Knight boosts high school press freedom

Friday, April 6, 2001

WASHINGTON — Advancing its interests in revitalizing scholastic journalism for the future providers and consumers of news, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has deepened its partnership with the American Society of Newspaper Editors through a $4.8 million grant to continue ASNE’s national high school journalism initiative.

ASNE, an organization of about 900 top editors of daily newspapers dedicated to the leadership of American journalism, planned its three-pronged initiative last year with a $500,000 Knight Foundation grant. The program responds to the need to increase the pipeline of talented, diverse students into journalism, and to strengthen the understanding of the importance of newspapers in a democratic society for all high school students.

Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, announced the grant to editors during a program on high school journalism at ASNE’s annual convention on April 4. Carter told the editors that their role in helping high school newspapers was crucial.

“In the end, the money cannot substitute for your very deep and continuing commitment to sustaining high school newspapers,” he said.

Susan Bischoff, an editor at the Houston Chronicle and chair of ASNE’s education committee, pointed out that the $4.8 million grant was the largest the editors’ organization had ever received for one project.

ASNE’s Journalism Partnerships Program this year paired 27 daily newspapers with a local school or school district to support and develop a new or existing high school newspaper. The daily newspapers are taking the lead in the partnerships in training and mentoring students, teachers and administrators interested in journalism.

Six accredited universities will run ASNE’s High School Journalism Institutes this summer, offering education and inspiration to some 200 teachers advising student newspapers around the country. Sessions will be held at the University of Maryland, Ball State University, the University of South Florida, Hampton University, the University of Texas and Kent State University.

The third aspect of the ASNE project is the expansion of a Web site offering students and advisers access to professional journalists and other learning resources.

The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation will use a separate planning grant of $429,000 to draw heavily on the ASNE program to create a blueprint for the development of electronic media programs at high schools. The grant will allow RTNDF to build on existing research to assess the quality of radio, television, cable and Internet communication produced by high schools.

“This is an opportunity to capture the attention of people while they’re still young and demonstrate the value of journalism, not just as a career but as an important engine in our democracy,” said Carter. “High school journalism, like high school civics, can be an invaluable introduction to the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a free society.”

Said Tim J. McGuire, 2001-02 president of ASNE and editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “ASNE members have enthusiastically embraced this large-scale effort to revitalize scholastic journalism and nurture the next diverse generation of journalists.

“As the industry attempts to improve its diversity numbers, this effort to instill free-press values in high school students is crucial to our effort to get more high quality people into the newspaper job pipeline,” McGuire said.

“High school is the single most important point for generating interest in journalism as a career, particularly participation on a high school newspaper,” said Susan Bischoff, 2001-02 chair of ASNE’s Education for Journalism Committee and deputy managing editor of the Houston Chronicle.

The ASNE and RTNDF efforts top a slate of grants going to organizations working to re-energize high school journalism.

To address the consequences of school administrators restricting the flow of information in high school journalism, Knight made a $12,000 grant to help publish 40,000 copies of a revised booklet, The Principal’s Guide to High School Journalism. The Quill and Scroll Corp. booklet, which instructs high school administrators in the value of a free scholastic press, will be mailed to junior, middle and high school administrators around the country.

Knight has also provided $150,000 to support an effort to encourage women and minority students to enter journalism and increase newsroom diversity. The three-year grant to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., will help create the J-Zone — a multicultural, multimedia, immersion journalism camp for minority youth. The project will recruit young women and people of color from Twin Cities’ urban high schools who demonstrate an aptitude for and interest in journalism.

Knight has also funded The Media and American Democracy, a related program jointly operated by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and the Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.

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