Small Group Inquiry: The Appropriate Role of Instruction and Production in a Journalism Classroom

Alexis Bunka, Jesse McLean, Sandi Stupica, Jeremy Whiting

Our group is looking at the balance between instruction and production in a journalism classroom. We will be looking at different types of classrooms, including newspaper, yearbook and broadcast. To get an idea of how to find this balance, we will be interviewing journalism teachers throughout Michigan. We have already contacted Lydia Cadena, a newspaper and yearbook teacher from Novi High School. We also plan to talk with Pam Bunka, a newspaper and yearbook teacher from Fenton High School. Pam is Alexis' mom, so we're assuming she will be really nice to us and give us good answers. If time permits, we also want to talk with Chad Sanders from Lansing Everett High School and Roger Smith of Lake Orion High School. Chad is a newspaper teacher and Roger is a broadcasting teacher.

Our final deliverable will be a wiki, containing a blog of our experiences from these interviews, analysis, and video of the interviews themselves. The link will be posted soon!

Resources we've created:

Journalism Ning

- Our Ning features our video interviews with experienced Journalism advisers in the field.

Journalism Library Thing

- Our Library Thing features what we believe to be the most important instructional and informational texts to use with Journalism classes.

annotated bib

Journalism/ English SGI
Jesse McLean, Alexis Bunka, Sandi Stupica, Jeremy Whiting
Oct. 27, 2008
Primary sources

Julie Price
(517) 420-8391

Julie is a journalism, newspaper and photography teacher at Haslett High School in Haslett, Michigan. She is in the enviable position of having a newspaper class that is fed by a beginning journalism class. Haslett also has a strong photography program, including traditional darkroom instruction. Students from the journalism and photo classes make it into the newspaper and yearbook classes at the school. Julie also is the Newspaper Chair for the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. She has been involved with the organization for many years, and teaches new advisers about photojournalism at the MIPA summer adviser workshop. Students from Julie’s program have won many state and national awards.

Lydia Cadena
Lydia is the adviser for both yearbook and newspaper at Novi High School. She has experience in working with diverse learners in both a journalism classroom and a social studies classroom. She also talked about the differences of teaching in a journalism classroom and a core studies classroom, acknowledging students learn differently in a hands-on approach. She has seen how students develop working one on one with each other rather in with a teacher being the main source of knowledge. In our interview we conducted with her, she gave good information about how teachers can be involved with organizations and have other advisers be mentors through your career. This interview allowed us to gain insight from an adviser’s perspective on issues in the classroom that we can bring back to our classmates and help relate how a journalism class works in an English classroom.

Pam Bunka
Pam is an adviser for both yearbook and newspaper at Fenton High School. She has experience in working in an English as well as journalism classroom. Because she not only teaches the two production classes, but also a basic computer course, which anyone can enroll in, she has experience working with different skill levels of students as well as disabled students. Bunka has experienced the change of technology with her students in the classroom. She is also the English department chair at the high school where she must keep in mind the different skill levels of all students when making curriculum and talking to the other teachers. She has also been a teacher at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer journalism workshop for high school students as well as many other workshops in the country where she has worked with different skill levels of students around the country.

Roger Smith
(248) 693-5420 ext. 6039

Roger is a broadcasting teacher at Lake Orion High School in Lake Orion, Michigan. He teaches a beginning broadcasting class (entitled “Broadcasting 1”), an advanced video class where they create things like short films and music videos (“Video Projects”) and an advanced application-based production class where they create a daily show for the entire school (“Television Production Workshop”). He has been teaching there for over 5 years now and says he has learned a lot over the years. He believes Journalism is great when applying to diverse learners and has implemented a lot of unique and interesting techniques into his program to cover the diversity of his students. One of the techniques he shared with us during our interview was an “A la carte” points system that he uses with his TPW class. Smith gave us some very good insights and advice for our futures as journalism teachers.

