Derived from Coco Curranski’s “Hot Media”

February 25, 2019; Columbus Dispatch

With so much changing in the country right now, it is an ideal time to stop to consider how current students gravitate toward certain subjects as a way to gauge popular career paths for the future. The Columbus Dispatch ran a story last week highlighting the growing number of students signing up for journalism classes at Orange High School in Columbus, Ohio, leading the school to expand its course offerings. Referencing a recently released 2018 national study by Education Week and the Journalism Education Association, the Dispatch found that demand by Orange High’s students fits with a broader trend of growing enrollment in journalism courses nationwide.

Education Week’s study, based on a survey of 500 members of the Journalism Education Association, notes that 39 percent of respondents (based on about 200 survey respondents who supplemented their survey answers with theories on why student interest has increased) linked the results to the current political climate, with phrases such as “current events, the Trump-era presidency, ‘fake news’ accusations, and other attacks on media.” The study also highlights different perceptions of the media held by different student audiences. For example, in schools with large populations of lower-income students, the study found that “47 percent of journalism educators said their students had ‘not very much’ trust in mass media—13 percentage points more than those in schools where fewer than half of students are from low-income households.” In addition, the study found that “students in more-affluent schools were also more likely to become more interested in journalism following criticism of the press by Trump than their peers in low-income schools.”

As a complement to Education Week’s study, the Dispatch story references a valuable 2011 study by the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University that emphasizes the finding that journalism classes are “more often available in larger, wealthier schools with more white students.” Echoing the same problem, Education Week cites Frank LoMonte, a University of Florida media law professor and a former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “There is a well-documented diversity problem in media, and people of color don’t generally see themselves,” LoMonte explained. “They don’t see themselves behind the news desk, but they also don’t see themselves in the stories.”

The PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs is both a national platform for student journalism and a network made up of educators and mentor journalists. The organization adheres to the belief that “thoughtful, well-grounded local reporting and the interdisciplinary work of video production are powerful forms of learning and civic engagement” and that video journalism “gives students the power to find their voices and engage with their communities.” The organization kicked off 2019 with a special program that is being aired on the PBS NewsHour called, “What Opportunity Looks Like in 2019.” Recent highlights from the series so-far include: “Boom Or Bust: Stay Or Go?,” a high school student’s look at job opportunities related to gas pipeline construction in West Virginia, and “Breaking Stereotypes With Dance,” about a Florida teenager who started a dance program to spread awareness about Punjabi culture.

According to Columbus’s Orange High School’s homepage, the latest sign of the school’s growing journalism program will be its second annual telethon, streamed this week on YouTube Live and Boxcast, with on-camera anchors, news packages, and field reports. Orange High highlights the program’s “hands-on learning opportunities designed to enable students to be strong communicators in work and in life.”—Anne Eigeman