I recently wrapped up two years of service as chair of the Society of Professional Journalists Journalism Education Committee. It was a privilege serving two SPJ presidents (thank you Dana Neuts and Paul Fletcher) and my committee colleagues.
We’ve been doing some important work that deserves continued attention.
The most up-to-date research on the state of high school journalism across the nation is Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism. Researched by the SPJ Journalism Education Committee and published in 2015 by New Forums Press, Still Captive? is a comprehensive examination of the challenges facing high school journalism programs and their teachers. The committee’s executive summary to the SPJ Board included the following:
“More than half (56.1 percent) [of teachers surveyed] said media professionals made no contributions to their high school student media while 53 percent said nearby colleges or university journalism programs also made no contributions. Almost one-fourth of the respondents (23.6 percent) reported they receive no help from either.”
That has to change.
Professional and academic journalism organizations must do a better job of reaching out to scholastic journalism programs in their areas. At its most basic level, it would be an investment in their future students, interns, and employees.
The survey results listed above prompted the Journalism Education Committee to launch another endeavor in early 2016. The Journalism Education Database was created specifically for scholastic journalism teachers who desire support from professionals and professors. The database contains a few dozen SPJ members with different types of expertise who are willing to mentor teachers, serve as classroom guests, or simply offer moral support.
Teachers, all you have to do is get in touch.
Butler Cain is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama. He received a Ph.D. in Media History from The University of Alabama and is a former professional journalist and broadcast news director.