“I receive a significant amount of joy and happiness every time I get the chance to tell a new story.”
These are the thoughts of an excited Jailen Leavell, a junior at Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School, one among 20 talented middle and high school storytellers from 11 states selected for summer internships at PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C.
Supported by a grant from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, KET has been working on video production techniques with Jailen and other students at Pleasure Ridge Park as well as at Elizabethtown’s Central Hardin and John Hardin high schools. Students who participate in the project learn how to think critically, problem-solve, synthesize information and investigate important topics.
Now, as a fellow for the PBS Summer Student Reporting Academy, Leavell will be further mentored by public media professionals and given the opportunity to sharpen his journalism and production skills by producing original digital content. “I’m interested in all three components of journalism: videography, producing, and writing. I never want to limit myself, I want to be well rounded for my future,” he said.
In addition to hands-on production experiences, the interns will also have opportunities to contribute as PBS staff develops strategies to engage young people in news and current affairs.
For Leavell and the other young journalists in Louisville and Elizabethtown who have been participating in the Student Reporting Labs, the experience has been enlightening. They reported on how their peers view racial tensions in their own communities and how young people are breaking down gender stereotypes, contributing their stories to the NewsHour’s broadcast and digital platforms.
“A couple months ago I had the opportunity to produce a story on a Louisville male teen,” Leavell recalled. “He was a fashion designer, and he expressed to us how it isn’t the norm for young men to design women’s clothing. But he holds his head high and doesn’t even acknowledge the negative comments he sometimes receives.”
The Student Reporting Lab curriculum, developed in partnership with the Media Education Lab of Temple University as well as media professionals and high school teachers, is divided into three flexible units with a total of 10 lesson plans aimed at strengthening digital and news literacy competencies.
Along with technical instruction on the use of cameras and editing equipment, the Student Reporting Labs also focus on the role of journalism in society and developing broader communication skills, including listening, asking questions, public speaking, and finding, analyzing and evaluating the quality of information.
Digital technologies have democratized journalism, giving anyone with a smart device the tools to instantly record, edit and share video and texts about events. But Leavell believes it’s important to keep one foot firmly rooted in traditional media. “I feel Citizen Journalism is very important when appropriate and on the right occasion. I will always support and enjoy the traditional forms of journalism, though, as it’s important that the public always has a trustworthy news organization to look to for accurate and balanced news.”
In November 2014, KET hosted 42 students and six teachers from Pleasure Ridge Park, John Hardin and Central Hardin High schools for a day of workshops and presentations on effective interviewing techniques, production planning, video production, and green-screen technologies. Students heard from Bill Goodman, host and managing editor of KET’s Kentucky Tonight program, Connections host and legislative affairs reporter Renee Shaw, and other members of the KET production staff.
Student Reporting Labs is a part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative helping communities improve education opportunities for all students and build the next generation of skilled graduates.
The Reporting Labs are made possible by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Science Foundation.