Journalism crash course in Jersey

Program shows young reporters the ropes, with an aim to “diversify college and professional newsrooms”

Imagine that it is days after the shootings at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, earlier this month, and you ask 260 people around New York City’s Central Park to “name a salient fact” about the Sikh religion. How many of those people do you think might come up with an answer?

Thirty-six, according to the student reporters at the Princeton Summer Journalism Program who undertook this person-on-the-street reporting earlier this month. And that’s even with “extremely lenient” standards,” as the students wrote (“acceptable answers ranged from the name of the Sikh holy scripture to ‘people with hairy faces and things on their heads.’”)

This is one of several solid pieces of reporting produced by a group of high school-aged, fledgling reporters who earlier this summer spent time shoe-leathering around New Jersey and New York City. Another one: an investigation of what happens to residents of a low-income community when a hospital in their midst picks up and moves.

Princeton Summer Journalism Program—co-directed by Newsweek consulting editor (and former TNR editor) Richard Just—each year selects about 20 high school students from across the country, all from low-income backgrounds (combined parental income under $45,000), and brings them to Princeton University for an all-expenses-paid 10-day crash-course on journalism. The program also works with students on the college admissions process.

“The aim,” writes Just, “is to diversify college and professional newsrooms by making sure that students from low-income backgrounds have some of the same opportunities as their wealthier peers.”

Which, sounds a whole lot better than this.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.