The Google News Initiative is partnering with Baruch College on a program that promotes journalism education, school newspapers, and news literacy in underserved New York City high schools.

The program aims to help launch at least 25 school newspapers by the end of 2023, and will offer Google tools training for student journalists and their advisers.

“School newspapers are oftentimes the first exposure many teens have to journalism,” said Ashley Edwards, US Partnerships Manager in the Google News Lab. “We’re excited to be partnering with Baruch on this important initiative, which will give more students access to hands-on experience in news, as well as give educators an opportunity to instill media literacy skills.”

Baruch’s High School Journalism Program is run by  Professor Geanne Belton with support from other Baruch faculty and students and Press Pass NYC, a new nonprofit headed by Lara Rice Bergen. “CUNY in general and Baruch in particular have a very strong mission to help strengthen New York City, to be a resource for New York City, and in particular to create opportunities for young people in New York City,” Belton said. “This kind of outreach can really have a positive impact.”

The program started 19 years ago. Google previously supported research by Baruch on how many New York City public high schools had active student papers. The results of the research helped inform the program.

The program includes an annual conference, scheduled this year for March 21, where high school students across the city attend workshops run by professional journalists; a course for high school teachers called “Launching a High School Newspaper”; and a “Newsies” contest with awards for outstanding high school journalism. Baruch journalism students help run some of the workshops. Baruch student Tamal Ghosh is designing certificates for the program.

Students seated at tables for high school journalism conference
Students at 2018 Baruch High School Journalism Conference (Photo: Glenda Hydler)

The program has served as a high school-to-college pipeline, with some participating high school students later enrolling at Baruch and taking on leadership roles in campus publications like Baruch’s student-run newspaper, The Ticker.

“Without the high school journalism program, I likely would have never considered Baruch College, where I’m now studying journalism and am the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Ticker,” said Amanda Salazar. ‘22. “The program showed me that this is a college that takes journalism seriously and that can help me become a professional journalist.”

Baruch alumna and former Ticker editor-in-chief Nicole Clemons ‘16, who now works for ViacomCBS, also attended the conference as a high school student. “The conference gave me exposure to informative news writing workshops, taught me the importance of journalistic integrity, and introduced me to fellow public school student journalists and their work across the city,” she recalled. “The conference solidified the idea for me that journalism was something worth pursuing after graduating high school, and winning a few awards at the Newsies Awards Ceremony made me feel valued in my work and confident as a journalist.”

She said her participation also “opened my eyes to Baruch College as an option for higher education and allowed me to get a taste of what the Baruch Journalism Department had to offer.”

Participating schools have ranged from small charter schools to some of the city’s best-known schools like Midwood, Townsend Harris, and Hunter College High School. Going forward, Belton hopes to target schools that don’t already foster student journalism. Salazar and another Baruch student, Jessica Taft, are helping Belton collect data so they can target schools with the biggest needs. “Research shows that schools with fewer resources tend to lack student newspapers, as compared with the city’s top performing high schools, which almost all have newspapers,” Belton said.

Student journalism offers a wonderful way to “build community,” Belton said. “To send students out to report on their own schools and write about their own schools is empowering and engaging.”

Creating journalism programs for teenagers is also a great way to teach news literacy, an increasingly important skill. “Having a journalism program in a high school helps students learn how facts are gathered along with learning the difference between facts and opinion,” Belton said. The program also teaches students other fundamental aspects of the news business like how to find trustworthy sources and publishers’ rights and responsibilities.

And the program isn’t just for students who like to write. There are also opportunities for photographers and artists.

Belton is thrilled and grateful for the support from Google, which will allow her to expand and improve the program. “It’s really great that this program is getting this kind of recognition,” Belton added. “It just helps us to have more impact.”