First Take H.S. Workshop: Passing the Journalism Baton

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Malik SingletonFirst Take was started more than 20 years ago by the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ) to give high school students hands-on experience in journalism. Students learn how to write news stories that are uploaded to the Web, giving them valuable technical and video editing experience. This free eight-week workshop starts in September, and meets every Saturday from 9AM to 4PM at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.

“Young people spend a lot of time consuming information, but not producing it online,” says Malik Singleton, deputy co-director of First Take, who has been with the program since 2007, along with his wife, Nekesa Moody, who is the director. “We operate the program as a team,” he explains.

“During weeks five to seven, we start the morning off by teaching students about using the cameras, and about composition, before sending them out in four teams made up of four to five students, with adult chaperones to capture a story,” says Singleton. “We get them to talk to actual authorities and sources. They are often surprised and feel good that as a young person they are being responded to. It’s a way for them to feel empowered, and it teaches them responsibility.”

They return to the computer lab in the afternoon to edit their stories into a cohesive two-minute video, which has to be uploaded onto You Tube by 4PM that day, which is the deadline. “It’s a drill that we have that works.” The students are rotated so those who worked behind the cameras one week, are in front of the camera the following week. All the students leave with a story they wrote, and a video package they produced – a definite leg up once they go off to college.

“We emphasize to the students that these sorts of skills (i.e., learning how to be good communicators, working on teams and speaking in groups) are life skills and professional skills that would serve them well no matter what profession they choose, since not all of them choose journalism,” Singleton explains.

Although the bulk of First Take’s funding comes from NYABJ, program mentor and producer Melissa Johnson created a three-minute promo video on the online fundraising page at http://www.gofundme.com/firsttakenyc for donations to help cover the remaining $8,000 cost for scholarships for top students, cameras, lunches, transit, camera and video equipment, plus the use of a computer lab and a production studio. Donations can be done anonymously as well.

First Take is a great opportunity for media professionals of color to give back to the next generation. Whether it’s through guest speakers, chaperones, audio visual experts, or those who help in the computer lab, the wealth of the students’ experiences hinge on the media professionals who volunteer their time and efforts to teach them. “We stress that it’s run by a good team of volunteers who put their all into it.” To learn how you can help, log onto firsttakenyc.com/mentors.

Interested NYC high school students can complete and submit an online application at www.FirstTakeNYC.com, which contains two parts: the first part asks for basic personal information, and the second part contains a section that asks the student to select a compelling news story they’ve read online – and to provide the link for the story. The deadline is September 20th, and is open to 15-20 students, so students should submit their application ASAP!!

(Photo: Angela Johnson Meadows)