Starting last fall, seven students at Berkeley Arts Magnet met with me twelve times to make their own school newspaper, the BAM News. Within its pages they reported on the menu at the school’s annual Multicultural Fair, debated whether or not students should have more computer time at school, and interviewed a couple fifth graders who were new this year (one from across town, another from Sweden). They covered popular books, movies, games, and celebrities, too.
The BAM News staff learned to be honest with what they knew and didn’t know, and tried to support their opinions with facts. Certain stories required them to consider other points of view. All of the news and features needed to be revised for our reading audience: from start to finish, does the writing make sense? Is it interesting to read, full of details? Critical thinking, media literacy, a sense of curiosity and communication skills are all in play in Journalism class.
One of the class’s most satisfying moments came at the final layout stage, when we spread out several large sheets of construction paper across the school library’s tables and physically pasted our handwritten work into columns as it would appear when typeset and printed. That was when I saw it dawn on students’ faces: This is really happening—everyone will read this!
Another highlight was a special visit from a real-life journalist: R. Todd Kerr is the editor and publisher of the Berkeley Times, a print-only local community newspaper. After a short Q&A (with Q’s and A’s from both sides), Todd stayed to assist one of our staff with his article about Pokemon trading cards. It may have been lost on the rest of the BAM News staff, but Todd’s enthusiasm for our project and willingness to help out embody what I think journalism, particularly local print journalism, can do: inform, stimulate and inspire people, and thereby to encourage civic engagement and a healthy, safe community.
The news inside the newspaper doesn’t just happen—it is actively made by people like you and me.
Before leaving Todd snapped our class picture, which was published in the February 23, 2017 edition of the Berkeley Times. See the relevant page here.
You can read the January 2017 BAM News here.