Secondary sources

Multicultural Journalism Education
In journalism classes, such as newspaper and yearbook, the consideration of students’ diversity and knowledge of other cultures is key for success. To conduct an effective interview or create a non-biased article is the result of various cultures interwoven into a classroom education. The article, “Multicultural Journalism Education in the Netherlands: a case study,” delves into how teachers can find a place for multicultural issues in their everyday practices. Even though the article reports research conducted in the Netherlands, it provides useful insight for any journalism instructor. For instance, it identifies three broad themes regarding multiculturalism and management of a program in journalism education: knowledge, representation, and responsibility. “Knowledge is concerned with what journalists know about different cultures and people.” Representation is how people are featured in the workplace, media content, and various other interactions. Responsibility focuses on how journalists can play different roles in the multicultural democratic society. Interweaving these three themes as well as suggested methodologies of the article allows teachers to give a deeper understanding of diversity and cultural interpretations.

Diversity Begins in J-School Classrooms
The article, “Punto Final!” Diversity in Newsrooms Begins in J-School Classroom,” provides the statistics for the startling lack of diversity in the profession of journalism. The author, Stave Malave, suggests that teachers should reflect the belief that minority students’ involvement is important in mass media. This is important to convey because people’s dominant perspectives will be perceived as the “reality” of our society. According to the article, the percentage of minorities represented in broadcast news includes: 8.9 percent Latinos, 10.3 percent African Americans, 2.2 percent Asian Americans, and .5 percent Native Americans. Contrastingly, 78.2 percent of Caucasians are involved in this field. These statistics do not differ much from the percentage of those involved in radio broadcasting. In the future, for communities to reflect an accurate depiction of the population, this diversity needs to be represented in the classroom.

Michigan Interscholastic Press Association

Michigan Interscholastic Press Association’s (also known as MIPA) website is a wonderful source of information, guidelines, and ideas for our project and journalism teachers in general. The organization (ran by Michigan State’s own, Cheryl Pell) offers tons of workshops and conferences throughout the year for both advisors and students and also holds contests for student’s work. The organization has truly become a staple in high achievement journalism programs around the state and offers a plentitude of useful information, advice and advancements for programs so it will function as somewhere to go to get ideas, gauge the usefulness of information we are giving to our peers, and so on.

Journalism Education Association

The Journalism Education Association is a national organization that provides resources for journalism educators and students. JEA’s Web site hosts many lesson plans for the basics of journalism, including writing, technology, design, photography and classroom management. These resources are great for the curriculum portion of a production class. Besides the online resources, the JEA also runs awards and contests for scholastic journalism to encourage students as they are learning and producing publications.

Planned Interviews:

  • Lydia Cadena -Novi yearbook & newspaper- Friday, October 10th
  • Pam Bunka - Fenton yearbook & newspaper - Friday, October 24th
  • Roger Smith - Lake Orion Television Production Workshop - (tentatively) Friday, November 7th
  • Julie Price - Haslett newspaper - TBA
  • Chad Sanders - Lansing Everett newspaper - TBA

Useful Sites:


Thoughts from 9/29/08:

After our discussion of texts with multiple voices in class this morning, our group brainstormed some ideas/thoughts/questions to consider while going further with our inquiry.
Some of those were:
  • Can we use multi-voiced text in a journalism class? If so, what kind?
  • If we do use multi-voiced texts how might that further their thinking in representing diverse thinking/learners?
  • What are current journalism teachers doing now with multi-voiced texts? (something we can ask when we go to visit with teachers)
  • How could having students read something like "Brimstone Journals" that we read in class today be useful in opening their eyes to different perspectives and diverse people within a high school (and also showing the certain stereotypes and how kids don't always fit perfectly within those)? Is this even a possibility with having to balance a production and trying to give them literature?
  • Is what the students are creating (i.e. yearbooks, broadcast, newspaper, etc.) actually part of the text for the class? How can diverse learners/voices be seen throughout this?
  • Can we have students break down these productions to try to see/show diverse learners/voices?
  • How is the idea of diverse learners really presented in a journalism class and how does this fit into our main focus of production and instruction? (also a great thing to ask teachers)

We are also trying to think of ways that we can delve deeper into these issues when doing our interviews.
Any comments/questions/ideas from any of you?

