With the education of more than 55 million K-12 and 19.9 million college students upended by the pandemic, student journalists at the high school and college levels have been on the front line, reporting about the impact of the pandemic on their generation. Their work is essential, and their rights must be protected.
The sad truth is that local media is shrinking and in many communities, student journalists are the only ones able to report on important COVID stories at their schools. In 2020, students broke stories about outbreaks and improper quarantining measures on campus. They exposed and explained the challenges posed by remote learning, and the difficult, controversial decision of whether to return to in-person classes. Students provided unbiased and accurate information about the symptoms of COVID, testing procedures, what safety measures the school was taking, and more, overcoming pushback to break stories about critical public health issues affecting their campuses and communities.
This past year, the act of journalism itself had to be transformed. Students navigated the difficulties of publications that stopped printing and publications that rapidly transitioned to online formats; they lost advertisers and were forced to deal with a new economic model; and they faced budget cuts to journalism programs.
Finally, with no sports, plays, assemblies or pep rallies, student press became the glue holding campus culture together. And they performed this culture building role on the fly, sometimes having to go to absurd lengths, like hooking up to their school’s servers from the parking lot for hours at a time to finish a yearbook.
Excellent Student Stories about Journalism in the Time of COVID
Harker High Aquila visualizes important Coronavirus data
A high school reporter in Florida created multiple interactive data visualizations that contextualized COVID numbers for the county and state as well as the whole U.S.
Arizona State Press breaks story of infected students refusing to quarantine
College journalists investigated reckless behavior among their peers at ASU, uncovering at least ten instances where students who had tested positive or been exposed to COVID left quarantine, putting others at risk.
Coral Gables Senior High CavsConnect covers changes to school culture
This series of stories — including written pieces, a podcast and photos — from high schoolers in Florida examines how the pandemic changed how their school functions with a focus on extra curricular activities.