School’s newspaper teaches responsible communication

By Andy Hobbs, Mirror editor

By Andy Hobbs, Mirror editor

The Internet launched a communication revolution that makes self-publishing cheap and accessible to the masses.

Knowing that you can potentially reach millions of people is just as important as having the capability to do so.

This phenomenon should come with the disclaimer “responsibility sold separately.”

As citizen journalism stubbornly treads water, professional media outlets have a duty to seize their own peninsula as a haven for the truth.

If the best and brightest always rise to the surface, then the world’s top newspapers will hold a flashlight as humanity ventures into the Information Age’s unexplored caverns.

With so many opinions and stories smacking us in the face every day, the challenge for all media will continue to revolve around maintaining and restoring trust in readers.

The need for responsible communication transcends the media as the average Joe attempts to merge into a traffic jam of influence.

Regardless of who eventually moves on to a journalism career, it’s vital to instill in today’s students an understanding of the printed word’s effects.

About 25 students at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way take an elective class that essentially turns them into journalists for about two hours a day. So far, the students have produced two issues of the school’s monthly newspaper, The Record.

Although expectedly rough upon closer inspection, The Record looks better than your average student newspaper — some of which could finish second to an Ikea instruction manual in terms of quality.

What’s more impressive is the Todd Beamer students’ willingness to absorb the mindset behind fair and objective reporting. Teacher/adviser Stacy Hoffman gives her students a hefty slice of freedom to complete their project. She also ensures they take this publication stuff seriously.

In critiques of each issue, Hoffman hones in on specific examples that clash with the paper’s values and venture into the territory of inaccuracy, bias and editorializing.

With this criteria list, the class created a way to hold itself accountable. The students will at least understand the basics of respectable public communication by the time this semester-long elective course ends.

In January, Hoffman will start from the beginning with a new staff of students. If the next semester mirrors the current one, a fresh batch of teens will add critical knowledge to their growing foundations.

Based on the constant penetration of the media in daily life, and the ease of becoming a participant, it would behoove Americans to more thoroughly understand not only how the media works, but how to use it responsibly.

Mandatory classes in public schools may be the idealistic answer to that goal.

In the meantime, the realistic solution rests on the shoulders of student publications and the teachers who guide them.

Andy Hobbs can be reached at editor@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.


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