The study, which appears in the September edition of the Journalism & Mass Communication Educator journal, looked at the survey results from 1,000 high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found 96 percent of high schools offer media opportunities, but only 33 percent provide online instruction.
The reason for the low online element is based on a number of factors, but the researchers said the absence was a disservice to students.
“Given that this is the ‘always connected generation,’ these students grew up with the Internet,” said Peter Bobkowski, an assistant professor of journalism at KU who co-authored it with two Kent State University journalism professors. “Our conclusion is not enough schools are providing students opportunities to learn about responsibly producing online media.”
The researchers suggest that the lack of an online presence could be attributed to a lack of knowledge of the technology by teachers, lack of resources or the reluctance by administrators to give students the opportunity to use a medium that can spark more controversy and reach a wider audience. The conclusion is that regardless of the reason students aren’t receiving a full journalism education.
“I think the next step is to find out what the barriers are,” Bobkowski said. “I’d like to see what the rate of increase is from one year to the next. A follow-up study will let us assess that.”
It also found that high schools that lack a media presence are generally those with higher concentrations of minority or low-income students.
The survey found that 64 percent of high schools had a newspaper and that there are more student newspapers in the United States than commercial daily and weekly newspapers combined. Another 94 percent have a yearbook, 29 percent had television programs and 3 percent had radio. Bobkowski said the emphasis on yearbooks could be explained by the fact that companies have paid representatives who service school needs while other media formats don’t.
In 86 percent of the cases, newspapers were being published as part of a high school class and not an extracurricular activity. It was the case with 83 percent of TV programs and 80 percent of yearbooks. The researchers said studies have shown that students with a media or journalism background tended to be more engaged in current events and performed better in core high school subjects than those not in media activities.
“Journalism education addresses a lot of the core standards,” Bobkowski said. “Critical thinking, information gathering, writing and use of technology are taught in an applied way.”