Friday, June 27, 2008

Joe Rodriguez leads high school boot camp

Merc columnist Joe Rodriguez is leading a two-week boot camp for high school journalists in San Jose State's Spartan Daily newsroom. (Click here for a slide show.) Damian Trujillo of NBC11 did this report on Rodriguez's camp.
    He’s seen layoffs around him in the San Jose Mercury News newsroom. He’s seen his front page dwindle, along with the paper’s subscriptions. But there he sits, teaching kids the ropes, encouraging them to get into journalism.

    Joe Rodriguez (pictured) is a columnist for The Merc. But for the next two weeks, he’s a professor to aspiring journalists in a two-week boot camp.

    By July 4, they’ll produce their own newspaper in the newsroom of San Jose State University’s Spartan Daily, called Mosaic.

    Rodriguez said, “The Mosaic is run like a real newspaper. It’s not run like a high school journalism class.”

    Monica Chen went through the program last year and used the advice from her instructors at the Mosaic in covering an incident at Homestead High School in Cupertino.

    “At Homestead, one of the teachers was accused of having sex with a 16, 17 year old, so how do we go printing that story? So its useful to have all these people who know what they’re doing,” Chen said.

    While Chen helps out this year’s crop, Clara Jimenez is in an adjacent room, learning about photojournalism from Josie Lepe, a staff photographer at the Merc. Jimenez just graduated from Downtown College Prep in San Jose.

    “I knew stuff about the aperture and stuff, but she helped us learn a lot of stuff with these new cameras, which are very difficult to work with.” Jimenez said.

    For Dulce Martinez, the Mosaic is her only link to journalism right now. Like a lot of schools, Downtown College Prep dropped its journalism class. That also means no yearbook next year.

    “Well, it’s really sad … We want to write what we want to write about and publish it so other people can see it," Martinez said.

    So Martinez wants to use what she learned at Mosaic to start a journalism club at her school and fill the void.

    Rodriguez often gets out of his editor’s chair and walks the newsroom. He’s already seen so many changes to his profession; seen so many of his friends lose their jobs to the Internet, to the bloggers, and to the online services that have doomed many newspapers. Yet Rodriguez still stands in front of the class and encourages the 16 and 17-year-olds to stay the course, to become the journalists of the future.

    “Well, I like to think that they’re the generation that is going to save journalism. They’re going to save newspapers and television and radio, and all the current media that are in trouble. These kids are very much into online journalism. They are inventing as we speak. These kids blog. They write traditional news stories, take traditional photographs. But they also use multimedia and graphics to mix it . For them, it’s very very natural,” Rodriguez said.

    Teaching them is also natural for the veteran journalist, who is doing what he can to train and inspire the next gatekeepers of news and information.
The San Francisco Peninsula Press club also does a boot camp for high school journalists in the fall. We'll make an announcement about it in the next few weeks on this Web page, but e-mail us if you want to participate as a student, teacher or journalism professional.

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