Developing a Forum
Developing a Forum for the Mediation
of Information and Journalism Education in Rural Communities
Paul C. Isom
Department of Journalism and Mass Communications
Murray State University
P.O. Box 9
Murray, KY 42071
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Running head: DEVELOPING A FORUM
Developing a Forum for the Mediation
of Information and Journalism Education in Rural Communities
Introduction to the Project
The ambitious goal of this paper is to provide a framework for the
establishment of rural community newspapers. The successful implementation of a
project like the one described here will create a means of disseminating
information in rural population areas that have no other locally-produced media.
This project cites relevant literature on its topic as well as a successfully
executed model of the project at the University of Alabama.
The structure of the project relies on the abilities of high school
students. To facilitate the project, students will have the responsibility of
developing and operating all facets of a rural community-based newspaper. Basic
student obligations will include the following tasks: (a) news reporting and
writing; (b) advertising sales and conceptualization; (c) copy layout and
editing; and (d) printing and circulation of the product. Unlike typical
student-run newspapers, however, the focus of the coverage of this project's
newspapers will be the school itself, plus the entire community in which the
school is centered.
A diversity of educational and social byproducts will result from the
implementation of this project. In addition to introducing an informational
voice into a given community, the project will also provide students with the
opportunity to develop and use journalistic, documentary, writing, and business
skills. As students practice these skills, they will produce documentation of
their rural communities and schools. They will also improve working relations
between schools and communities and provide a means for participating schools in
various locations to share news and research pertinent to rural areas. In
addition to helping students develop these basic life skills and employment
opportunities, the project's overarching goal of supporting the long-term
viability of rural communities will also be achieved.
Statement of Purpose
In addition to examining a way for rural communities to develop a
mass medium that will process its issues and agendas, this project attempts to
develop an understanding of the dynamics between the media and rural
communities. The development of such a relationship results in not only the
establishment of a tool for mass communication, but the transformation of
educational needs into opportunities. These include the following:
1. The development of a journalism curriculum, raised expectations
for students, the addressing of community needs, and the generation of data and
resources for the community.
2. The creation of new teaching methodologies and the redefinition
of the nature of schooling.
3. The improvement of rural community life ("PACERS Cooperative of
Small Schools," 1992).
Significance of the Purpose
Social significance. Rural communities are threatened by shrinking
budgets and tax bases in states that have evolved or are evolving from
agriculturally-based to industrialized, urban-centered economies. These
economic trends favor larger towns and cities. This climate sometimes favors
the consolidation of small schools into larger, non-community-based schools. As
a result, the benefits of living in small communities are eroded as residents
are dispersed. For those who remain, the benefits are devalued. Existing media
contributes to the problems of rural communities by focusing only on towns that
serve as county seats or on regional cities that function as media, cultural,
tourism, and governmental centers.
As these demographic-related trends continue, rural communities
become more isolated. As the news media's focus moves away from rural
communities, ideas and issues unique to those communities do not have an
instrument for mass expression or dissemination. Similarly, without an outlet
for advertising, businesses do not have a means of reaching potential customers.
Under the framework of this paper, the media source that will be
established will expose the activities of the local school, town hall, law
enforcement office, and religious establishment. This information will unite
and strengthen previously-isolated rural residents through the sharing of
information. Commercially, businesses will have the opportunity to target
likely customers, using advertising to build clientele and revenue. The
increased success of local businesses through advertising is designed to expand
the local tax base as well as feed the success of the newspaper itself through
greater advertising revenue.
Educational significance. While at the same time documenting
community history, events, and issues, the rural community newspaper will
function as an educational tool for student staff by means of school-instituted
journalism classes. Students and residents who are involved in the operation of
the newspaper will be provided with challenging, supportive conditions in which
to work and continue to learn. The production of rural community newspapers by
students via school-instituted journalism classes will raise educational
expectations for students, create new teaching methodologies, identify and
incorporate community resources and residents in schools, and redefine the
nature of schooling ("PACERS Cooperative of Small Schools," 1992).
