The journalism program at University High School is based on learning by experience and self-discovery, appropriate for a school with its roots in the work of John Dewey. After introductory units involving self-discovery, surveys, and practice exercises, students largely learn about journalism and mass media by being journalists who produce their own student publications.
Many students come to journalism for the writing experience it offers, although journalism at University High School is not conceived of as a writing program but a communications program. The most intensive experience in learning-by-doing probably does occur in the area of writing as each student rewrites each story several times before it is published and as student editors coach the work of reporters. The rewriting process can be tedious and frustrating, but it is a creative process, with the finished result born through numerous tiny steps of rethinking, reevaluation and re-creation. The fact that students work together in developing stories enriches the creative experience, and makes teachers of students. In journalism, consequently, many students who feel (or have been told) they are weak writers find new confidence and discover talents they did not know they have.
But journalism is more than writing. It is also page design, photo and art direction, construction of the publication through computer programs and the interaction of observation, emotion, the written word and visual messages. And it is the creation of a finished public product pulled together for a specific, unforgiving deadline often under hectic circumstances demanding efficient and cooperative large group work respectful of individual talents and decisions.
Journalism at University High
In class, challenges and dilemmas encountered in the publishing experience are related to mass media possibilities and problems. The media and current events become topics of class attention as developments dictate. Class discussions are devoted to media treatment of large or sensitive developments, to media personalities and to issues such as equitable gender treatment and hiring in media. The news indeed often determines class content.
In introductory units, accurate and economical note-taking is taught, so even before students go to work on publications they are gaining experience in taking notes and achieving a writing style.
Field trips and guest speakers add to the journalistic experience.
In addition to writing, students may enroll in Photojournalism. Here they will experience the role of a newspaper photographer. Photographers work in a team setting to produce photographs for the student newspaper, The Midway, and yearbook, U-Highlights. Emphasis on developing creative and imaginative approaches to picturing the gamut of school life encourages individual photographer achievement within a cooperative though sometimes demanding group effort. Several times in recent years students in this program have received First in Nation honors for photos in The Midway and U-Highlights.
Students evaluate their work regularly to receive a grade. The evaluation and grading process are kept as simple as possible. The stress is on learning and achievement.