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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Being Human, Being a journalist

by Pachara Aungsusuknarumol

From America to Southeast Asia, the story of youth journalism from Santa Barbara Middle School, Teen Press, has inspired other youngsters on the other side of the world.

Hosted by @American, the U.S. Embassy's American cultural center located in Jakarta, the film screening and discussion has successfully empowered younger generation across Indonesia. After watching a 30-minute documentary of Teen Press, the young audience engaged in a panel discussion joining by professional journalists, youth journalist, and the teacher from Teen Press story.

Started in 2007, the Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press was founded as a quarterly elective program teaching students communication skills, self-confidence, teamwork, authentic relationships, and helping kids discover the value of their own story.

John Seigel Boettner, Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press teacher revealed that, “It [Teen Press] is not for homework, it’s not for school. It’s because you want to know them as human beings. That’s different and that’s what I try to teach my kids.”

Throughout the discussion, panelists have agreed on the importance of being human and giving respect in reporting stories. “A good journalist should be curious, caring, and critical,” said Devianti Faridz, a journalist & TV producer. John has also mentioned the way his students and him practice as journalists, “We are not going to turn on the camera unless we are going to be filled with respect before we do that.”

When asked about the code of ethics of Teen Press, John shared his colleague’s response to one of the situations, “What I am afraid of is that when you have a microphone, camera, and a press credential, you have a lot of freedom that you don’t otherwise have. You can walk into rooms and places that you couldn’t walk into unless you have a credential,” he continued, “I am afraid that some people might not realise responsibilities that go with that freedom.”

In the past ten years, the Teen Press has become one of the most popular after class activities at their school and has grown to actively engage teachers and students across the country and world. “I am just happy to see my kids not being shy to walk up and shake other people’s hands and introduce themselves and pause long enough to greet them as a human being,” said John.

Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, the ASEAN Foundation has continually supported youth journalism. Dyah Ayu Larasati, the ASEAN Youth Citizen Journalism 2017 Finalist, said on the panel about the programme, “The five-day workshop we had in Singapore was an amazing experience. It was out of my expectation because we were learning not just journalism, but social campaign and social activism as a whole.” Larasati also highlighted one key takeaway from her experience that, “You have to be as objective as possible in reporting news.”

The panel discussion was concluded meaningfully with a real case study from a professional journalist. “What I always tell my students when I teach them about building rapport is creating that personal connection because people don’t know you,” said Faridz, “Last week I cover story on Surabaya Church bombing at a funeral home. I just simply said my condolences; I feel for your loss.’’ Faridz has beautifully left a concluding sentence to the young audience, “Be a human first, then be a journalist.”

Pachara Aungsusuknarumol, a graduate of Communication Management programme at Chulalongkorn University and a communication intern at the ASEAN Foundation.