Encourage students to cover political issues and other topics that effect us all

header_potholeI nearly choked on a tortilla this past December when a friend explained she didn’t follow politics or (what she calls) serious Journalism.

Once I was able to dislodge the object from my throat, and catch my breath, I could only say, “What!?”

She continued to explain that she honestly doesn’t care about all that nonsense. The news is depressing. Journalists and the Government can’t be trusted. We just all need to live and let live.

I listened in disbelief. I found myself (once again) faced with the fact that too many people in our country are apathetic to what’s happening. They often think Government, or the reporters who cover it, do not matter to them.

As we left the restaurant, she almost fell when her heel was caught in a pothole at the crosswalk.

I am sure that you, the reader, can imagine what she said next.

“Someone should fix that!”

I remembered words the veteran MissouriNet reporter and author, Bob Priddy, shared, as well as other great Journalists I have heard speak about the importance of following “serious” Journalism and politics. I remembered the Fourth Estate.

I can’t remember my exact words to her as we walked to my car, but I can summarize as best as possible, and hopefully make it applicable to my fellow Journalism teachers.

Why should our students care about serious Journalism and covering Politics, aka our Government?

The quality of the air we breathe, food we eat, roads we travel, education we receive, water we drink, and the lives we live are all in the hands of the people we elect and the Government agencies that oversee such matters.

Think that doesn’t hit close to home? Look at the current water crisis in Flint, MI.

The more we explain and model for our students that it is important they, as serious journalists, cover political issues and how those issues impact all of us, they may become adults who don’t just say, “Someone should fix that!” They can be adults who will fix that, by shining a light on the truth that some of our elected officials would rather sweep under a rug.

Not sure where to start? Here are just a few suggestions. Maybe your students can blog about them, or create a full online package. If they do, please share their work with us JEA Digital Media.

  • Examine the Pro’s and Con’s of Obamacare. I know there are students and families out there who love it, while others hate it.
  • How clean is your town’s drinking water? Anyone having issues with it? Who is responsible? Does your town use certain chemicals in the water that may shock people?
  • Who are your school board members? How do they stand on issues that matter to students? How often are they in the building to witness the daily activities of the students? Does your board have a student representative? If so, just how much input do they have?
  • Voting. How many of your high school’s 18-year-olds are registered to vote? How seriously do they take voting? Do they realize that Millenials now outnumber Baby Boomers? That’s a lot of power!
  • Where do your students stand on reproductive rights? Do you have students on one side, versus the other? Depending on the make up of your community, some schools out there may offer free contraceptives, while others hardly mention the word sex in Health class.
  • Just like above, the same can be said for Gun Control. What laws does your state have? How do your students feel about guns? Are you in an area that deals with gun violence regularly, or in an area where guns are simply used for hunting and enjoyment? What do your local officials have to say about the issue?
  • While we are at it, what about protecting student journalists? That’s a great topic to cover. Where does your school stand on free speech? How about your state? Any new bills introduced in your state capitol or new policies concerning free speech your school board is looking into?

Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner is an award-winning Broadcast and Photography Instructor at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri. She has advised Blue Jay Journal TV since 1998. Michelle is the 2015 MIPA Missouri High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Journalism Education Association’s National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. As a speaker, author and educator, Michelle encourages students to find meaningful stories and practice ethical journalism while never forgetting to make a connection with their intended audience.

Michelle Turner has 20 posts and counting. See all posts by Michelle Turner

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