SRL Partner Station of the Month: December 2016

As a SRL mentor, Tim Lambert of WITF aims to teach young reporters public media’s core values. He hopes to set them on the path toward understanding why journalism is a public good.

How has the Student Reporting Labs program benefited the station? Working with students from the Student Reporting Labs program has provided WITF with the opportunity to work with young people from our coverage area and provide them with a better understanding of how journalism works. They come into the station already with a working knowledge of how to tell stories. It’s up to us to refine their approach and guide them through an actual editorial process.  The students have also assisted our reporters in the field, by conducting interviews, taking photographs and shooting video. It’s really been a win-win. The added bonus is working collaboratively with PBS.

Why is it important to help build the next generation of public media producers and participants? The journalism landscape has been constantly shifting and that has led to fewer jobs. Some of our journalists and producers’ first jobs were in very small towns in Pennsylvania, but it’s where they learned how to report on things like school board meetings, county commissioner hearings, court cases, etc. The freedom to learn on the job has been lost a bit, since those so-called “beginner” positions don’t really exist anymore. Young reporters never really have a chance to establish a foundation for their skills. So, instilling public media’s core values in young reporters is a start to setting them on the path toward understanding why journalism is a public service. As public confidence in journalism falters and fake news sites rise, it’s vitally important to train and mentor the next generation of public media journalists and producers to serve the public and help educate their communities on issues that matter.

If we all had limitless resources, how could we make the Student Reporting Labs program in your community even stronger? Limitless resources? That’s the dream, right? HA! Having free reign, without having to worry about funding, would allow us to set up a SRL coordinator at WITF to work with students from across the region over a certain time frame. We could use young producers to tell stories in their communities that we can’t cover, connect issues from different communities together and work with our other collaborative efforts like StateImpact Pennsylvania, Transforming Health and Keystone Crossroads. It would also allow us to reach a different audience and provide a better diversity of voices to our listeners, viewers and readers.