Starting off the Year with Leadership and Media Lit Training

This year, my main goal for for a high school journalism class doesn’t have anything to do with journalism.

My main goal is to train the editors of The Little Hawk how to be leaders and consumers of media. Last year, I was struck by how many students hadn’t been taught anything about how to get news online and spot fake news.  My other observation at the end of last year was that many of my top level students hadn’t been taught how to be leaders.

Over the summer, while living the #journalismcamplife I had a few late night discussions with top journalism teachers about leadership training. To my surprise many of them had switched away from lessons on ledes and quote format and are now teaching more about leadership.  Also, I read Master the Media by Julie Smith that is now the JEA One Book and has a wide variety of media literacy resources that are very practical for high school teachers.  JEA One Book also has a Facebook group dedicated to discussing media literacy and the ideas from the book.

In the past, I have used resources and activities surrounding open and closed groups to try and build teams. They worked to encourage communication, knowing each other, common goals, team bonding, and all the things you have probably heard before. The main difference this year is that I am telling the editors that I am training or trying to get them to be leaders and what that means.

Leaders from what I have learned don’t make the following mistakes.

  1. Leaders don’t tell people what to do or boss people around
  2. Do less work than the staff
  3. Act like they know everything and condescend to younger staff members
  4. Ignore everyone in the class and work on their own projects
  5. Don’t know the names of staff members
  6. Miss deadlines – set unrealistic goals or give unrealistic assignments
  7. Come unprepared to class or work on other work during class
  8. Expect different treatment than other staff members
  9. Are not open to other people’s ideas
  10. Are disrespectful

There is probably a longer list of what not to do, but I will keep it at ten. The other main job of a leader is to inspire. Inspiration in journalism class comes from reading the news in print and online. The best journalists are voracious readers and don’t just read publications for enjoyment, but read them to try and write and design like the professional journalists.

To do this young journalists need to understand the “media”. They know how to find the best stories on their phones, computers and local coffee shops. Most of the time they find their inspiration for free too.

Sadly, most teenagers haven’t been able to access the amazing amount of free content. To get them rolling on getting and sharing content I have students create custom Google News and Apple News feeds as well as Flipboard Smart Magazines and Custom News sources. To save and share them we use Google Docs with tons of links and and Flipboard Mags of inspiration. To evaluate sources of information I have also recommended checking to see if it has a liberal and conservative bias. If they think an article might be “Fake” then a simple Google search of related articles will usually provide information on whether it is bogus or not. is also a recommended resource for spotting fake news. My main mantra is that it doesn’t matter where you get your news as long as you know where you are getting your news. That and students are always asking, “Where did this story come from and how reliable of source is it?”.  In my Foundations of Journalism course we are also using the free Checkology blended learning online course endorsed by the News Literacy Institute.

Right now, we are a few weeks in to Leadership and Media Lit training. Safe to say none of the lessons are a fool proof path to greatness or that we have totally mastered the new digital media world, but the student reaction has been positive. It is safe to say they want to be leaders and they want the “real” news.

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