ALSO: First interview is set up for October 10th, Friday, in Novi

Brainstorm Interview Questions:

Google Doc of Possible Questions

Project Proposal

SGI Journalism Proposal

Rationale: For our small inquiry group we are focusing on Journalism, and within that the balance teachers need to make to educate their students in the subject but also give them the experience of creating their own production (whether it is a newspaper, yearbook or news show). One consideration for how to develop a balance between instruction and production in the journalism classroom is multiple learning diversities. Due to a large range of visual and writing capabilities, journalism instructors must find a way to implement students’ creative abilities. Thus, one question we have asked ourselves is “How do teachers acclimate diverse learners into the field of journalism?” It is the group’s goal to research this in-depth through interviews and other resources. For our project we propose to hold a lesson to show some of what we have learned, as well as pass this along information to our peers.

We want our peers to explore production in a classroom and the ties between English and Journalism instruction and production techniques. We also want them to get a sense of what current journalism teachers are saying and doing in their own classrooms to reach diverse learners. Lastly, we want to show how limited instruction and incorporating journalism production can help diverse learners.

We are going to split the class into groups of 3 or 4 people per group. We’ll have each group look at a piece of Romeo & Juliet and have them create a pseudo-front page regarding the part of the play they are focusing on (some options may be to cover the start of the play, mid-coverage, or the end – after the tragedy occurs). We’ll have them place a photo within the page. They will be writing a story as well as placing stories on the page based on newsworthiness.

Before class our peers will receive an e-mail explaining the basics of journalism writing, layout and newsworthiness to help out with our lesson.

Break down of lesson:
Introduction (8 mins): Introduce the idea of journalistic writing (maybe pointing out the differences from standard “English” writing?) as well as newsworthiness for use in the upcoming activity.

Introduction to Activity (3 mins): have students split up into groups of 3 or 4people and choose a photo before we introduce the lesson.

Activity (20 mins):
Have peers write a pseudo R & J story (placed in the middle, end, or beginning of the play) and place a photo for their story. They will also place two other stories that we supply on the front page of a newspaper in order of newsworthiness.

Summary (5 mins):
Ask peers how they felt they could relate journalism and production to English. Ask how this would connect to diverse learners. Show clips of advisers displaying their love for journalism and how they run their classroom with diverse learners.

Assessment: We can confirm that the students learned the objectives depending how they completed the assignment and through the dialogic discussion. Regarding the activity, the root of it is to realize that this is one way to allow their future class to analyze and interpret rather than simply “fill-in-the-blanks.” Juliet and Romeo did not just go to a masked ball, fall in love, etc. Rather, students should analyze and interpret the events of the play, and relate them to readers in a way that is clear, concise and accurate. Therefore, the activity can help make the play come “alive” with quotes and specific details. Not only does the story come alive through words, but also through the use of organization and photographs. It is our hope that the class hones these journalistic tools, as well as observes that the combination of these things can be used as a powerful learning tool to appeal to diverse learners. Our group can assess that this point is clearly conveyed during the dialogic discussion. Students have a wide range of writing and visual capabilities, and journalistic writing can grab certain groups’ attention with the demand to critically think as they tell the story of Romeo and Juliet. If the class can observe that these characteristics of journalism can be paralleled with which English classes teach, then the objective was met.

Pam Bunka – Fenton High School
Roger Smith – Lake Orion High School
Lydia Cadena – Novi High School

Questions for our Peers:
 Can you see a connection between English and journalism?
 Would this be something you could use in your classroom?
 Are there journalism writing techniques you wouldn't want your students to practice in an English classroom?