BY ROGER RUTHHART, retired editor at The Dispatch-The Rock Island Argus, NINA BOARD member
Two professionals with long-time NINA ties presented interesting and informative programs at the recent annual convention of the Northern Illinois Scholastic Press Association, the umbrella group for high school student journalists and advisers, held in April at the College of DuPage.
The convention was attended by 363 newspaper students, 187 yearbook students and 56 advisers.
Programs filled the morning and awards were presented in the afternoon. In his closing remarks, Dennis Brown, NIPSA president from Huntley High School, emphasized the importance of the meeting.
“In a time when journalism has come under so much fire in our country, it was so great to see so many enthusiastic, passionate students who understand the importance of quality journalism to our society,” he said.
NINA board member Roger Ruthhart, retired editor at The Dispatch-The Rock Island Argus, presented programs on “Great Career Opportunities for Future Journalists” and an in-depth dive into ethics and fake news in “Lessons for Journalists and News Consumers from the Washington Post / Veritas Dust Up.”
“Students are always interested in the career discussion from a variety of angles since not all are really interested in careers in journalism. But the inquiring ones are still on a quest for knowledge about the many ways their futures may play out. I stress that this is something you can do full-time as a profession or part-time out of love. Either way, the skills you acquire in studying to be a journalist have excellent applications in a variety of other professions” Ruthhart said.
“The discussions about the multi-faceted showdown between the Washington Post and Veritas also really piqued their interest, mostly as news consumers. But there was a good discussion about the importance in providing balance and fact-based reporting by professional journalists and one student offered good questions about how she could expect and enforce that as a copy editor at her school paper.”
Former NINA board member Stan Zoller, journalism lecturer at Lake Forest College and president-elect of the Chicago Headline Club, also addressed topical issues with students. His program “Beyond the Headlines: Engaging the News and Civic Activity” addressed the fundamentals and importance of news literacy and identifying fake news.
“The session was generally well-received as students seemed interested in the formulas to deconstruction and their applications when both reporting and reading the news,” said Zoller.
The other was “Dropping the Journalistic F-bomb: Tips on How to Use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)”.
“This is my favorite as a self-proclaimed FOI junkie. This is always well-received because students generally are not aware of the information that is available, but not provided to them. They are also amazed how the process works,” he explained.
“The reaction is always stronger for the FOIA presentation because it is something tangible the students can do. I often get follow-up emails from students and advisers with questions about using the FOIA. Unfortunately, I also hear about the fear factor teachers have if they use it — fear of discipline. Seriously,” said Zoller.
“News Literacy is, I hope, something they can take back to their student newsrooms and practice. It’s a strong re-enforcement of the fundamentals they should be learning.”