WHY journalism?

Taking a journalistic approach to dissecting all content can be very powerful. Before starting to do that, it's useful to know what real journalism is supposed to be.
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[For teenagers and older]

The film Spotlight gives a slightly fictionalized account of how the Boston Globe in the 1980s revealed massive hidden cases of priests who got away with sexually abusing teenagers and children for decades with the complicity of the Catholic church.

Allan Miller, CEO of the News Literacy Project gives a good explanation of why why it's useful in explaining how journalism is important anywhere:

"[Spotlight] brought attention to journalism’s watchdog role — holding the powerful accountable — and the importance of a local newspaper to its community at a time when journalism was increasingly under fire and many local publications were failing. It portrayed the reporters and editors as heroic, though fallible, and reflected the essential role of principled sources and courageous victims to bring vital, if excruciatingly painful, truths to light."

The movie is also a gripping story and quality entertainment, winning film awards in Canada, Italy, the UK and the United States.



Available through many streaming services, including YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies, Netflix.

THE CLIMATE CASE - When good journalism
does more than the reporting THE PROBLEM

Good journalists argue frequently about the extent to which their role should stop -- or not -- at describing what is going on. On the topic of climate, the there is a more frequent willingness to go beyond basic reporting to look at solutions and even campaign for change. Here are two cases in which news organizations in India and Poland successfully campaigned to fix an environmental problem.

CASE 1 - Clearing the air for India's worst-polluted city

India's Dainik Jagran used a combination of reporting and an accompanying campaign that included students to persuade the authorities in the suffocating city, Lucknow, the city with the world's fourth worst air quality, to take action that significantly reduced air pollution.



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DOONESBURY © (1990) G.B. Trudeau. Used by permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

Reporter Jahd Khalil connects from his base in Cairo, Egypt, to speak with Jack London Middle School 12-year-olds. Image courtesy of Tracy Crowley. United States, 2018 ©.Pulitzer Center

Spending time with a journalist offers a first-hand look at how newsgathering really works and also help the  journalist involved learn about the interests and needs of youth as a news audience.

There are lots of ways to do this virtually.


√ The Pulitzer Center (USA) can offer an array journalists, especially photojournalists and environment reporters, who donate their time for such encounters.

√ Organizations in several countries also help arrange face-to-face encounters.


In Belgium, Germany and Austria, Lie Detectors sends journalists into class also to teach 10- to 15-year-olds how to fact check.


For more than 20 years, the Belgian journalists association (AJP) has organized journalist volunteers to speak with students, up to 10 000 each year, about how news works. AJP in cooperation with the CSEM ministry, provides the journalists with a guide (in French) with tips for making such visits a success and materials for teachers to prepare for the visits.


In France, exiled journalists affiliated with the Maison des Journalist often visit school classes. [For details, see Threats to Journalists]

The trick is for both the journalist and the audience is to be prepared. The journalist needs to have more than disconnected war stories of exploits and preachy platitudes about freedom of the press. WAN-IFRA created a guide (based on the earlier Finnish Newspapers Association edition) to help journalists avoid those pitfalls. It's a bit dated, but still better than nothing. The people meeting the journalist should have at least explored that journalist's work (the organization's entire news feed if it is an editor or producer).

If no journalist is available for a face-to-face or virtual discussion, students can use recorded interviews as a start:

In Australia, journalism students at UTS (the University of Technology, Sydney)  interview for podcasts some of that country's major reporters and editors about how they do their jobs and about controversies in journalism. (Unfortunately, there is no transcript.)

In the United Kingdom, Represent provides print question-and-answer interviews with nine journalists in a wide variety of jobs..



Teenagers played a journalistic role during the murder by a police office of a Black man and and the demonstrations that followed.


Janis Schachter, a former journalist and news literacy teacher at North Port High School (USA) provides activities based on those two cases to explore the risks journalists take to get information and to reflect on the importance of that information.



Janis Schachter has been a reporter and editor for The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), and at Newsday (Long Island, New York). She now teaches News Literacy at Northport High School Northport, NY

"I teach News Literacy to help students navigate the overload of information coming at them every day on their smartphones. To recognize reliable information, they need to understand what good journalists do to make sure their stories are as accurate as possible. Understanding what journalists do also means recognizing and appreciating the risks they sometimes take to get us information that powerful people would rather we not see."