A newspaper project such as the one described here will teach
students a skill by means of work that is hands-on and interdisciplinary. The
work will also involve all students and all sectors of the community and will
teach the worth of the diversity of rural cultures. The pragmatic experiences
offered through the project will help build intellectual concepts and skills
rather than simply asking students to memorize information. At the same time,
students will be working with a variety of tools, implements, and equipment
which will provide them with the opportunity to contribute and create throughout
their lives ("PACERS Cooperative of Small Schools," 1992).
Educational reform. Many community schools do not offer any courses
or experiences in journalism. Scholastic journalism programs in community
schools will contribute to a more equitable, adequate, and cultural educational
system in the given community, state and region. Students attending small rural
schools will have access to the type of journalism curriculum that is
commonplace in most larger and urban schools. Making school curricula more
equitable will usher in a wider reform movement that will value the abilities
and potential of rural students ("PACERS Cooperative of Small Schools," 1992).
Although small rural schools and their students are often ignored and
undervalued by urban-centered cultures, their strengths, rather than being
undermined by practices such as school consolidation, will be enhanced with the
implementation of the newspaper project.
This section consists of a list of terms and their definitions as
narrowly applied to the confines of this paper.
Community ties. The term community ties refers to the
institutionalized social mechanisms in which an individual is integrated into
his or her community (Stamm, 1985).
Consolidation. The term consolidation refers to the merging of
schools within a given school system into one large school. The consolidated
school is typically located in an area that is central to the represented
communities but not located within the limits of any of the communities.
Coverage. The term coverage refers to media representation of
issues, trends, ideas and events that occur in a given community or coverage
Documentation. The term documentation refers to the establishment of
a written record of issues, trends, ideas, events, and history that occur in a
given area. Documentation, in this context, would occur through coverage by
Information sharing. The term information sharing refers to the
shared knowledge of happenings in a given community. When an event occurs, an
issue arises, or a trend develops, this news would be shared throughout the
community by the reporting of the media outlet.
Integration. The term integration refers to how the individual is
engaged in constructing community ties.
Rural. The term rural refers to communities that are neither urban
nor governmental centers (ie., not county seats) that typically are centered
around small kindergarten-12th grade schools (1A and 2A for athletic purposes).
Rural community newspaper. The term rural community newspaper refers
to one of several types of usually weekly newspapers. In other contexts
sometimes called the small-town, country, or rural weekly. In the context of
this paper, the rural community newspaper could be published bi-weekly, monthly,
or on a semester-based schedule.
Tax base. The term tax base refers to the source of income for a
community and its government. Sources of a tax base may include property,
sales, or income taxes. A tax base is dependent on the number of employed,
property-owning citizens in a given community.
Review of Material
Review of the Literature
Newspapers and communities. Although one researcher has quantified
nearly 100 definitions of community (Hillery, 1955), another classic essay
attempting to define the term found at least three distinctions, two of which
are relevant to this study. Community can be defined as a "place" and a
"process." In the former, the community exists in its "explicit elements,"
meaning any consciously-organized aggregation of individuals residing in a
specified area, supporting institutions such as schools and churches. The
latter identifies the community in its "implicit elements," including any
process of social interaction which results in interdependence, cooperation,
collaboration, and unification. This definition includes the process people
utilize to relate and collaborate with one another (Sim, 1969).
An individual's relationship to place and process is developed
through community ties, which can include geographic location, cognitive
associations, and emotional residues. Manifestations of community ties can
include neighborliness, community identification, and community involvement.
Certainly, a rural community is one kind of geographic location in
which inhabitants participate in cognitive and emotional associations. In rural
communities, as in any community, one of the important creators of community
ties is the community newspaper, which has been called as necessary to a
community as a community is necessary to its newspaper. Studies of newspaper
readership indicate that newspaper use contributes to community ties while at
the same time community ties contribute to newspaper use. (Stamm).
Janowitz (1952) developed two hypotheses based on his reasoning that
newspapers facilitate integration of an individual with his or her community.
The first hypothesis states that indices of greater family and social cohesion
should be related to local community newspaper readership. In the second,
Janowitz states that the local community resident in varying degrees
participates in and identifies with the facilities and institutions of the local
community; as such, indices of greater community integration should be related
to more rural community newspaper readership.
