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Letter: Marking scholastic journalism week

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 9:27 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

As a retired high school journalism teacher, I was delighted to read the Daily Chronicle’s coverage of journalism/newspaper programs in DeKalb and Sycamore (“Youthful Passion for News,” Feb. 4). 

As a resident and a citizen, I’m even more thrilled to know that getting the story and getting it right, along with learning to write and think critically on behalf of readers, are responsibilities that continue to excite students of all ages and backgrounds in our schools.

With the pervasiveness of news media outlets in print, broadcast and on the Internet, we need well-educated, well-trained journalists now more than ever. 

With digital access everywhere in their lives, young people need coursework that increases their knowledge of First Amendment rights and responsibilities, privacy, libel and obscenity principles. Above all, every student must learn to distinguish fact from opinion and to think critically and logically. 

A good journalism curriculum and a strong student newspaper provide students with these thinking strategies and skills, along with a host of other benefits, not the least of which is the invaluable on-the-job experience that interviewing, reporting, writing, designing and photojournalism offer young people. 

I can’t think of a better way to develop good critical thinkers and problem-solvers than by making sure every high school has a strong journalism program and an equally strong student newspaper.

My 30-plus years of teaching journalism and advising Kaneland High School’s newspaper taught me that such programs ebb and flow with the times and with the dictates of graduation requirements, educational trends, and economic and political realities. I also learned that teens are incredibly resourceful: Our newspaper staff and journalism students determinedly found creative ways to make the most of their situation, just as the young journalists at DeKalb and Sycamore high schools are doing now. 

My personal experience likewise tells me that journalism programs flourish with the support of the community, teaching staff, administration, and, of course, the professional press.

The third week of February is set aside each year by the Journalism Education Association for Scholastic Journalism Week, a time to celebrate student journalists and their efforts. 

Let’s applaud our dedicated student journalists and their equally persistent teachers who fight to keep the First Amendment alive in their school buildings, their community and the world at large.

Laurie Erdmann


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