COLORADO SPRINGS. In a world where information is ever present and “news” is gathered through both official and unofficial sources, the profession of journalist has become less defined. The question of what is classified as journalism and who can claim the title of journalist is harder than ever to nail down. But the students in the 21st Century Journalism and Broadcasting class at St. Mary’s High School are not only learning to hone their critical thinking skills, but also gaining hands-on experience in producing news that is relevant to their community.
“As we looked at our curriculum last spring, we were interested in providing some new electives to our offerings. Journalism was one of the subjects we were interested in offering,” said Robyn Cross, principal. “We had a journalist on staff with 30 years of experience in journalism who agreed to teach the course, and to provide a hands-on approach for the students to learn about this profession.”
Amy Partain, director of Communications and Marketing at St. Mary’s, assumed the role of journalism teacher and is advising the new student news staff. The students will produce video broadcasts, podcasts, social media posts, and the student newspaper, the Jolly Roger.
“One week in and I’m so impressed with the student journalists,” Partain said. “They are passionate about learning, have amazing ideas for their productions, and are applying professional standards to the news they produce.”
As the year progresses, the students will learn about writing for the different journalism mediums, how to edit and design for each of their areas, the history of the profession, its check-and-balances role in our government, and the ethics that govern professional journalists. Then students will have opportunities to apply what they have learned through hands-on experience in producing news segments that will be shared with the St. Mary’s community.
Adam Walraven, one of three staff members on the social media team, said he’s interested in learning about being a journalist, including what they do and how they do it. The social media team featured the journalism class in their first post, which occurred the first week of school. The student news Instagram account, @SMHS_Student_News, will feature posts from across the St. Mary’s community.
“We want to inform both students and parents about activities, sports, news,” Walraven said. “We’re hoping to share posts that our students want to hear and grow the account to 150 followers.”
The broadcast staff, made up of seven students, also jumped in early to produce a news piece. Starting this week, the students are sharing the school’s announcements via a video broadcast each day. The student journalists have brainstormed ideas for their broadcasts and learned the technical aspects of producing a news show.
Ganin Rodriguez, one of the broadcast’s first anchors, hopes his team can make their productions look professional, while including humorous segments among the news items covering sports and activities.
“I’m interested in video and editing and am excited to get more experience since I’m interested in cinematography as a possible career,” Rodriguez said. “While we plan to be serious and professional, I also hope to get laughs from my segments that will draw the audience in as we cover the news.”
The six-member podcast team is looking forward to highlighting St. Mary’s sports teams and student athletes. Podcast staff member Adam Velasquez said by the end of the school year, his team hopes to have increased their number of listeners.
“This is something new for me,” Velasquez said. “I’ve never done announcements or podcasts, but I’m interested in sports and think it will be fun to learn something new while talking about something I like.”
While the other journalism staffs are starting new, the newspaper staff is continuing the tradition of the school newspaper, the Jolly Roger. With four dedicated writers on the staff, the paper promises to be both fun and informative. The current plan is to produce a newspaper every six weeks.
“The Jolly Roger staff wants to make an impact on student life by helping the students be informed about what’s going on in our community,” said Maria Therese Barry, one of the Jolly Roger staff members. “I really like writing, so I’m excited about the opportunity to write more and in a different format than I usually write for school.”
The 2021-2022 school year promises to be a busy one for the 21st Century Journalism and Broadcasting class. Watch for their productions on the St. Mary’s High School website at smpirates.org.
“It’s fun to see the students so excited about the course,” Cross said. “The hands-on experience is fun for them, but all the while they are learning to think critically, manage their time, and meet deadlines. The lessons they are learning in journalism will serve them well in college and life.”