April 6, 2017

Selwyn Crawford didn’t mean to get up and give a big speech.

Most years at the end of The Dallas Morning News’ annual High School Journalism Day, he says something like “thanks, see you next year.”

“That’s usually it, and that’s sincerely what I planned to say yesterday,” said Crawford, communities hub editor and director of the newsroom’s college internship program. “And I got up and I started to say that, and the speech is what you heard.”

He started with this:

“I promise you, for those that have even more than just a fleeting interest in journalism, and especially in the day and the time that we live in, it’s going to become even more important. I urge you — and I daresay I challenge you — I challenge you to pay attention, to get involved, to know what’s going on in your community, and to care. To care.”

Wednesday was the Morning News’ 26th annual journalism day, bringing in close to 400 journalism students from North Texas for workshops, a lunch and an awards ceremony. The students chosen for Dallas’ paid summer internships are announced at the event, too.

Crawford’s usual sendoff changed mid-delivery, he said, because of a sense that people right now are so stuck in what they’re for or what they’re against that they’ve forgotten just to care. And it’s easy for young people to be apathetic, to just think, “whatever.”

“I want to disabuse them of that idea,” he said. “It’s not whatever.”

The young journalists in that room are facing more change than ever before. Nothing stays the same for long now, Crawford said. You have to pay attention.

Crawford, who was a bit overwhelmed by the standing ovation and the continued response to his impromptu speech, does wish he’d said one more thing to those young journalists.

It used to be that people were impressed when they learned you were a journalist, he said on Thursday. Now, they’re dismayed.

“Journalists aren’t the enemy of the people,” he said. “We are the people. If the kids don’t understand that, then we’ve really got a problem. But before you can understand anything, you’ve got to care enough to want to be involved.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said it was the 16th annual high school journalism day. It was the 26th annual high school journalism day. We apologize for the error.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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