UN photo.

IN SCHOOL NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES, YOUNGSTERS today are engaged in producing quality journalism that has become vital to communities worldwide. On my own campus, at the International School of Geneva, students produce their own publication, interview globally-renowned speakers and write brilliant, insightful articles.

Youth journalism is a window on the issues and ideas that will shape their communities and their times. As educators, however, we need to become more involved. The same goes for journalists themselves, who need to work more closely with schools. And likewise parents. Not only is there a need to support these young journalists to report stories that interest them, but it also highlights an opportunity to use such youth-produced news to generate dialogue and awareness among others from diverse cultures across the global community.

MAKING YOUTH JOURNALISM AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT OF EDUCATION

Online technology has made journalism more interactive and participatory for the local, national and global audience with the expansion to web-based versions, reaching out to the world to shape narratives and impact communities. Using online technology, young journalists can go beyond just reporting news to interacting and discussing their stories with their peers in different corners of the world. By including cross-cultural interactions and discussions as an integral component of youth journalism, educators can make the news more relevant and better prepare youth for global citizenship in the wider context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During this revolution of accessibility and speed of transfer, information overload and the possibilities of digital manipulation of content are a real and present danger. It is important that young people are taught old school journalistic ethics and new school multimedia technologies to enable them to communicate the world’s stories with integrity, effectiveness, and comprehensive coverage. From the classroom to the newsroom to the boardroom, ethical behaviours must prevail for the health of our democracy from Geneva to Wellington. There would be no democracy without real journalism; it provides the facts needed to make educated decisions.

Most people lack the access, time, or training to find the answers to questions that keep the world going. Properly trained journalists are the guardians of truth in a time that many people are too apathetic to care. and create credible information.

THE DESTRUCTIVE AND POSITIVE ROLES OF LANGUAGE

Language fluctuates with our health, functioning as an indicator of our well-being. The vibrancy of language is a signal that the soul is utterly alive to the world. When we are unwell physically, emotionally, or spiritually, we migrate inwards. We communicate less, and may eventually retreat into silence, like the child who is being intimidated or bullied at school. Language itself becomes sparser, more obscure; we tend to hide our pain behind a few well-chosen words, to take the time to heal. When we re-join the vibrant world, we re-join it first with words:we talk more, we return calls, we describe in more detail – speech after silence.

An altogether different phenomenon takes place in public life. Paradoxically, when the world is well, news and language can appear bland. In recent years, public discourse has been deteriorating. Inflamed, disrespectful language is widespread. The language used gives a deep sense that our well-being as a people is in question: we live in a society where few have too much, most have too little, and everyone in power is in a perpetual conflict for the attention of the majority with populist rhetoric, stoking fear and uncertainty.

Reading tweets from the highest office of power or watching the news that would inflame every conflict on earth just to get a headline that pays with ratings all contribute toward removing the notion of temperate, moderate language. At deeper levels, language is a barometer that constantly measures the health of a culture.

The words we are being fed – from news to advertising, to cheap TV shows that play at people’s delusions, to political slogans – are well-chosen and calibrated for very specific psychological effects. As with harvesting data, they tend to yield the most financial rewards. Language is, after all, a construct, and a means of communication. Could it not be calibrated for a sense of balance, and reason, and calm?

A journalist’s first and most important responsibility is to inform the public. What is published has to be accurate, factual and objective at all times. This information is the lens to our humanity, opening up the world to our fellow humans, exposing sources and objectivity. In the search for truth, journalists expose themselves to emotions, trauma, shame and human vulnerabilities; their story is our shared humanity, their efforts guided by a moral compass and neutrality that overrides all emotion.

As AI and machine learning envelopes our world, this most human of professions, defined by ethical conviction and honesty, is fundamental to education in our schools and purpose for our world. It is not a subject of entertainment or sensationalism.

Ian Smith currently teaches at the International School of Geneva. He has taught Economics and Business Management for more than 20 years and was previously responsible in the UK for pupil care and character development.

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