Hampton University Starts Academy to Improve Young Journalists’ Skills
Troubled by students with high grades but poor grammar and spelling, journalism administrators at historically Black Hampton University have launched a writing academy to improve the skills of the next generation of minority reporters.
Sixty-seven students are enrolled in the Academy of Writing Excellence. They meet for writing labs, complete special writing assignments, get one-on-one mentoring sessions with local journalists and opportunities to go on school-sponsored field trips.
“It is for the student who wants to go above and beyond,” says Will Sutton, head of the program in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.
Dean Tony Brown, a former television commentator, created the program in response to entrance exams that showed students still struggled with the basic mechanics of English.
“Fewer and fewer high school graduates are able to read and write well,” Brown says. “Most students that I’m running into have not had grammar, punctuation and spelling since elementary school.”
Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla., school that trains professional journalists, says grammar often takes a back seat among young people versed in the slang of Internet chat rooms and instant messages.
“Young people are living their lives, in many cases, sort of electronically,” he says. “It’s not that teachers aren’t trying to teach the mechanics of language. It’s just that those things aren’t reinforced enough in other places in the student’s experience.”
Since taking over Hampton’s journalism school in 2004, Brown has added a mentoring program, regular meetings with freshmen and an anti-plagiarism campaign.
He’s also brought stability to the journalism program after a 2003 controversy that erupted when Hampton lost a $55,000 grant from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The action came after administrators confiscated some copies of The Script, the student newspaper. Students said it was because they chose not to give front-page play to a letter from the university president lambasting their article on poor sanitation in the cafeteria.
The paper later agreed to run a reprinted issue featuring Dr. JoAnn Haysbert’s letter on the cover in exchange for the formation of a task force to examine the future of the newspaper.
— Associated Press
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