The newspaper integrates an individual with his or her community by
extending the individual's (reader's) personal and social contacts. The
newspaper contains local news of a social and personal nature, linking reader
with subject matter (Sim, 1969). Although ties to place are not absolutely
known to be consequences of newspaper use, the several processes and structures
influenced by the community press include building and maintaining local
consensus, building local traditions, adjustment to institutions and facilities,
democratizing prestige, defining rights and privileges of local community, and
extension of social contacts (Stamm, 1985). The strengthening of any of these
structures serves to strengthen the community as a whole.
Social and educational advantages of media coverage. While
communication literature is generous in its offerings concerning how community
ties are facilitated by community newspaper use, the literature is barren of
material that discusses effects of the complete absence of newspapers in a
community. Yet, this paper suggests the absence of any local media is common in
many rural communities. A parallel could be drawn of rural communities that are
not afforded news coverage to African American communities that have been
ignored by the mainstream press in the United States. African American
communities, like some rural communities of today, have historically been
isolated from mainstream media. Early events in the Civil Rights movement
provide examples of the absence of press treatment. For example, after the
much-publicized Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycotts of 1955, Birmingham, Alabama,
Civil Rights activists protested bus segregation with boycotts in 1956. As a
result, 500 blacks were jailed, and reprisals -- including evictions, firings,
and bombings -- resulted. National and local news media ignored the Birmingham
events (Raines, 1977).
In Montgomery, community ties supported by newspaper coverage
resulted in a world-renowned and very successful boycott. In Birmingham, where
ties were not facilitated by community (or national) press, the boycott was
unsuccessful and bombings continued well into the 1960s.
A sense of community, a feeling of self-worth, and a way to escape
oppression are crucial to the successful functioning of all kinds of
communities. Like African American communities of the past, many of today's
rural communities are not served by mainstream or any other press and are not
afforded this one facilitator of community ties.
Since the 1920s, rural editors have hired local news writers and
given them instructions to focus news coverage exclusively on local events.
These newspapers have unanimously chosen to forego the expense of wire services
and reporters who are sent afield. Radio and television were given the
responsibility of fulfilling the community's need for regional, national, and
world news. (Harter, 1991). Historically, the rural community newspaper has
provided its community with documentation of its history, current events, and
social issues by emphasizing news about voluntary associations and news of a
social and personal nature. Therefore, the rural community newspaper functions
as an agency of community welfare and progress (Sim, 1969).
The consequence is the rural community is better able to maintain,
improve, and support itself by allowing its members to discuss and then develop
its own solutions to its problems. The newspaper, then, functions as an agent
of community welfare and progress (Sim). Not only can issues be discussed and
community members be connected, but, according to Sim, "a lively, progressive
newspaper can either 'save' a deteriorating village or turn a decline around."
The larger region in which the community is located would also benefit because
strong schools and communities, integrated by strong rural community newspapers,
enhance the economic health of the state in which the community is located
("PACERS Cooperative of Small Schools," 1992).
Project Structure: Goals and Outcomes
The broad goal of this paper is to establish locally-operated,
community-based newspapers in rural communities. To achieve this goal, several
subordinate goals must be set and subsequently achieved. An individual or
organization wishing to develop a rural community newspaper project might choose
to replicate all of the model or modify the model to meet specific needs.
The University of Alabama Model
The project developed at the University of Alabama was established by
the Program for Rural Services and Research which, through a Ford Foundation
grant, coordinates a cooperative of 29 rural Alabama high schools called the
"Better Schools Building Better Communities" project. The overall population of
the schools involved is more than 25 percent black; a majority of the schools
are predominantly black. The schools include populations in the Alabama Black
Belt region and Appalachian area and involve a diversity of ethnic and culture
groups. Students in these cooperative schools are encouraged to identify and
develop specific projects that transform the nature of schooling and community
life ("PACERS Small Schools Cooperative," 1992).
The projects developed fall under three components. They are
"Sustaining Communities," "Joy," and "Genius of Place." Although they involve
different kinds of projects, these three components have several common
1. Academic work is contextualized through real-life opportunities in
2. Students are engaged in academic study and activity that serve
basic needs in the community.
