Starting them Young
Monica Charmise Baylor, By Michael J. Lewis
March 1, 2010
Filed under News
University of California San Diego’s recent suspension of student media outlets showed high school students how to use ethics and professionalism when reporting.
Carlsbad High School Television (CHSTV) and Torrey Pines High School’s Falconer newspaper are two of the most honored student journalism programs in the nation. Some of the many accolades awarded these two programs are the Student Television News Humanitarian Award and Award of Excellence, and the Journalism Education Association Best in Show Award.
Carlsbad High broadcast journalism teacher Doug Green and Torrey Pines High School newspaper adviser Mia Boardman Smith believed the lessons their students learned through their daily assignments are invaluable in preparing them for the real world after graduation.
“This program has a real good track record of students graduating and moving on to the next level college,” Green said during a recent interview in his cramped campus studio.”I am not under any illusion that every student will go on and become a Katie Couric. I think it prepares them; I think the eternal life skills you learn in a class like this. They work under real deadline, and they’re confident.”
Green said he started teaching English at Valley Middle School and used a green screen to get the kids interested in literature. The school district asked Green to teach an after-school broadcasting class at Valley. Eventually he started a program for high school students that resulted in the kids winning 17 Emmy awards, four of them national. Currently the program is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the extremely competitive category of Daily Live.
“We are also on Carlsbad’s cable channel,” said Terri Leon, Green’s assistant.
Smith, who has served as adviser of the Falconer for the last five years, believed print journalism’s inherent requirements provided her students with the skill sets demanded in the workforce.
“If you ask any employer right now, the skill that most employers are looking for are writing skills,” Smith said. “They are the skills in the smallest supply.” Smith continued: “When you have a class like journalism that requires you to write succinctly, clearly and accurately, it is the best possible training for anything you are going to do–deadlines and everything.”
Both Green and Smith credit extremely supportive administrative staffs for their program’s success.
”We have an admin that is totally supportive of this program. They have never killed a story. Any time we have a story that I think is sensitive, I will bring them in,” Green said. “We do take on some pretty controversial topics. I don’t discourage it, I encourage it. We are not an NBC studio, but they [the administration] are very flexible.”
Not only were the students trained to become reporters of 90-second stories, but Green has encouraged them to produce a documentary about the Holocaust. He said they raised $250,000 and they have been to Poland, Austria and Germany to film it. The documentary was finished February 2009 and premiered in Hollywood.
“In the audience was the director of Shindler’s List and we were like ‘wow,’” Green said. “And he came up afterwards and said he wanted us to come to his film festival in Croatia.”
They took the director up on his offer. Green said when the plane was landing in Croatia they could see swastikas painted on many of the buildings. He and the students then realized why the producer had wanted them to come.
“You see how much you learn all this time and you see 30 kids who really love broadcast journalism and have gotten really amazing,” Carlsbad High School TV show producer and senior Andrew Brady said, choking up at his recollection of the past four years. “Everyone is just dedicated to it. When you have all these people who are really interested in one thing, you just get great results and I think that makes us really what we are.”
Getting in to the broadcasting class is very competitive. There is an application and students have to send in their best stories. Most of the students started their broadcasting school careers in middle school.
“It’s a lot of work, and college is going to be a lot of work, so I know now I can’t procrastinate and I have to stay on top of things,” said Falconer news editor and Torrey Pines High senior Marissa Minnick of her experience with the newspaper.
Falconer public relations manager Kyle Joyner, a sophomore from Del Mar, nodded his head. “I am learning how to communicate with people a lot better and I think that will help me a lot in college and the future. And having to write stories on time has helped me manage myself better.”
“My first day in CHSTV I was scared because it’s a daily show and you don’t want to mess up,” said sophomore Jordan Bruhn. “But the seniors and juniors really help you a lot and get you up to speed when you’re a freshman. They teach you from their experiences.”
Since public school funding is tight these days in California, CHSTV does a lot of fund-raising. It also receives support from affluent parents in the beachfront community. Grants pay for everything including Green’s and Leon’s salary.The Falconer, meanwhile, relies solely on the proceeds of ads it sells.
Patrick Galvin, senior and editor-in-chief of the Falconer has some advice for freshman journalism students. “The biggest thing for freshman is that for a lot of them it seems that journalism is just ‘I can write well, so I can be a journalist,’” he said. “But there are so many other aspects: You have to work well within a team and you have to be able to interact well with people.”
As Brady shouts out “silence on the set, please!” and Minnick approves the final layout for Smith’s review, it is clear that these high school students working as journalists are ensuring their future through dedication, an unimpeachable work ethic and a sincere love of journalism.