Young journalists affected by budget cuts

Kate Hampson

The world continues to advance in technology, and it is no different for high school journalism programs.

With reduced funding, the state had to make cuts because of budget restraints. Print journalism seemed to be one targeted area because of the Carl D. Perkins Act Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006. The Perkins Act is geared toward preparing students for high wage, high skill and high demand jobs. Print journalism doesn’t fall into any of these categories.

“A big part of the decision to cut back on journalism funds is because of the demand for the job,” said Brenna Scott, the journalism advisor at Washburn Rural High School. “Journalists aren’t in high demand right now and in predicting the future, they probably won’t be in high demand with advancements in technology.”  

However, don’t expect high school newspapers or journalism classes to just disappear. Since the trend in media is going away from print and becoming more advanced with the Internet and social networking, these classes need to do the same.

“In our journalism classes we already include Photoshop, Illustrator and Web design. My understanding is that in order to keep the vocational money we need to adjust the emphasis on what we teach,” said Barbara Padget, the journalism adviser at Topeka High School.

Many high school newspapers have already made the transition to creating an online version of their print edition. High school journalism teachers and advisers, along with business teachers will meet to discuss how to incorporate basic journalism skills into business classes.

Broadcasting, electronic media and video production courses will not be effected because of their focus on technology and the trends toward the future are going in that direction.

If a way is found to make the journalism classes at the high school level dedicated to teaching students more computer-based programs, these programs may not lose that money. If the money is cut for these programs, it wouldn’t be the first time that journalism wasn’t funded, but was still taught.

“I taught journalism skills (both newspaper and yearbook) for 16 years before any vocational funds were available,” said Padget. She added that the vocational money they receive is put toward new software and hardware but it doesn’t pay for what their school paper really needs. Advertising and fund raising cover the costs of printing the paper and hosting their Web site.

Karla Denny, the director of communication at the Kansas State Department of Education, said the programs targeted for a cut in funding may not lose all of their funds. Where the money will go is up to the particular school district and each individual school.

Whatever the amount of funding these newspapers will receive, the “Blue Streak” at Washburn Rural and “The World” at Topeka High will both continue their publication. The money may not come from the state but both papers will find a way to fund the publications because students are still interested in producing their high school newspaper.

Scott said keeping these programs is vital because of what the classes teach students. “Journalism provides numerous life skills that everyone needs to be a successful and productive adult including time management, teamwork and communication.”

At Washburn rural, the yearbook and newspaper staff, combined, consists of 75 students and 55 at Topeka High. With this many students participating in these programs, they will be hard fought to get rid of them.

“What saddens me is that ‘The World’ has won a total of 17 Quill and Scroll awards since it became a charter member in 1934, including two George H. Gallup awards, the last in 2008, and we still need to beg for money to print this award-winning paper,” said Padget.