Perspective: Student journalism builds communication skills

High school journalism classes provide an extremely valuable experience, not just for students who are interested in journalism as a career, but for any student who takes part.

Jefferson City High School and Nichols Career Center are developing a journalism program that helps students learn in a workplace-like environment and gain skills that are crucial to their success.

Sarah Henke, journalism teacher at JCHS, said high school journalism classes aid students in several ways, including: helping them gain confidence speaking to others, teaching them to work as a part of a team, helping work under stress with approaching deadlines, providing experience with various computer programs, and enabling them to master writing and editing skills.

Henke is one of four faculty members teaching journalism classes this year.

The others are Mojisola Oladehin, who teaches yearbook journalistic production, which produces the Marcullus, the school yearbook; Brian Hodge, who works alongside Henke to produce the Red and Black, the JCHS student newspaper; and Brent Whelan, who teaches broadcast journalism, a class which produces Jay City News, a monthly online news broadcast by students. Henke also teaches a journalistic writing class for beginning student journalists.

Whelan said the broadcast journalism class helps students develop skills that are useful in other courses.

“Students must report news stories from an objective point of view,” he said. “In doing so, they must complete background research to inform themselves about a topic and determine the accuracy and validity of information received. This process helps develop problem-solving and literacy skills.”

You can view the latest broadcast by going to www.jaycitynews.com.

For the 2014-2015 school year a new class called Introduction to Media will be provided for students at the ninth grade level through the arts and communications academy—one of seven different JCHS academies starting with next year’s freshmen.

If you are a parent or a grandparent of a student who will be in high school next year, you may want to encourage him or her to consider a journalism class for the experience it provides.

The students themselves speak highly of the classes and find them to be very helpful.

Junior Brenden Harrison said he is impressed with how the newspaper staff is like a family more than a regular classroom. “In most classes you are worried about the grade but not what you are learning,” he said. “Journalism is the opposite. The grade aspect is not an issue as long as you get your work done and you care about what you produce.”

Senior Kelsey Brewer said high school journalism “will prepare you for the real world in so many ways, inside and out of journalism.”

Taylor Rodeick, a junior who has worked on the yearbook staff as an assistant business manager, campus editor, photographer, writer, and designer, said the class has helped her be “more professional, patient, more responsible, creative, (and) tech savvy.”

Senior Caroline Hall said there is much to learn. “Communication and media are evolving quickly,” she said, “and being involved in journalism is a great way to use that technology and see how the things around you are working. You really see the behind-the-scenes views that other students don’t.”

Lindsey Jimenez, a junior on the yearbook staff, said she has gained valuable life experience. “It’s more than just a class,” she said. “It’s an experience you’ll hold on to forever.”

Senior Emily Skouby said she has learned to present herself in a professional manner. “I have made connections in the ‘grown-up’ world,” she said, “and once I graduate, I will continue to have those professional contacts as I continue in my career.”

Sophomore Jacob Worsham said journalistic writing is a class that helped him come out of his shell. “I gained many writing skills,” he said, “and I also gained many social skills. The class makes you interview people you generally would not talk to, and it has helped me get past some shyness.”

Henke said the students also benefit from developing relationships on the journalism staff that are like working relationships in the real world.

She said, “Students have to learn how to address conflict, be leaders, give positive feedback, and teach and encourage their peers to do better.”

All high school students, regardless of their aspirations, should develop an appreciation for learning, a disciplined work ethic, an inquisitiveness that leads to research, and the skill of effective communication.

High school journalism provides an opportunity to do all of these. It’s not for every student; but it’s certainly a help to many.

David Wilson, EdD, is one of the assistant principals at Jefferson City High School. You may e-mail him at david.wilson@jcschools.us.

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