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Journalism students work for diversity

April 25, 2005

Photo of three Willow Glen High School journalism students working on stories for their monthly newspaper, RampagesSFSU students and veteran journalists are working together to bring more diversity to newsrooms. San Jose Mercury News reporters and SFSU journalism students are mentoring students at San Jose's racially diverse Willow Glen High School, in hopes of interesting students in news careers.

The effort is made possible by Prime Movers, a yearlong pilot project created through a $150,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to SFSU's Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism (CIIJ).

The Knight Foundation seeks to create a news industry that reflects the diverse racial makeup of the community that it serves. Today, minorities comprise about 31 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 13 percent of newsroom staff at U.S. daily newspapers, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. SFSU is one of two universities in the country to participate in Prime Movers.

Under the direction of Associate Professor Yumi Wilson, three SFSU students and one recent graduate, together with five Mercury News staff, have been guiding a journalism class at Willow Glen. They provide help on all aspects of creating a student newspaper, offering one-on-one coaching on writing leads, editing, photography and publication design. They also serve as role models and a liaison to resources beyond high school. This has resulted in the improved quality of Rampages, the Willow Glen monthly student newspaper.

"They're young, and working with them keeps me young, which I like," says Gary Moskowitz, a 32-year-old graduate student. "These kids are on the verge of really breaking out, by going to college and joining the workforce." Pursuing a master's degree in education, Moskowitz previously worked as a reporter for the Times Community News, a division of the Los Angeles Times.

According to CIIJ Director Cristina Azocar, the project promotes a "circular model of mentoring," in which the experience of veteran Mercury News journalists is leveraged to prepare and develop college students as professionals who can revitalize high school journalism programs.

"It's a way to retain high school students, to keep them interested in journalism and to maintain diversity in the newsroom," says recent journalism graduate Elvira Viveros, a Prime Movers writing coach who completed her bachelor's degree in journalism last fall.

Prime Movers has benefited not only the high school students, but the mentors as well.

"I've reaffirmed that journalism in any form is an amazing pursuit to be involved with, and I truly enjoy it," says Moskowitz, who also contributes to SF State News and works in the SFSU Office of Public Affairs and Publications. "I enjoy sharing what I can to help students get excited about journalism the same way I am."

The Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism is the only program of its kind in the West and the most extensive in the country, having served about 10,000 people since its founding in 1990. The center offers one-on-one coaching from professional reporters and photojournalists and provides services for job and internship opportunities at major newspapers throughout the country. It also offers a free two-week summer journalism academy for underrepresented high school students.

-- Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson
Photo: Craig Young


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Last modified April 25, 2005 by University Communications