High school journalism

HRC Media Event

Journalist covered high school’s censorship of a coming-out story while ‘tears ran down my cheeks’

Lynn Tiley, center, and her son Taylor Ellis, center left, with Ellis’ dad, Billy, right, outside the Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. (Mike Wintroath/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

I first heard of Taylor Ellis’ story while meandering through one of the news apps on my phone. I immediately clicked on the story and began reading about the Arkansas high school student and the decision by administrators at Sheridan High School to pull the profile written about his coming-out story from his junior yearbook. As a gay man who came out in high school, the story resonated with me.

Nearly a week later, I was sent by my newspaper here in Little Rock, Ark., to photograph a press conference happening on the steps of the capitol building. Read more

Middle school students in the journalism workshop at Harrisonburg High School. (Photo by Valerie Kibler)

Va. high-school journalists teach middle schoolers that everyone has a story

Middle school students in the journalism workshop at Harrisonburg High School. (Photo by Valerie Kibler)

Audrey Knupp’s first shot at journalism begins like this: “Knowing Megan Fitzwater (‘Fitz’), you wouldn’t expect her to have a pink room. Her personality is much more tomboyish. Throughout her life, Fitz has won numerous awards for basketball and rowing and received offers to play basketball in college. Now she is a James Madison University student who coaches basketball at Thomas Harrison Middle School (THMS). And her room is still pink.”

The seventh-grader gets to the story behind that in the next paragraph. And she got to the story itself through a nine-week program at Harrisonburg High School, which brings middle schoolers into the Harrisonburg, Va., high school once a week to learn about journalism. Read more

1 Comment
Fenway Park

Through in-person training, inner-city teens learn what it takes to be sports reporters

Last summer, I walked into a computer lab in the bowels of The Boston Globe carrying a stack of photocopied worksheets from the High School Journalism Institute and eager to pass my sportswriting knowledge along to three inner-city students from the Boston public schools.

That’s the beginning of this story — but the culmination of another. I spent the 2005-06 basketball season following the hoops team at Boston English — the nation’s oldest public high school — for my master’s thesis. That experience convinced me that Boston’s inner-city athletes deserved more attention.

Coverage of city athletics in the Globe and The Boston Herald was typically limited to following the best basketball teams in the winter and running 10- to 12-inch stories on the city championships for other sports, whose athletes often played to empty bleachers. Read more

1 Comment

Seattle School Board reverses proposed censorship policy

Soon after reports surfaced that the Seattle School Board was proposing a policy that would subject student journalists to censorship, the group reversed its position. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher tells Poynter’s Al Tompkins how beat reporting helped her break the story:

…you have to find things that haven’t made anyone angry (yet). You’ll find things that are quirky, interesting, odd, or that demonstrate that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. The more you bring these things to light, the more you and your audience learn, and the more you build credibility with tipsters — and with the body you cover.

When you first start to cover a legislative body, it’s boring, intimidating, thankless, confusing, and all those things that cause you to question your life choices.

Read more
1 Comment

How Seattle journalist got school censorship scoop

Seattle area public schools will allow free speech and free press thanks to an alert journalist who spotted a hidden pending policy change.

This is a story about the value of good old-fashioned beat reporting that included pawing through boring-looking documents. It is a story about how endless hours of committee hearings and school board discussions can build the foundation for a great story.

Phyllis Fletcher is the education reporter for Seattle’s KUOW public radio. She mostly covers the Seattle School District with occasional suburban and higher education stories. Like journalists in most smaller newsrooms, she can also get pulled into other daily assignments as needed.

Phyllis Fletcher started at KUOW as an intern about nine years ago.

Fletcher perked up when she spotted what she believed was a change in official policy about whether student newspapers in Seattle schools should be free to print what they wish or come under the potentially heavy-handed rule of principals. Read more


Seattle School Board proposal allows principals ‘to pretty much censor at will’

Seattle Times
The proposed policy would give Seattle principals the authority to review high school papers before they’re published and would allow them to stop publication if they deem material to be libelous, obscene or “not in keeping with the school’s instructional mission and values,” among other criteria, reports Brian M. Rosenthal. Kathy Schrier, executive director of the Washington Journalism Education Association, tells him that the proposal opens the door for administrators to pretty much censor at will. “It’s just sort of, if you don’t like the way something sounds or you think it’s going to cause a phone call or something, then all of a sudden it doesn’t keep with the values of the school” in the principal’s judgment. The board will vote on the proposal Dec. Read more


High school journalists kept Vargas’ secret for six weeks

Mountain View Patch
Jose Antonio Vargas met with the Mountain View High School newspaper staff on May 11, and told the 35 teen journalists, “I’m an undocumented immigrant.” He told them that only a few people knew, and asked that they keep it secret for a while.

For the next six weeks not a murmur, whisper, tweet or status update suggested the teenagers guarded privileged information for Vargas, 30, a former Oracle editor-in-chief and a 2000 graduate of MVHS.

Kevin Troxell, a 17-year-old entertainment editor at the Oracle, says he saw the shock on Vargas’ face after he told the teens that he was undocumented. “He seemed surprised to tell us. He kind of put his hand over his mouth as if to say ‘what did I just say?’ …Oracle is a tight knit group and we are all friends. Read more