Journalism, you probably have some pretty set ideas of what it is, and why you can’t teach it as a homeschool class. Perhaps you think journalists must write for a student newspaper in junior high or high school. You know there must be follow up through a college major in journalism or communications. Then, your mind goes on to requisite internships during and after college.
Frances Schaffer once said Christians need to take back several areas of our culture. One of those areas is journalism. It may seem an overwhelming challenge to teach journalism — especially if you don’t have a way to create a student newspaper. However, if you accept the challenge, you may train the next David Brinkley or William Buckley, Jr.
Let’s follow Frances Schaffer’s call and send Christian journalists from our homeschools into the publishing world.
News writing involves many of the skills you are already covering in the subjects you are teaching.
Let’s take a quick look at the skill set your young writer needs to develop:
Writing skills: Did you know a journalist needs practice in all areas of writing, including poetry and fiction? Continue to teach all types of writing during your child’s academic career.
Editing skills: News reporting requires clear communication. To do that, each reporter needs to be able to do more than recognize grammar and spelling errors. A good exercise for editing is to take a newspaper or magazine article as well as blog or web post and have your student edit it. Can your writer assess whether thoughts are stated clearly? Reading an article aloud is a tried and true way to catch both grammar and syntax errors. Does your writer do a good job of fact-checking and tracking sources? Good writers need all these skills.
Deadlines: As homeschoolers, it is easy to let deadlines slip due to family events, illness, or a championship soccer game. A news reporter never has that option. Deadlines are imperative, especially in this age of instant access to news. Give your student various deadlines: one week, 24 hours, even 90 minutes. Continue to help and encourage the best work possible.
Research: A journalist often writes about more than immediate information. Background information is often needed to fill in or flesh out a story. Efficient research skills save time and effort.
Interview skills: Talking to a stranger is hard. Your student will need to learn this skill. It’s more than just casual conversation, though. Asking clear and relevant questions is important. In addition to asking the questions, a news reporter must take quick, clear, and accurate notes. Interviewing can begin with a neighbor, relative, or a church friend.
Current events: A good journalist knows what’s going on in the world, nation, and neighborhood. It’s a good idea for your student to follow news outlets. Reading and listening to news outlets with various points of view helps your young journalist learn to filter the facts. Try this: have your child read an article about the same event from two different news sources, both liberal and conservative. Compare and contrast the information. What facts are used? Do both sources use the same fact? Are the facts stated differently to put a spin on them? Are there facts that can be verified through original sources?
History: To have a good perspective, even though news reporting is generally about current information, a solid background in history is important as well. It puts current events into context.
Online writing and desktop publishing skills: Many popular news sources are now exclusively online. Often a reporter must write articles directly onto a website platform. Have your student create and maintain a simple blog to learn some of the basics of website writing.
Reading: A writer must read with excellent comprehension skills and be able to quickly scan for pertinent information. A good writer, no matter the genre, is a prolific reader.
Not so bad, right? You are already teaching many of the above skills without even thinking of it in the context of journalism.
Need more ideas for helping your budding writer embrace journalism?
Here are a few ideas:
- Write letters to the editor of your hometown paper.
- Submit articles for local magazines and newspapers as well as online sites geared toward teens.
- Ask if your child can shadow a news reporter for a day or two to see how the job is done. Develop a list of 20 questions and interview the reporter at the end of the time. Write a news article about the shadowing.
- Invite a core group of other young writers to join you in creating an online or hard copy newsletter for homeschoolers in your area. Ask folks to submit article ideas about interesting topics in your homeschool community. Send out reporters to follow the story and conduct interviews. BAM! You have a small journalism class in progress.
- No real homeschool community nearby? What family or church doesn’t need a newsletter? Apply that idea to the ideas in #4 above and you still have a great journalism project under way.
Still think teaching journalism at home is beyond your reach? Yea. We didn’t think so!
- The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenthiel
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E. B. White
- The Elements of Editing, A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalist by Arthur Plotnik
- Getting the Words Right: How to Revise, Edit and Rewrite by Theodore A. Rees Cheney
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