Tosa high school students learn media skills through student journalism

WAUWATOSA, Wis. – It’s National News Awareness Week and we want to help you figure out what’s credible news and what’s misinformation.

Wauwatosa high school students learn these skills by running their newspaper “The Compass.”

Each week, these students meet to pitch stories, edit scripts, and plan future coverage.

“I did it on a whim and now it’s something I think I’m going to pursue as a career,” says junior Annabelle Wooster.

Wooster is part of The Compass’ management team and serves as its editor. She says part of the reason her interest in journalism has grown is because of the serious topics her team covers — things like the pandemic and how the school district handles safety protocols.

“I think I’m just grateful to still be young and to be able to use everything that happened to help me create more factual news later on,” Wooster said.

Chris Lazarski is a journalism professor at Wauwatosa West. He is grateful that his students are also learning during this time, when there is an abundance of information at their fingertips.

“What we need to teach students now is kind of how to sort through that information and sort through it and evaluate the information, and figure out what information is valuable and what information isn’t,” Lazarski says.

He says learning to produce the news is a great way to do it. The students learned a lot about news stories and how they can be biased.

“Is it a source that produces a lot of opinions, a source where you can see patterns in their work?” says Wooster. “Are they politically biased in one way, is it obvious in that sense?”

“It’s so easy to change something slightly and completely change the narrative of the whole story you’re telling,” adds Evelyn Skyburg Greer, a sophomore who handles most of The Compass’ visuals and graphics.

Lazarski says the skills his students need to produce the news — asking questions, listening, synthesizing information — are similar to the skills they need to read the news.

“So they have sharper antennae when they consume that information.”

The students who run The Compass say it’s not just young people who need these lessons. Adults could also use a reminder on how to identify misinformation.

“I think it’s really detrimental to our society and the way people work together to change things that may be unfair or unequal in our system,” says Sykburg Greer.

Lazarski adds that these types of literacy skills aren’t just useful for reading or watching the news. We are bombarded with information every day, through social media, streaming services and more. Knowing how to spot misinformation is crucial these days.

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Dwight E. Schulz