3. The work of the school and students aids in the development of the
4. Efforts give students, teachers, and communities the ability to
sustain and improved the program over time.
5. Cooperation within and between schools is central to all efforts.
6. The programs involve students in all grades and across disciplines
in rigorous academic work that provides direct, hands-on learning opportunities
in all subject areas ("PACERS Small Schools Cooperative," 1992).
In addition to their common characteristics, the program components
have distinct goals as well. "Sustaining Community" projects are designed to
support the viability of rural communities and help students develop basic life
skills through housing- , food- , work- , and health-related projects:
1. The goal of the housing project is to rectify the problem of
inadequate and deteriorating local housing in rural areas. To do this, students
construct and reconstruct houses with financing through the Farmers Home
Administration, study building codes, home financing, landscaping, interior
design, and the social and economic impact of home and land ownership.
2. Food projects respond to hunger and nutritional deficiencies of
rural communities by encouraging students to develop school gardens and
livestock and aquaculture centers, build solar greenhouses, learn low-cost food
preservation, develop a marketing and distribution project for student-grown
organic produce, and study and improve feeding programs.
3. Work projects are designed to create jobs for students and others
in the community and to create a stronger local economic base. Small grants,
loans, and technical assistance are provided for student-run and/or school-based
businesses. Existing examples of these kinds of enterprises are child and elder
care centers, school stores, a printing operation, a student-run computer
assembly business, and a marketing project for these and other student-produced
4. Health projects are designed to provide primary health care for
rural community residents and to document the health status and needs of rural
residents. Students in cooperative schools conduct health inventories of local
residents, screen children for symptoms of lead poisoning, identify and work to
decontaminate sources of lead contamination, sponsor health fairs, conduct
research for the development of community water and sewage facilities, develop
environmental laboratories, and study health policy issues.
"Joy" projects reflect the cooperative's interest in the aesthetic
development of communities and the desire to make schools and communities more
exhilarating places to live. Projects include the development of parks,
recreational facilities, and libraries, and the production of plays, musicals,
murals, and reading projects.
"Genius of Place" projects include the newspaper project; the goal is
the thorough study and documentation of communities and the development of
academic skills of students. Besides the newspaper project, "Genius of Place"
projects include photographic documentation, community histories, extensive
community surveys, the development of community study centers, the development
of school foundations, alumni surveys, and studies of local geography, economy,
demographics, and culture.
Projects within and between the three components of the cooperative
overlap. The cooperative's infrastructure encourages this interaction between
schools and their projects. The cooperative's communications network supports
teleconferencing, school-to-school teaching, the development of a "rural wire
service," access to Internet, and other information utilities. Additionally,
the cooperative's models for improving education and community life are
transferable to a variety of settings and involve the support of several
University departments as well as various consultants.
The newspaper project illustrates examples of all of these facets of
the "Better Schools Building Better Communities" program. Some schools that
have implemented the community newspaper project have also established
photographic documentation projects. Photographs taken and processed by
students in school laboratories are published in the school newspaper. After
being researched, compiled and written, school histories are also published both
in the school newspaper and independently. The printing operation established
at one cooperative school under the "Sustaining Communities" component is
responsible for the printing of several of the newspapers.
The director of the University of Alabama Office of Student Media
assisted in the organization of the Alabama newspaper project, while providing
technical and creative support as needed through that department's production,
advertising, editorial, and business divisions. The director of student
publications also coordinated the search for a graduate assistant. The
University of Alabama College of Communication, the Alabama Press Association,
and the Alabama Scholastic Press Association all pledged educational assistance
in the areas of academic, professional, and high school media, respectively.
Human Resources: Goals and Outcomes
Before any work on a newspaper project can begin, there must be staff
to facilitate the work -- particularly the developmental ground work. In the
structure of the university setting, the project could be coordinated by the
Office of Student Media, the journalism department or school, or another campus
department such as rural studies or anthropology. This permanent departmental
structure would be necessary to function as the hierarchical overseer of the
project. Projects established in the Southern United States are encouraged to
be part of the United States Department of Education's Delta Project which links
schools involved in educational cooperatives in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri,
With the establishment of full-time staff, a graduate assistant
will be assigned to offer on-site support and ongoing training, working directly
with individual school liaisons and the students involved in each school's
project. The graduate assistant's role as a hands-on facilitator would require
the person filling this role to have a practical journalism background. Some
experience in professional journalism or student journalism should be a
requirement of the person occupying the assistantship. The school's master's
program in journalism is the preferred pool from which to draw applicants.
