The News Literacy Project Brings Students to Newsrooms in New York and Chicago

Not only is the News Literacy Project bringing journalists to students in schools, it’s increasingly bringing students to the journalists in their newsrooms.

Students participating in the project visited four newsrooms in New York and Chicago in the past two months, bringing the total number of such field trips in the two cities to 10 for 2011.

A group of 14 high school seniors from Cristo Rey New York High School visited “60 Minutes” in New York on Dec. 13. The students met with Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes.” He discussed the news magazine format and shared a compilation of interviews and reports from the last three years of “60 Minutes.”

The group was then joined by “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl for a question-and-answer session. Stahl also offered advice to the students — all of whom are producing news articles for their NLP unit final projects — and taught them the importance of structuring a story the way they might tell it to friends or family.

The previous week, 10 high school juniors from the Cinema School in the Bronx visited the NBC News studios in New York. The students, members of the newly formed newspaper club “The Reel News,” held a question-and-answer session with senior vice president Alexandra Wallace and two senior producers, Robert Dembo and Marian Porges. The students also watched a taping of the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” from the studio control room and were given a tour.

In Chicago, 18 student journalists from Northside College Preparatory High School’s journalism class visited the Chicago bureau of the Associated Press on Nov. 1 for a day of news literacy and journalism workshops. The class, which also comprises the staff of the school newspaper, The HoofBeat, received news literacy lessons from David Scott, the AP’s central region editor, and Anna Johnson, assistant central editor. The group was then joined by editors Tom McCarthy and Tim Sundheim for a discussion about news selection, ethics and the Freedom of Information Act.

This is the second year that the News Literacy Project has arranged a field trip to the AP bureau for Northside student journalists.

A journalism class from the Chicago Military Academy in Bronzeville visited the Chicago Sun-Times on Nov. 16. This group of 22, which produces the Bronzeville Star, had two sessions with Sun-Times journalists. The first, with investigative reporter Chris Fusco, explored the role that his form of journalism plays in citizens’ daily lives. Fusco walked the students through some of his recent reporting, including an extensive investigation of handicapped parking placard fraud in Chicago. Metro editor Paul Saltzman created a display highlighting 10 significant stories from his career, both at the Sun-Times and at The Miami Herald, and discussed the outcomes of some of them.

Five other NLP student groups visited news organizations earlier in the year. In March, NLP students in Chicago spent time at the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and the South Side bureau of public radio station WBEZ. That same month, an NLP group in New York visited ABC News to watch a production of the weekend edition of “Good Morning America.” In July, a group of students in a Chicago Park District summer program visited the South Side bureau of WBEZ, and in August a group of 7th-graders from Mt. Vernon Elementary School visited the Chicago Tribune.

Overall, the News Literacy Project brought more than 170 students — more than half of them student journalists — into professional newsrooms in 2011. These opportunities for lessons, tours and discussions about journalism in the field are a compelling way to advance NLP’s mission. The project looks forward to expanding such opportunities in 2012 through the use of “virtual” visits online as well as in-person visits.