The Importance of Student Journalism


1940 Ramsey Yearbook

RAM Booth, 1940 Activity Fair

In April of last year, a story about six students at Pittsburg High School in Kansas that caused the resignation of the school’s newly hired principal was widely reported. When a student went to interview the new hire, Amy Robertson, for a profile, the interviewee was evasive in her responses. Questions about her background including an unaccredited master’s program and an undergraduate degree in a program that didn’t exist were raised in an article released on a Friday that triggered the resignation the following Tuesday. Before anyone starts doing impromptu background checks on our school administration, that is not my point in raising this example. The point is that student journalists are capable of interviewing, investigating, and telling impactful stories that otherwise might not be told.

Your parents may get the Ramsey Journal in the mail, which today is a newsletter, but used to be a regular newspaper covering Ramsey, NJ. Local news coverage by the Bergen Record is reported to have suffered when the paper was sold by the Borg family to the Ganett Company, which also owns the Suburban News. This consolidation phenomenon is playing out nation-wide: a Brookings Institution report showed that the number of newspapers per million people in the U.S. dropped from 1,200 in 1945 to 400 in 2014. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them that digital models of news consumption have not been as profitable as paper newspapers were, but the end effect is clear: less coverage of local news by professional reporters.

Chances are, if a student journalist is covering a story of local interest to Ramsey High or the Ramsey area, that journalist will be the only one covering the story. Otherwise, it won’t be told.

Despite some bleak statistics for print journalism, the number of students pursuing journalism degrees appears to be increasing. In reaction to an era of both fake news, and real news being attacked as fake news, a CBS MarketWatch story suggests enrollments in journalism programs are up: 10% at Columbia University, 19% at the University of Southern California, and 24% at Northwestern University.

Finally, there is an opportunity for personal growth, whether a student has any interest in pursuing journalism as a career or not. Communicating via the written word will be a part of many careers students embark upon, whether it is drafting project specifications, writing a proposal, or crafting an email. One way to improve your writing is the pressure born of the promise that it will be shown to a hundred people live on a web site. Learning how to craft a story effectively, getting practice conducting interviews, and building an accessible portfolio of your written work are additional benefits.

To put it succinctly, our school community needs the RAM, and the RAM needs you.