SF State News {University Communications}

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Youth keep pace with changing journalism

June 24, 2008 -- "Mojos" and "backpack journalists" may have been unheard of a few years ago, but today's media are increasingly turning to these mobile journalists who spend most of their time out and about, filing stories on location using the latest technology. SF State's Bay Area Multicultural Media Academy (BAMMA) is keeping pace with such industry shifts and has introduced multimedia training and blogging into its summer program for high school students.

Every summer since 1990, Bay Area teenagers have come to campus to experience life as a journalist. Last year, BAMMA overhauled its largely writing-based curriculum and introduced new video and audio elements in an effort to equip young people for a workplace that values multi-skilled staff and multimedia content.

Two high school students review footage on tiny handheld video cameras.

High schoolers in the BAMMA program review footage on tiny handheld video cameras

"We needed to change as the industry is changing," said Assistant Professor of Journalism Cristina Azocar who directs the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism which sponsors BAMMA. "Our students need to become 'mojos' or mobile journalists, able to write, take photos, shoot and edit video on the go."

The 2008 Newsroom Barometer, a global survey organized by the World Editors Forum and Reuters, found that 83 percent of editors believe journalists will be expected to produce content for all media within five years. And editors' biggest concern is training journalists in new media.

During the two-week BAMMA program, which began June 15, the students investigate a story relevant to their own lives. This year's cohort of 12 students will still produce a printed newspaper, but in addition, they will each create a companion multimedia piece such as a two-minute video or an audio slide show. They will also run a collective blog to reflect on their learning and develop story ideas.

"So far, I have enjoyed the hands-on learning that we had outside City Hall," said 16-year-old Justin Chin about a field trip where students interviewed same sex couples who had just wed in City Hall. "It was good to test out the multimedia skills we learned the day before. I took photos and shot video material. It was great to be able to capture people's happiness."

The ultimate goal is for these youth from diverse backgrounds to become journalists, broadening the communities represented in the newsroom and the news. "We want these teenagers to come away jazzed about journalism and about studying it at college," Azocar said.

Many BAMMA graduates move on to successful journalism careers. Earlier this year, former BAMMA student Jose Antonio Vargas helped the Washington Post win a Pulitzer Prize through his reporting of the Virginia Tech shootings. Another BAMMA graduate, Marian Liu, worked as the pop music critic at the San Jose Mercury News for six years before covering arts and entertainment for The Seattle Times. "BAMMA holds a special place in my heart," Liu said. "It really helped kick-start my journalism career."

"Working at The Seattle Times, nearly every story I write has an audio or visual component to it," Liu said. "Blogs and YouTube are second nature to many high schoolers but they'll need to learn how to use these tools in a professional journalism setting. It's going to be a must by the time they graduate from college."

-- Elaine Bible


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