The assistant's first responsibility will be to organize and conduct
a multi-day summer workshop to introduce the initial participating high schools
to journalistic principals, the required equipment, and its usage. The graduate
assistant will need to bring the school staffs to a central site -- probably on
the university campus -- and lead workshop sessions in the basics of reporting,
design, advertising, and production. These basics of journalism will include,
but are not limited to (a) developing story ideas and subject matter; (b)
defining and discussing the concept of beats; (c) developing background during
the reporting process; (d) interviewing and its steps; (e) writing news,
feature, and sports stories, as well as columns and editorials; (f) newspaper
writing basics (the inverted pyramid and the concept of who, what, where, when,
why and how); and (g) the formation of the news story (including the lead, the
body and the closing).
Workshop activities will include, but are not limited to, (a)
interviewing (either a workshop participant, leader or, if time permits, someone
on campus); (b) developing stories based on information gained from
interviews; (c) gathering information for and writing mock cutlines; and (d)
writing personal columns or editorials.
The production session of the workshop will provide the opportunity
to introduce the students to the production equipment. The equipment
demonstrated during the workshop should be the same equipment that students will
use in their schools for the production of the newspaper. A person familiar
with the production program will demonstrate the process for the workshop
The workshop will conclude with the production of a student-produced
newsletter that highlights what was learned during the workshop. It will
include stories written by students during the workshop and will be produced by
students using the production software.
The graduate assistant will be responsible for subsequent workshops.
After the first year of production, members of the respective school staffs will
return for a "refresher" workshop. This workshop will not only function to
reinforce what was learned and answer questions about problems of the previous
year, but it will allow a theoretical discourse on the successes and failures of
the project's first year. This will not only aid subsequent schools in
determining whether such a project is worthwhile for them, but it will serve as
justification for further funding by grant-awarding organizations. In their
effort to determine what to fund in the following year, funding organizations
will be interested in what the schools have accomplished to make their
communities stronger during the previous year. The refresher workshop will
1. Developing a student-inspired description of the newspaper project
and the human and physical resources it requires.
2. Determining what was learned by involvement in the project.
3. Understanding how the project has transformed and sustained the
respective communities and schools.
A resource familiar with the required computer technology will be
essential to the success of the project. The technical person might be the
graduate assistant but could be someone with expanded technical training. The
technician's function will be to determine what equipment is needed and to
coordinate the bidding for and purchasing of the required equipment so that each
school has compatible software and hardware at the most reasonable cost. The
technician's primary responsibility will then be to see that the equipment is
successfully installed at each school. Further duties will include
trouble-shooting as needed; later the technician will establish computer
linkages between the targeted schools and the university, as well as establish
helpful information services such as Internet. This enables story concepts,
work in progress, problems, and suggestions to be shared and evaluated by the
participating schools. This is in addition to basic instructional use.
Staffing and Responsibilities at the High School Level
Each high school will be required to have at least one faculty member
to serve as an adviser to his or her school's newspaper. In developing a
newspaper project at the respective school, a person involved in the project
from the university setting will initiate a relationship between the university
and the high school -- probably with a principal or assistant principal. The
principal, upon approving the institution of the project, will be responsible
for assigning a high school faculty member as adviser to the newspaper.
The principal and the adviser will determine the administration of
the newspaper. Depending on the needs and the resources of the high school, the
adviser may be both a teacher of journalism or English as well as the adviser to
the paper. Other issues for the adviser to consider include whether the paper
will be a part of the school's curriculum or, if it will be an extra-curricular
activity. Considerations include whether or not the newspaper will be produced
during the traditional school day, of after school. If participation on the
newspaper is offered as a part of the daily school curriculum, the adviser may
also be responsible for grading the students' work. The adviser may teach a
class where all facets of journalism are introduced and, after instruction,
where the newspaper itself is produced. The adviser must establish guidelines
for teaching and grading the work and for evaluating the progress of the
students involved in the newspaper project. School systems traditionally choose
one of four ways to administer high school journalism newspaper production.
