Staff writers, editors, and head editors flood the center of my library to produce the Webb Canyon Chronicle, the public record of student voice at The Webb Schools. Although I always valued student-centered and artful approaches to education, I never advised a journalism program before. Librarians should advise journalism programs to mobilize multiliteracies, champion information literacy, and encourage citizenship in their schools.
The AASL Standards complement journalism well. In my last post, I outlined ways that journalists inquire. Likewise, journalists seek to include at every juncture of their work, as they collaborate to develop pieces that reflect nuanced considerations of stakeholders’ points of view. This requires introspection and reflection. It also requires bravery—a willingness to reexamine preconceptions and a willingness to search for understanding.
Demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community
My journalism course is three classes in one: Journalism, Honors Journalism, and Advanced Studies in Modern Media. These three classes in one ensure that I have students at multiple levels of ability, from different cultural backgrounds, and with different goals and interests. A challenge for me as an educator is to make sure people have room to “be” and express themselves in collegial ways, especially as they disagree.
Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by:
Articulating an awareness of the contributions of a range of learners
Adopting a discerning stance toward points of view and opinions expressed in information resources and learning products
Describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community
Journalists think as they collaborate and peer edit. They give each other feedback and challenge each other to dig deeper to develop a story. Sometimes, they will produce opinion pieces that run next to each other, offering differing points of view. Other times, they will suggest stakeholders to approach for more information. An important challenge is to get journalists to understand how local, campus-wide issues have relevance to the wider world, just as global stories resonate with our school community.
One of my journalists put it this way:
I think the journalism program does well creating and adjusting our awareness of the global learning community. We interview a vast range of students and faculty in the Webb community in order to represent many different perspectives. I think that as journalists, we become the learners; we evaluate the viewpoints of the people we interview, and we become more aware of the world around us by doing so.
There is room for us to grow with sharing and exhibiting empathy and tolerance for diverse ideas. I’ve noticed that, especially in the News and Opinion section, the quotes from students and faculty often only support a singular common opinion. Although the opinions of other students may not agree with what the journalist believes, it is important for our newspaper to be representative of all the viewpoints of the Webb community.
I love the idea of the journalist as a simultaneous educator and learner!
Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by:
Interacting with learners who reflect a range of perspectives
Evaluating a variety of perspectives during learning activities
Representing diverse perspectives during learning activities
Good journalism synthesizes multiple points of view to deliver nuanced, accurate, and multifaceted stories. Journalists need to search and even be sensitive enough to know what to search for or when to search further. This doesn’t mean that every point of view is given equal air-time. It means that journalists need to search for the correct level of balance depending on authority, credibility, and impact. My school is a “two schools in one campus.” That means we have a school for boys, Webb Schools of California, and a school for girls, Vivian Webb Schools. My class is a co-ed elective, so I like that everyone has to “mix it up” and get to know the perspectives of students they might not otherwise get to know.
One of my journalists put it this way:
I think that we have collectively been improving on the “create” section. As a team, we have been conducting interviews and seeking more information more frequently than before. Because the create process requires us to talk to people and gather more information than we even include in our articles, we struggled with this section in the past. However, I think people have been interacting with participants in the events that they cover and are talking to stakeholders.
Learners exhibit empathy with and tolerance for diverse ideas by:
Engaging in informed conversation and active debate
Contributing to discussions in which multiple viewpoints on a topic are expressed
We open class with a game called News Flash. Students toss a football across the library to a volunteer who wants to speak. The volunteer with the ball starts by saying “Newsflash…” and then delivers a little snippet of news from anywhere: personal, school-wide, national, global, etc. This game allows an entry point for anyone and sparks a lot of small conversations that get brought into our more independent work. As a matter of fact, students improved on their performance in a news quiz, and some credited their improvement to listening to others’ stories during Newsflash.
One of my journalists said:
The Webb Canyon Chronicle does an especially good job at sharing information to the public by expressing multiple viewpoints through quotes and interviews. The opinion section creates lively debate and encourages readers to engage in conversation. New opinion articles come out quite often and represent the views and thoughts of the students of Webb. However, I think that we need to focus on growing. Our articles tend to circulate around the same topics and do not really “seek interactions with a range of learners.” I think that we can improve this by creating more quizzes, more interesting graphics, and a broader range of article formatting (grid, column, etc).
Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by:
Seeking interactions with a range of learners
Demonstrating interest in other perspectives during learning activities
Reflecting on their own place within the global learning community
There should always be room for reflection. However, sometimes this falls by the wayside, as evidenced in the quote above. As we develop programs to mobilize multiliteracies, champion information literacy, and encourage citizenship in schools, we should always keep journalism in mind as a strong partner in the library space.
Do you have a journalism program in your school? How do you work to “include” in your library?