TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – University of Alabama journalism instructor Laurie Lattimore is working with Birmingham’s McWane Center to develop Newsroom, a simulated newspaper environment that will provide students an intensive experience in real-world journalism.
The initiative is part of the College of Communication and Information Science’s (C&IS) continuing service to high school journalism and of the McWane Center’s learning-by-doing educational philosophy.
The Newsroom, which will begin in the fall of 2000, will utilize technology, including interactive media, similar to that used in University journalism courses. Middle and high school students will take on roles of reporters, editors and artists, while working together to produce a small-scale newspaper with assistance from the staff.
In recent years, high schools have de-emphasized journalism, and many schools have ended their student newspaper, according to Dr. Ed Mullins, chair of UA’s journalism department.
“To those of us who teach college journalism, that is the equivalent to what discontinuing high school football would mean to college football programs,” said Mullins. “Quality high school journalism plays an important role in the journalism development process that continues through college and into the profession. Good high school newspapers also contribute to the quality of the schools that publish them.”
Regan Huff, project director for Newsroom, asked Lattimore to assist in the project because of her news background and interest in journalism education at the high school level. Lattimore, a doctoral candidate in C&IS, is a former journalist who now teaches at UA and directs the College’s minority program.
The most ambitious project Huff and Lattimore are planning is an after-school and weekend program. This program would allow local students to write and produce a citywide student newspaper. Patterned after a project in Memphis, Tenn., the newspaper program would provide mentorship and journalism education opportunities for participating students. A long-term goal of Newsroom is to use its resources to promote high school journalism through workshops, seminars and other activities.
Through the Newsroom project, Lattimore and Huff will design a high school journalism curriculum that can be used with the visiting student groups, in the citywide student newspaper project, and in high school classrooms throughout the state.
“Production of a newspaper is a collaborative effort that puts reading, writing, research and problem-solving skills in the context of a real-world activity,” Huff said. “This kind of learning-by-doing is the heart of the informal education experience we promote at McWane Center. The Newsroom will encourage learning on several levels and will ultimately help students critically assess the world around them.”
Through “The Birmingham News,” the S.I. Newhouse Foundation contributed initial funding for the Newsroom. UA’s journalism department and the McWane Center are collaborating to write grant proposals to ensure sustained financial support for the project. This partnership will involve journalism students at many levels, including high school students attending the annual Minority Journalism Workshop at UA. Students attending this summer’s workshop will participate in some pilot programs for the Newsroom project, as did students attending last year’s workshop.
The 2000 Minority Journalism Workshop, scheduled for July 9-20 at the University, will welcome up to 20 outstanding high school journalism students from across the country. Resident instructors and professional journalists volunteer their time to help the students understand journalism. The workshop is funded by grants from the Gannett Foundation and the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. Alabama news media and the communications departments of major companies also contribute.
Lattimore, who will direct her second Minority Journalism Workshop this summer, noted participating students are a natural inclusion since one of Newsroom’s goals is to encourage minorities to pursue journalism careers. “With our joint commitment to high school journalism education, we believe this project can do great things for scholastic journalism programs in Alabama as well as enhancing the overall education experience of the students,” Lattimore said.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.