1. Extracurricular status with no credit.
2. Elective credit outside the basic requirements for graduation.
3. English credit, but not as a replacement for a required English
4. English credit, as a replacement for a required English course
("Death by Cheeseburger," 1994).
The principal and adviser will need to define the adviser's job
description and determine what, if any, guidelines constitute certification for
the adviser. The school may also want to establish memberships in one or more
of the four national scholastic journalism organizations in the United States:
The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the Journalism Education Association,
the National Scholastic Press Association and the Quill and Scroll. These
organizations offer critiques for school newspapers, contests and awards, and
regional and national educational conferences. The Journalism Education
Association certifies journalism teachers as Certified Journalism Educator and
Master Journalism Educator. School memberships are also available in
state-level scholastic press associations that offer many of the same services
on a state-by-state level ("Death by Cheeseburger," 1994).
Upon determining these administrative and structural constructions
and memberships, the adviser will serve as the school's liaison with the
university-level graduate assistant. The adviser will oversee the day-to-day
implementation and operation of the newspaper. The adviser will be responsible
for assembling a staff and assigning editors and other members of the staff
while assigning duties to the student staff and seeing that those duties are
completed. Duties will include, but are not limited to, (a) developing staff
job descriptions; (b) establishing a physical area for production facilities;
(c) procuring an agent for the printing of the newspaper; (d) determining the
number of pages per issues to be printed and the rate of publication; and (e)
naming the newspaper.
The adviser will have primary responsibility for guiding students in
the development of an operational structure for the newspaper, including
developing sources of income and expenses. Student activity fees, advertising,
typesetting and design of other publications, and profits from enterprises such
as the school store are possible sources of income for the newspaper. Expenses
include printing, social activities, supplies, computer repair costs, library
subscriptions, mailing, photography, national journalism organization
memberships, journalism conventions, binding back issues, and phone or modem
connections. In the University of Alabama model, computer and computer-related
equipment such as printers and scanners are paid for on the university level.
Editorial content must also be established. The newspaper can
include school events, community news, world and national news, sports,
editorials, letters, editorial cartoons, fiction/poetry and cartoon strips.
More routine duties such as making story assignments and setting story
deadlines, making photography assignments and setting photography deadlines, and
setting advertising and editorial deadlines will be coordinated by the adviser
and the staff. These policies can be established through consultation between
the adviser and the graduate assistant.
Equipment Resources: Goals and Outcomes
Whatever the sources of funding, there are basic equipment resources
required for the production of the newspaper and for the basic news operation.
Foremost concerns are the computers and desktop publishing software. The most
popular computer used in the production of high school newspapers is the
Macintosh, which is used by 75 percent of schools surveyed by the Freedom Forum
("Death by Cheeseburger," 1994). The Macintosh is followed by IBM or IBM
compatible (18 percent) and Apple II (7 percent). The most popular page
assembly software is Aldus Pagemaker (88 percent), and Quark Express (5.3
percent). Others constitute 6.7 percent. These technologies allow students to
understand the entire journalistic process by being involved in all facets of
journalism from writing text to editing the text to designing the page on which
the text is located. Computers allow students to have more control, give the
newspaper a better look and are faster and cheaper than previous methods of
typesetting and paste-up. Although computers have become integral parts of high
school journalism, their pitfalls include the high cost of buying enough
computers for all staff, the need for advisers to become computer literate and
learn which systems match their schools' needs, and the ever-changing nature of
the technology ("Death by Cheeseburger"). Other equipment can include, but is
not limited to, laser printers, photo scanners, film and developing equipment
and/or chemicals, cameras, tape recorders, telephones, modem connection for
computers, tables and chairs, notebooks, and pencils and pens.
Project Time Frame: Goals and Outcomes
The university-level staff members designated as project coordinators
will be responsible for establishing time periods for the operationalization of
goals and outcomes. This will not only establish a framework for the graduate
assistant but will be important for the purpose of requesting funding for the
The project established at the University of Alabama was developed as
a five-year project, during which time 15 rural schools were expected to develop
and begin producing community newspapers during an initial three-year period.
