June 2012

A two-week residential journalism camp at Eastern Illinois University is this year’s recipient of the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Recruitment Award sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Illinois Press Foundation/Eastern Illinois University High School Journalism Workshop has been introducing young people to the world of journalism for 20 years and has served more than 350 students. The workshop has been chosen to receive the Knight award for its dedication to providing an authentic journalism experience for a diverse population as well as for its longevity.

The award will be presented Aug. 10 at AEJMC’s national conference in Chicago.

Nominated by its current director, Sally Renaud, associate professor of journalism at EIU, the two-week Dow Jones Newspaper Fund workshop was founded in 1993 by Eastern Illinois journalism faculty members Dave Reed, Minabere Ibelema and Glenn Robinson. Reed, now retired, was the director until 2004, and Joe Gisondi, associate professor of journalism, directed until 2007. Financial support for the workshop comes from the Illinois Press Foundation, the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, the McCormick Foundation and the newspapers where the students intern.

Reed’s concept was that working journalists should do all the teaching because he believed students would understand what journalism is all about if they personally get to know the professionals in such a personal way.

Those journalists — many who come back every year — have included Lisa Green, business editor at the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind, who has been with the workshop since the very beginning, and Ted Gregory, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who works with students on how to write indepth stories.

“For two weeks dozens of professional journalists shepherd students through the work they do and love, and it rubs off on these 18 young people,” Renaud said.

Students get to tour the state Capitol with reporters who cover the state Legislature. They also spend time with staff from a live daily newscast from Eastern Illinois. Since Eastern has its own printing press, students also get to see the printing process in action.

In recent years, each workshop has published three newspapers and a multimedia package, and students get a chance to intern at a variety of professional newspapers.

“When these students see their creations coming off the press, when they practice what they have learned at their internships, they know their work has paid off, and their smiles and celebrations are justified. They have learned what all of us know: Journalism is exciting and rewarding,” Renaud said.

And Sierra Lowe, a 2011 workshop participant, backed that sentiment up.

“My two-week stay at Eastern was definitely an eye opening experience,” Lowe said. “It made me respect journalists even more so. It’s a field that is evolving and this generation of journalists has such an opportunity to make sure it doesn’t go overlooked and gets the respect it deserves.”

Lowe added the workshop was a reality check for her.

“It’s not solely about getting my opinion out there, or controversy or even the awesome moment of seeing your byline in a paper, but it’s about working together with a group to get the best overall product to inform and entertain the masses,” Lowe said.

Renaud said workshop staff members are always proud of the students and what they produce during the two weeks on campus.

“They knew nothing about journalism when they came to us, and now they have been journalists,” she said.

Sierra Lowe summed up her journalism adventure at Eastern Illinois this way:

“It was a great experience. I think about it and the people I met there all the time.”

This is the 25th anniversary of the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Recruitment Award, which is sponsored by the AEJMC Scholastic Journalism Division. The award recognizes any individual or organization that has made significant contributions to promoting diversity in high school or middle school media programs and is named after Robert P. Knight, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, who served as director of the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association from 1965 to 1992.