This week a new journalism club was launched at my school. Open to 4th and 5thgraders, two other teachers and I are sponsoring this after-school club with the goal of publishing both print and digital versions of a student-produced school newspaper. While that is the easy-to-understand goal of our project and club, it goes much deeper. Through journalism, we hope to grow writers and thinkers.
Journalism, with its focus on clear, concise writing to share information, is such a great skill. And this powerful skill is easily applicable to so many other endeavors and pursuits. There is a reason there are so many journalists and former journalists who become novelists and authors. There is a reason so many lawyers and scientists need to also be skilled writers.
What is it about journalism that is so powerful?
The work and toil of constant and consistent writing, strengthens writing skill like nothing else. It is like a Writer’s Boot Camp. Deadlines, rewrites, revisions. Writing daily, with a purpose, and being forced to work through blocks and obstacles builds not only writing fluency, but the mental strength needed to write.
The collaboration of journalism is powerful. Even if they are writing a piece alone, the process of feedback, revision, and editing, involves having others critique our work. They will also be critiquing the writing of their peers. This is a powerful collaborative tool that serves to strengthen writing and thinking.
Social skills are also strengthened as they talk with people, interview experts, and strive to share information. They must be bold enough to ask a question, confident enough to step forward, and empathetic enough to embrace the experiences of others. They need to be able to read social cues and signs and be articulate enough to discuss ideas and events.
Journalists look at the world around us in different ways. They seek out connections, relationships of events, causes and effects. They must deeply understand what they are writing about. They must see this one event within the continuum that is the big picture. This kind of critical thinking is a life-skill that helps students, no matter what life path they take.
They must verify facts and check sources. This is an even more critical skill today when the ease of communication and digital sharing has blurred the lines between truth and fiction. Understanding how bias works, identifying multiple viewpoints, examining evidence and arguments. These are skills that all citizens need in order to take their place as contributing members of a democracy. Journalism can help students to build those skills.
Journalism- not just for journalists!