Under an identical structure, funding will continue for the final two years,
after which time it is expected that the individual paper will survive on its
own school's funding as well as advertising revenue. Five schools will be
designated to implement the project during the first year, followed by five more
the second year, and five more the third year.
The definition of "year" in this case begins with a designated summer
semester, continues through the fall semester, and is complete at the end of the
subsequent spring semester.
(Five schools) Early in this year, the initial five schools will be
identified; these schools are in a geographic cluster within the state and have
a mix of ethnic and cultural groups. Initial school visits by the graduate
assistant will help determine the scope and nature of the proposed publications.
A five-day on-campus summer workshop directed by the graduate assistant will
prepare five students and one adviser from each school for the launch of their
respective publication in the fall. At the end of year one, each of the five
schools will have produced at least two publications and have had at least two
follow-up visits and conferences with each other and the graduate assistant.
(10 schools) The second group of five newspaper staffs will come to
campus for a five-day summer semester workshop. Again, efforts will be made to
select the group in a geographic cluster with varied ethnic and cultural
representation. The first five newspaper staffs also will return to campus for
a three-day refresher course. By the end of the year, the group, which totals
10 newspapers, will have produced at least two editions per semester and have
had at least two follow-up visits from the graduate assistant, as well as
regional conferences and meetings with local professional and high school
(15 schools) The final group of five schools will be identified
during the previous year. Publication concepts will be developed, and staffs
will visit campus for five days of training during the summer. The staffs of
the earlier 10 schools will meet with the new group as well during their
three-day refresher course on campus. By the end of this year, all 15 schools
will have produced at least two newspapers per semester. Each school also will
have had at least two visits from the graduate assistant and have attended
regional conferences or workshops. The first group of five schools should also
be ready for graduation from the program, having developed mechanisms for
financial continuity and means of retaining memberships with the state
scholastic press association and national scholastic press associations.
The graduate assistant will work with the remaining 10 schools which
are in their second and third years of production, respectively. Three-day
staff workshops will be held on campus during the summer. The year will also
feature at least two graduate assistant visits per school, as well as regional
conferences and visits between the school staffs and their professional and area
high school mentors.
This will be the final year the project will be funded. The graduate
assistant will be available on a half-time basis and will be completing work
with the final five schools. A summer workshop for 20 students and advisers
from the remaining five schools will be conducted; during the year the graduate
student will make at least two visits per school. Regional meetings and
meetings with professional and high school mentor staffs will also occur. By
the end of this year, all 15 schools should be self-sustaining and should be
receiving the ongoing training and support that comes with their memberships in
state and national scholastic press associations.
Funding will be required for human and other resources during each
year of the five-year project. A funding plan matching the scope of the project
should include monies for the following: computer equipment and related
supplies, office space, printing/duplication, graduate assistant, graduate
assistant travel, summer workshop, phone support, electronic mail network, and
Funding proposals could be submitted to journalism- and
education-related endowments such as the Freedom Forum and the Ford Foundation.
Funding might also come from the organizational structure of the project
including the university, college, school, or department.
Final Goals and Outcomes
During the first year of the newspaper project at the University of
Alabama, there were examples of both successes and failures. During the first
refresher workshop, students from schools that had successfully produced
newspapers reported many community-related accomplishments. One county
installed street signs after a newspaper reported the lack of signs in the area
and how it hindered emergency response agencies from efficiently finding
addresses. Another school reported an increase in attendance at sporting
events. One student said newspaper staffers were learning more about their
community through their coverage of it. One student also indicated that
students themselves were becoming leaders in the community.
There was evidence that the project's goal of improving and reforming
the educational process was being accomplished. One teacher reported that the
grades of her students involved on the newspaper staff improved 100 percent.
Several schools reported increased involvement from the student body as the
newspaper began regular publication. One student expressed pleasure with her
new student/teacher relationship in which students and teachers worked together
toward a common goal. The student suggested that other subjects could be
successfully taught in the same manner. Another student said the process
encouraged students to learn from each other and that, in some instances, the
students were teaching their advisers.
