Last month, the University of Montana hosted a journalism seminar for high school students from Fairfield, Choteau, and Augusta at Stage Stop Inn.
The speakers present at the seminar were Nadia White and Courtney Cowgill. White is a writing and online editor, as well as a professor and director of the graduate program at the Montana school of journalism, specializing in environmental journalism. Cowgill is also a professor at the school of journalism, and the director of media engagement there.
The professors started by talking about the “five W’s and the H”. The five W’s and the H in journalism stand for the most basic questions in journalism, being Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These are the questions that are asked in journalism for any article.
The main points of journalism presented are truth and accuracy, commitment to the public good, objectivity, and independence. The professors then went more in depth as to how to practice journalism, as well as saying that having good news judgement is important in order to know what kinds of journalism communities, society, and democracy need to function.
The presentation stated that the overall purpose of journalism is to hold the powerful accountable, give a voice to the voiceless, keep citizens informed, and help society understand itself. Journalism’s basic definition, which varies from its purpose, is considered media that matters.
White considers explaining change and fostering important discussions to be the most important things in this field. White quotes that journalism, “borrows the authority of the speaker”. Cowgill considers the most important thing in journalism to be news that is vital to the community.
The speakers also emphasized the importance of fact finding, explaining where to find facts; which would be in sources like documents, organizations, studies, and dates, as well as finding and talking to people.
Cowgill encouraged students to be curious enough to look for stories and think of questions in their everyday lives. She recommends doing homework on the person being interviewed, be relaxed during the interview, and start with basic questions, but keep them open ended.
“The news hook: What is a place that matters to you and why?” was presented to practice the skills mentioned above. Students had to answer this question by interviewing their peers to make a story using what skills they have learned from the presentation so far. Adults and students in the room both took part in this. After interviewing others, students then swapped notes a few rows of seats over, which paired students from different schools whom they did not know. From there, they split into groups of five to come up each with a made-up story and picture to present to the entire group in order to build a front page as a whole.
The presentation ended on the recommendation that anyone interested in pursuing journalism, whether they are going in state or out of state, should attend journalism days in April that will be hosted by the School of Journalism that the University of Montana, where they will have a showing of all of the journalism classes available, and give out high school journalism awards and scholarships to students.