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Gov’t students quiz journalist

Cazenovia Republican editor Pierce Smith responds to questions from members of Cazenovia High School’s new Advanced Placement Government and Politics course, Nov. 16.

Cazenovia Republican editor Pierce Smith responds to questions from members of Cazenovia High School’s new Advanced Placement Government and Politics course, Nov. 16. Kurt Wheeler

— Students in Cazenovia High School’s new Advanced Placement Government and Politics course seized the opportunity to learn about journalism from a local practitioner on Nov. 16.

As the culminating activity for their unit on the impact of the media on government and politics in America, the students invited reporter Pierce Smith to visit their class.

Smith, the editor of the Cazenovia Republican, is also a 2005 graduate of Cazenovia High School who was once on the other side of the desks in their classroom.

The students’ studies had focused on the role of the media at the national level as an important linkage institution between citizens and policy-makers. After studying about the two-way impact of the media in both informing the populace and shaping elected official perceptions of public sentiment, the students were curious to learn if similar factors applied at the local level.

They learned that the topics and scope of the stories may differ for a local paper, but many of the principles of reporting remain the same.

Student Caroline Marshall inquired about how covering a controversial topic might be different in a small community. Smith emphasized the role of objectivity and reliance on official sources to provide accurate coverage that was not sensationalized.

Classmate Rebecca Yaciuk wondered if journalists differed in the manner in which they might approach a story, prompting a description of forums at Eagle Newspapers, devised to share ideas and perspectives, as well as an explanation of the role of editors.

Meghan Karmis inquired about Smith’s favorite article. He conceded it was hard to pick just one but described his interest in a recent piece about local business, Cazenovia Equipment Company, giving back to support farmland preservation in Central New York.

Students fired queries at the reporter/editor steadily for 60 minutes, changing roles with the person who’s usually asking the questions.

The interaction was a fun follow-up for several of the students who wrote articles for the Republican as part of their project on the Clark Street bridge. The college-level course, for which students can earn credit by successful completing a national exam next spring, has sought to add real world experiences to the traditional academic approach of the curriculum.

Kurt Wheeler teaches AP Government, AP US History and World History at Cazenovia High School.

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