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Behind the scenes of WCPO’s reporting partnership with Hughes STEM High School

WCPO partnered with high school students as part of the News Literacy Project
Justice Ferrell
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 08:38:15-05

For two Cincinnati high school students, the first few weeks back from winter break got off to a fast start.

“I’ve never done something like this before,” said Justice Ferrell, a sophomore at Hughes STEM High School in Clifton. “I knew I was going to have to put in a lot of work.”

Ferrell and Isaiah Cowins, a senior at Hughes, were the lead student journalists in a partnership with WCPO to promote news literacy. The students worked with WCPO journalists Paola Suro and Maddy Schmidt for two weeks to produce a news story on the affordability and availability of driver's education.

“It’s a great experience. I’m glad that (WCPO is) there as well to give me important tips,” Cowins said.

It started with Melissa Sherman's PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs class. The class worked with a team of WCPO journalists to brainstorm and select a news story.

From there, Cowins and Ferrell worked with Suro and Schmidt to determine a focus and direction for the reporting and set up interviews. The students helped shoot, write and edit the final story that aired on WCPO's broadcast.

“The goal was to come up with a way for us to spread news literacy out in our community,” said Mike Canan, senior director of local content for WCPO. “(The students) were so smart and their story ideas were so interesting. And they were things that, in a lot of cases, we hadn’t heard that perspective before.”

WCPO and our parent company, The E.W. Scripps Company, are working with the News Literacy Project to recognize the first National News Literacy Week, which began Monday. The initiative is meant to help promote news literacy skills in the community. The News Literacy Project helps teach skills to tell fact from opinion, sort out misinformation and recognize trustworthy sources of news and information.

“Especially today when we have cries of fake news and misinformation and all kinds of stuff spreading on social media, I think it’s more important than ever to understand your sources,” Canan said.

The goal of the project was to help students understand how the news gets created so they can better identify what information to trust.

But Ferrell and Cowins weren't just witnesses. They brought the story to life.

“Really they are the masterminds behind this, and I couldn’t have been luckier to work with these two students,” said Suro, who is a multimedia journalist at WCPO. “I think the best part of this whole story is seeing how interested they’ve been from the beginning to now. I think they’ve learned a lot, and they’ve grown as students.”

For the students, the project was a chance to get hands-on experience reporting in Cincinnati and to learn from professional journalists about the different preparation and planning that goes into the news.

“Because I always see the news on television and I was, like, wondering, what’s it like to be in charge of that situation?” Cowins said. “I think this is a really nice opportunity.”

Ferrell said the students had to work hard.

“It was a learning experience,” Ferrell said. “An exhausting learning experience, but it was a learning experience.”

But the project wasn't just a learning experience for the students.

“This was a great way to help young people really understand what it is we do in the media and how they can play a part in that,” Canan said. “I hope the students gained as much from this process as we did because I think we learned a ton.”

News literacy is a critical and essential skill for the 21st century and quality journalism plays an important role in helping citizens recognize news and information to trust. To learn more about National News Literacy Week and skills to stay engaged and informed you can visit the News Literacy Project’s website.