Students had the opportunity to go out in the field to conduct actual interviews. Each day began and ended with interactive workshops led by Washington Poststaff to learn about reporting with social media, basics of video reporting, how to self-edit, among other topics.
NMA: What lessons do you hope the students walk away with?
AM: The biggest thing we hope the students walk away with is a deeper appreciation for the craft of journalism and some practical knowledge they can immediately apply to future stories they report, such as ways to strengthen their writing, sharpen their eye for a good news story, and expand their view on storytelling mediums.
We also hope that our program will teach them about the range of opportunities that exist in a modern newsroom like The Washington Post’s, and demystify the path toward a career in journalism. Through workshops led by our staff, students will learn reporting skills that run the gamut from social media to narrative journalism. They’ll learn that it takes the collaboration of several groups with diverse skillsets to produce powerful and thoughtful journalism and actually participate in this process.
NMA: What is the most surprising thing about working with high school students?
AM: We can’t say this surprises us, but we will say we are continually impressed by the zeal and curiosity of the high school students we meet through this program. They often showed us they truly understand the power of journalism, and it’s clear they are interested in shaping the future of this industry.”
NMA: As journalism is rapidly changing with the digital revolution, what skills will you focus on?
AM: In addition to learning how to use innovative storytelling tools such as social media, this program emphasizes that journalistic principles such as accuracy and news judgment remain essential. The Post is a media and technology organization, so we do ensure our students learn about emerging work opportunities in the journalism field, such as virtual reality and production for mobile platforms.