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Behind the scenes: News Literacy Week with Innovation Central High School

Posted at 6:56 AM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 12:37:36-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — To highlight National News Literacy Week, FOX 17 partnered with a Grand Rapids high school to teach students how to absorb and present news.

It was a process that lasted over a month, including several trips by FOX 17 staff to Innovation Central High School and a tour of our studios while they added the finishing touches to a project that held meaning for them.

For this project, we decided to reach out to the largest school district in our viewing area — Grand Rapids Public Schools — and worked with a group of students to create a new experience for everyone involved.

FOX 17 executive producer Kayla Penokie, anchor/reporter Alyssa Hearin, and photojournalist Troy VanWingen made regular visits to Ms. Carolyn Hintz’s digital media class.

“I think the students will benefit because they're experiencing something they've never tried before,” Hintz said. “A lot of them are really engaged with taking videos on their phone, and now they see a purpose for that, so I think that's a great benefit for them.”

During the course of the meetings, we discussed the nature of news literacy and how to discern real news from misinformation on social media, plus the ethics we abide by as journalists.

After talking over topics that are important to them, the students decided the story they wanted to tell was about their school’s academy program. The program offers courses in line with certain career fields and provides students a jump on college and careers after graduation.

“I enjoyed doing the story because it represents our school, and not a lot of schools have the academies we have, the opportunities we have,” student Brenda Cortez said.

Throughout the process, the students helped formulate questions to ask during interviews, learned about operating a camera and editing footage, and became reporters.

Different students enjoyed different parts of the process.

“My favorite part was standing in front of the camera reporter, saying stuff,” student Leyla Lopez said.

Over the last month, students came to FOX 17 where they sat in on editorial meetings, watched a live newscast from the control room and studio, and talked with staff about a typical day in a newsroom.

“It was interesting, I didn't expect the camera to be that heavy,” student Jordan Jackson said.

Overall, it was an experience the students say they will never forget.

“I think this was a great project for us all to come together and learn a little more and work together in a different setting ,” student Alicia Pittman said.

The experience will also be remembered in our newsroom.

“Just to have two groups of people who don't necessarily interact on a daily basis to kind of work together for the last month to put something together that's important to them … Hopefully we inspired some people along the way,” Penokie said. "If they don't want to go into journalism, just ‘Okay, how am I responsibly viewing and sharing news?’"

National News Literacy Week wraps up Feb. 2.