Make a difference by getting involved in classrooms

I touch the future – I teach.

That slogan has adorned many T-shirts around the country for years. Now, professional journalists have the opportunity to touch the future by signing up as a guest speaker under #Press4Education.

This year, SPJ President Rebecca Baker made getting professional journalists into K-12 classrooms a priority of her leadership. In 2014, the Journalism Education Committee’s survey of the country’s high school journalism teachers found 56 percent said they receive no assistance from professionals. In the same survey, 53 percent said they receive no assistance from college and university journalism programs.

The SPJ J-Ed Committee has wanted to change these numbers, and Baker gave us the green light.

“I’ve already spoken to more than 100 high school students across New York City,” Baker said. “These young people not only were eager to understand what journalists do, but also how and why they do it. Any journalist who participates in #Press4Education will help the next generation become better informed citizens.”

For the past four months, the committee has been developing the plan, creating PowerPoints and lessons, working with the Journalism Education Association and others to create a system to match teachers with professionals for conversations about news. As JEA President Sarah Nichols explained: Teachers want journalists in their classrooms. We in the J-Ed Committee wanted to make it easy for the journalists to help.

So, how can you help? It is easy.

Fill out the application form on the SPJ website and submit it. You will have several topics from which to choose: media literacy/identifying fake news; reporting basics; media law; media ethics; editing; online reporting; broadcast journalism; visual journalism; data journalism, and social media.

Members of the committee will pair you with a teacher either directly in their local classroom, or you may be asked to Skype or Zoom a meeting with a class. You will be given tools to help you with the presentation, usually a PowerPoint and notes, plus a sheet giving tips on how to prepare for a classroom visit.

Once you finish, please report the event on your social media. Please use the hashtag #Press4Education so we can keep track. Baker said she would like 100 classroom visits this year. Personally, I think we can do many more because I know the demand is there from the teachers.

“The Journalism Education Association is thrilled to be part of SPJ’s #Press4Education initiative and connect teachers and their students with professional journalists,” Nichols said. “Our students are among the best and brightest, and more than ever we need them to go out and pursue careers in journalism. What better way to nurture that interest and provide authentic connections than from industry professionals directly.”

As for the committee? Beyond all the work involved, each of us is hopeful this will lead to a renewed commitment for journalism education in this country as well as an improved understanding of our profession.

For more information about #Press4Education, please contact me. I’m more than happy to help you start making your own connections with the future.


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