Fifth Graders Learn First-Hand from Visiting Journalists

Digital Fluency is an important part of the Fifth Grade curriculum. Media literacy is one component of the course. Before the boys can understand the concept of ‘fake’ news, they need to comprehend standards in journalism. To give the boys a real-world perspective, Library Director Sarah Kresberg invited her friends, Randy Smith and Mary Chung, both journalists, to speak to the Fifth Graders at Allen-Stevenson about their profession. Mr. Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, has worked for a number of publications over the past 30 years, including The Wall Street Journal. Currently, he is working as a freelance journalist for The New York Times. Ms. Chung is the Founder and Managing Partner of Smash Street Media, having worked previously at the Financial Times and Chicago Tribune.
Digital Media Specialist Chris Caccamise, who runs the digital fluency class with Ms. Kresberg, opened the presentation by posing questions to the guest journalists that had them explain their training and early careers. Both said they became interested in journalism by working on school newspapers – Mr. Smith in elementary school and Ms. Chung during college. They clearly remembered the thrill of their first big stories.
While hearing about a reporter’s typical day, the role of the editor, and the importance of networking for sources of information, the boys learned some journalistic vocabulary, such as: retraction, source, cover, scooped, and off the record. Ms. Chung provided the boys with the public relations perspective, the other side of journalism, and what it is like to sell a story through press releases.
The boys asked incredibly thoughtful questions curious to know how journalists can really trust a source, whether there is anything that either of these two had written that wasn’t entirely true, whether they’d written something bad about someone and felt bad afterwards, what their funniest story was, if having a deadline is hard, and when does one know if they’re cut out to be a reporter.
To close, Mr. Smith and Ms. Chung described the changing face of journalism. They pointed out that the number of news services has multiplied significantly over the past 15 years because of the ease in launching a publication on the Internet. This has encouraged news stories to go out faster, often meaning facts are not checked as carefully, and opportunities to publish fake news are far greater.

Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.