While one school published 12 editions during one semester, another
school published only one. Difficulties at the schools were often
computer-related. While specific problems varied from not enough memory to run
the software to simple lack of computer skills, a common technology-related
problem was that the schools had no one on staff with the expertise to correct
computer-oriented problems. Production was delayed as staff from the county
school board or university was dispatched to correct the problem(s). Other
difficulties involved motivation. One adviser, lacking students with an
interest in journalism as a career, had difficulty inspiring students to set and
The success of future projects can be measured in many ways:
Production and Continuity
The primary measure here will be production and distribution of at
least two newspapers each semester for three years at each school.
Additionally, at the end of the three-year cycle, the individual school
newspaper will be evaluated on its ability to support itself through the sale of
single copies and advertising.
At the end of three years, the degree to which newspaper staff
members have become full participants in training and support programs such as
national and state scholastic press associations will be evaluated as a measure
of success. This participation should lead to another measure, which is the
successful implementation and the marked improvement of newspaper production
skills including reporting, writing, editing, layout and design, advertising
production and design, and adherence to production deadlines.
This kind of progress can be observed with the use of regular
critiques of the paper throughout the three- to five-year process. The
newspapers will be critiqued on an as-published basis by either the graduate
assistant, the high school adviser, or some other staff person involved in the
Through the refresher workshops, discussion among students will
determine what they have learned. Hoped-for educational improvements include
(a) increased knowledge of computers and related technology; (b) enhanced
business and writing skills; (c) an increased tolerance of personal and
professional criticisms; (d) an increased awareness of talent within the
individual followed by increased self esteem; (e) enhanced ability to work
with other people; (f) an awareness of the fruits of hard work and
In determining how the project has changed the educational process
within the school, evaluation must determine whether the project has allowed
students to learn through the work they are doing. Other determinants, to be
established during the refresher workshops, include how the student/teacher
relationship changes as a result of the project; how the entire student body is
involved in the newspaper; and how grades of those on the newspaper staff and in
the school in general have been affected.
The results of the refresher workshops will be compiled to document
successes in this area. The success to be determined will be how -- or if --
the project has transformed and sustained the community in which it was
implemented. Facets of this kind of improvement will include, but are not
limited to, evidence of (a) the development of needed civic improvements; (b)
increased attendance at sporting and cultural events; (c) greater knowledge by
citizens of issues that affect the community; (d) the newspaper serving as an
expressive forum for a diverse array of community members who are not on the
newspaper staff and who did not have such a forum before the development of the
newspaper; (e) increased community awareness of successes that occur within
the school; and (f) the recognition of all community-based organizations.
Death by cheeseburger: High school journalism in the 1990s and
beyond (1st ed.). (1994). Arlington, VA: The Freedom Forum.
Harter, Eugene C. (1991). Boilerplating America: The hidden
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Hillery, George A. (1955). Definitions of community: Areas of
agreement. Rural Sociology, 20, 111-123.
Janowitz, Morris (1952). The community press in an urban setting.
Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
PACERS cooperative of small schools: A working model of reform in
Alabama (1992). Unpublished manuscript, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa,
Program for Rural Services and Research.
PACERS small schools cooperative: Better schools building better
communities (1992). Unpublished manuscript, University of Alabama,
Tuscaloosa, Program for Rural Services and Research.
Raines, H. (1977). My soul is rested: The story of the civil
rights movement in the deep South. New York, NY: Penguin.
Sim, John C. (1969). The grass roots press: America's community
newspapers. Ames, IA: The Iowa State University Press.
Stamm, Keith R. (1985). Newspaper use and community ties: Toward a
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INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT
Statement of Purpose 3
Significance of Purpose 4
Operationalization of terms 5
REVIEW OF RELATED MATERIAL
Review of Literature 7
GOALS AND OUTCOMES 10
GOALS AND OUTCOMES 13
GOALS AND OUTCOMES 18
PROJECT TIME FRAME:
GOALS AND OUTCOMES 19
Yearly Funding 20
FINAL GOALS AND OUTCOMES 21
Cited References 25