Yesterday, I dropped in on the news and podcasting program The LAMP is doing with the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) in Brooklyn, and though it was just the second meeting of the seven-week series, these middle-school students were already casting themselves as gatekeepers and reporters.
Before students begin creating their own news podcasts, they have to think about what exactly news is, and what gets reported. These may seem like basic questions at first, but as the students learned, reporting choices are rarely easy. In the situation presented by workshop facilitators Nicole and Sinéad, the students broke up into groups and assumed the roles of news anchor, producer and reporter from a local news station, which also happens to receive $2 million in funding from McDonald’s. Each group had to choose four out of five available stories to report, and determine the order in which the stories would be reported. The stories ran the gamut from hard news (people die from food poisoning after eating at a local McDonald’s, a community center closes due to lack of funds, a snowstorm threatens city schools and businesses) to warm-and-fuzzy (Mayor de Blasio honors a woman from Red Hook for community service, the Knowles-Carter family stops by the Red Hook Houses).
One group omitted the snow story because people are tired of hearing about snow, while another group omitted the McDonald’s story because the company provides money to the station. Still another group chose to run the McDonald’s story first, because regardless of their sponsorship, the story is in the public interest and people should know. Other groups found some of the stories uninteresting or just not newsworthy, but all of them learned that the choices about what gets reported to the public are often made by a handful of people who have to consider a variety of factors when putting together a broadcast.
Soon The LAMP and RHI students will go on a field trip and get behind the scenes of news production, and begin work on their own news podcasts about stories that matter to them. I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for their creations – and hoping that, by the end of March, snowstorms will be old news. Cabin fever is hitting these students hard, and they are clearly ready to get out and get making!
– Emily Long