by Niesha Lofing
July 12, 2012
A college student journalism project spearheaded by the Pacific Media Workers Guild is being heralded by media professionals and industry leaders as a critical program to help the next generation of workers gain experience and introduce them to the value of unionism.
Bay News Rising, a summer program of Pacific Media Workers Guild and the online news publication Fog City Journal, includes ten reporters and six photojournalists. During the program, which runs through July 31, the students are paired with industry professionals who serve as mentors and are tasked with developing and executing stories focused on social and economic justice issues, including labor and women’s issues.
The program is funded by a grant from the Berger-Marks Foundation, and is thought to be among the largest grants the foundation has given and the first endeavor of its kind in the country.
“This was set up by a union that wanted to teach students values – how to ask for what they’re worth, how to engage in an internship that paid and where students were not treated like slave labor,” said Kat Anderson, project director for Bay News Rising and executive editor of Fog City Journal. “It was an internship in the purist sense of the word with true opportunities.”
The students are paid for the work they develop, which appears on Fog City Journal’s website. Their work is also shopped to other media outlets for publication.
Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild, described the program as a “very important experiment, and comes at a critical time for journalism and its industry.”
“The program will give real experience to the young journalists, and will help our union understand how we’re perceived among students,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I believe that there is as much interest now in pursuing justice through journalism, as there has ever been. Young people understand that building a just society takes work and depends on trusted information.”
Lunzer said the Berger-Marks Foundation, an organization committed to helping women organize into unions, and its funding also was critical to the project.
“Assuming its success, we’ll be looking for ways to duplicate the effort and reach out to labor’s future,” he said.
The genesis for the project came earlier this year, when Anderson, who is a member of the Guild’s Freelance Unit, began working with City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University to set up journalism scholarships. The former labor and employment attorney asked Carl Hall, executive officer of the Guild, why the local wasn’t networking with journalism students at the two colleges and getting them into the Guild’s Freelance Unit.
An idea was born.
Anderson began talking to faculty, administrators and student leaders at City College and SF State, who were eager to help. Faculty encouraged students to participate.
“The feedback we got from students was that they wanted publication opportunities and a chance to forge relationships with professionals, learning what it’s like in the work-a-day world,” Anderson said.
The program began June 7 and students are required to meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings. On Tuesdays, a speaker series with media professionals is featured for two hours. Thursday nights are newsroom nights, complete with deadlines, expectations and editing.
“I love interacting with the students, hearing their conversations,” Anderson said. “They’re energized. They’re looking for ways to write a good story, to become better reporters.”
Rebecca Rosen Lum, chair of the Guild’s Freelance Unit, serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Bay News Rising. All of the students participating are members of the Freelance Unit and pay dues.
Anderson, along with other union leaders, thinks the program could go a long way to encourage this next generation of young working journalists to see value in the labor movement. Anderson sees that the students are “pretty intrigued” about the union and what it does for workers.
For Anderson, the best part of the project has been “making connections with these young people and having the opportunity to introduce them to the Pacific Media Workers Guild and unionism and activism in a way they never would have been exposed to in school,” she said.
Jessica Schimm, one of the students participating in the program, said Bay News Rising feels like an extension of her regular journalism classes, but personalized. It has also helped Schimm tackle one of the most difficult elements of being a reporter – countering fears and stepping out of comfort zones to get a story.
“They encourage us to do that, and it makes it easier when you have a support system when everyone has to go through the same thing,” she said in an e-mail interview. “The most rewarding part is actually seeing our pieces published on a professional site, which can be hard to get when you’re still in college …”
To read the students’ stories and learn more about the project, go to fogcityjournal.com and click on “Bay News Rising” in the upper left-hand corner of the page.