A group of New York teens tried their hands at reporting recently during a free three-day workshop with The New York Times.
The 14 local teens -- 12 from Brooklyn and two from Queens -- gathered at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., July 25-27 to learn about modern-day journalism and report for the The Local, a collaboration between the New York Times and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.
IJNet asked one of The Local's editors, Indrani Sen, about the project and tips for working with volunteer reporters.
IJNet: What was an average day like during the workshop?
Indrani Sen: We spent the first day focusing on basic journalistic values and practice. We talked about the elements of a news story -- ledes, nut grafs, quotes, etc. On the second day...the students went out on a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, where they had to find and photograph items from a list. The third day started out with another assignment for The Local -- the teenagers met in Fort Greene Park to shoot video of a concert for toddlers that was happening there that morning. Over lunch, the teens met Mary Ann Giordano, a New York Times editor and founder of newspaper's Local blogs, and Jere Hester, a former city editor for The Daily News and the editor of CUNY's New York City News Service.
IJNet: What tools did participants use when taking photos and video?
IS: We just used basic point-and-shoot Canon cameras, with memory cards that gave them enough space to shoot a few minutes of footage. We encouraged those that had smart phones or their own digital cameras to use those, so that they could start getting used to thinking of their own electronic devices as tools for journalism.
IJNet: How big of a role did New York's same-sex marriage ruling play in the program?
IS: The teenagers themselves came up with the question that we asked for the man-on-the-street article: “How does same-sex marriage affect your community?” and “How does same-sex marriage affect you?”
The first same-sex marriages in the state had happened just the day before the workshop, so when we brainstormed questions to ask based on recent news stories, it wasn't surprising that the topic came up. We weren't intent on them choosing same-sex marriage -- it just happened to be a timely story. The idea is to find current, ongoing stories to report on.
IJNet: Does The Local plan to hold this workshop again in the future?
IS: Yes, we try to run several over the summer, for teen and adult contributors, and we work with our contributors on a one-on-one basis constantly.
IJNet: Do you have any advice for people who work with, or are working as, citizen journalists?
IS: I think the most important thing to do when working with contributors, whether they are adults or teenagers, is follow-up. Especially when contributors aren't getting paid for their work, the personal attention that you as an editor give them -- checking in regularly, asking them how that story is going or what else they'd like to take on and thoughtfully editing their work -- shows them that you care about their contributions and helps improve their work.