What I learned in high school

I recently led a series of journalism workshops at Raleigh Charter High School. I was on the campus in downtown Raleigh, N.C., on the school’s “flex days,” in which students get a chance to dive deeply into various topics.

I have worked with high school journalists before, but never on their campus. And these groups included students who don’t necessarily want to be reporters or editors. My audience was the entire junior class, split over four meetings on two successive Fridays.

My presentation consisted of two parts: one about the rights and responsibilities of a free media, and another about how journalists report and edit the news. The number of students for each session ranged from 25 to more than 40.

As with my teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill, I learned at least as much in my visits as the students did. Here are some of my observations:

  • Nearly every student is on Facebook; only a few are on Twitter.
  • Facebook is a significant news source. Several students said that they used it on snowy mornings to see whether school would be closed.
  • Other news sources, in order of frequency mentioned: cable TV, websites, newspapers, local TV news, radio such as NPR, and magazines.
  • Their classmates are a news source in face-to-face situations. One student mentioned his friend Brandon: “He tells me everything that I need to know about what is going on.”
  • Most of them dislike celebrity news.
  • Their news judgment is different from that of newspaper editors. For example, the students thought that the recent news about the beef content of Taco Bell meals should have been on the front page. (It appeared in the business section of The News & Observer.)
  • They are aware of how word choice and news judgment can shape how the public perceives an event or issue.
  • They are bright, lively and engaged in their communities.

Overall, it was an enlightening experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about journalism with the students at Raleigh Charter High School. Special thanks to teachers Sera Arcaro and and Becky Schmitz for their hospitality.

For more about  journalism in grades K-12, check out the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association.



  1. Boy, high schools have really changed since I graduated. Cue Paul Simon, “when I look back at all the things I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” Paul and I graduated the same year, but not from the same school.

    Great work, Andy, and to the faculty and students of Raleigh Charter High School. This sound like a genuine learning experience.

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