Junior Journalists

Mustard Seed kids soak it all in

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Photos by Emma Healey

When Emma Healy emailed me about bringing her fourth and fifth graders to the Hudson Reporter to learn about journalism, I was thrilled. We never pass up an opportunity to teach kids about the very rewarding—and increasingly necessary—career of journalism.

“Our students are beginning to learn about newspapers and how to write articles,” Ms. Healey wrote. “We’d like a tour of the inner workings of a how a newspaper is made and written.”

She went on to say, “We are ending our Expository Writing Unit by writing a newspaper article about a notable New Jersey subject, which they are researching in STEAM. This is the first time our students are writing their own articles, as we usually end with an expository essay. Some students are writing their own newspaper articles during their own free time.”

I asked Ms. Healey how many kids would be coming. Fifty-six? Yikes, there is no way our small staff could handle such a big crowd on a day when we are producing our newspapers, so I offered to visit her class.

Am I glad I did. What an experience.

We’re at the Mustard Seed School, where words like planting, sprouting, blossoming, and growing describe how teacher/gardeners cultivate a love of learning.

Ms. Healy was joined by two other teachers and their students, Ms. Kat Jonker and Ms. Melissa McCallahan. All the students were ages 10 and 11.

We had a lively discussion about what news is, how you find it, who produces it, the difference between newspapers and magazines; fact and opinion.

They asked about people who are near and dear to their hearts like athletes and musicians. Sports, of course, is an important entrée into the news, which is why in the old days, it was usually on the back page, so folks in subway cars could read the latest scores on the paper of the straphanger sitting across from them.

Musicians and celebrities represent a sizeable sector of the news business. One student asked me if I know Ariana Grande. Sadly, I had to admit that I did not but that she would make a great interview. She was in the headlines two years ago with the awful shooting at her concert in Manchester, England.

Lately in the news we’ve seen how celebrity, crime, and politics often intersect. (College-entrance scandal, anyone?)

These students had obviously been following the news on one of the many platforms available to twenty-first century citizens. A recurring topic among the kids was so-called “fake news.”

When journalists are doing the important job of being journalists, there is no such thing as fake news.  We certainly don’t practice it here. In fact, the Hudson Reporter recently won the top award from the Garden State Journalists Association for our story, “The Truth About Fake News.”

I asked the students what would happen if there were no reporters, no journalists, no writers, no photographers, no news outlets; in short, no free press.

One girl answered, “We wouldn’t know.”

Yes, we would be in the dark, which is a dangerous place to be for citizens who want to protect their rights and freedoms in a democratic society.

They asked a lot of personal questions: Why did I choose this career? How long have I been a journalist? (You never ask a lady her age.) Do I like my job?

Some of the kids said they might want to be journalists. One boy decidedly did not. He thought it was too boring. Which is fine. Journalism isn’t for everyone, just like medicine and the bassoon aren’t for everyone. So let’s be grateful that we have people who love being physicians, and people who love playing the bassoon.

So, do I like my job?

No, I love my job.

Dr. Patricia McGeehan, former superintendent of schools in Bayonne, was fond of saying that if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life.

My hope for these bright, eager, joyful kids is that they will never have to work a day in their lives.—07030