Youth Gain Real-Life Experience in Detroit High School Journalism Program

Longstanding Program Seeks New Partnerships

Developing journalism skills at a young age, students in the Detroit High School Journalism program produce a newspaper and a news website on current issues. The program has taught students in inner city high schools the value of ethical reporting, even as funding sources are uncertain in the year ahead.

"Our mission is really to give students a voice," said Joy Visconti, a member of the faculty who works as an outreach specialist for the MSU School of Journalism. "This program is all about supporting students and teachers.”

The program aims to enrich the educational experiences of high school students in the city of Detroit, while connecting them to professional journalists and resources in the MSU J-School. Mentors nurture their raw talent and teach the students how to produce timely articles and publish the work in print and online.

From research, writing, and visual communications, to leveraging current technology, the program covers a curriculum that prepares high school students for jobs in the real world. Students study how to produce news and information that is accurate, fair, and responsible. The students also learn the value of civic engagement, social responsibility, and credible sources, as well as what it means to make a positive impact on their communities.

The results of Detroit students’ hard work appear in a publication called “Dialogue,” which is produced in print editions and on the website at

"This is the voice of Detroit high schools," said Visconti.

She said students get valuable information and insight from their peers in the publication. While some articles cover club officers and school competitions, other articles address some of the pressing issues that youth are facing. Students are encouraged to write about the topics that matter most to them, whether those topics relate to school policies, inequity or issues surrounding people of color.

With the help of mentors, students edit the pieces for spelling and grammar, and size articles to fit in the print publication, while allowing the unique voices of high school students to shine through.

"We want to ensure their journalistic integrity is preserved," said Visconti. "That's the heart and soul of this program."

Founded in 1985, the Detroit High School Journalism Program was the brainchild of Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Arthur Jefferson, who worked in partnership with Detroit Free Press President Jerome Tilis and Senior Managing Editor Neal Shine to create a unique program. They saw the program as a way to get students interested in the news, encourage them to do more reading, and spur a new generation of journalists and responsible citizens. For decades, Detroit students have become better writers and critical thinkers as a result.

In the fall of 2014, faculty and staff in the MSU School of Journalism stepped up to run the program, freeing up time and resources at the Detroit Free Press. In September 2015, they partnered with Crain Communications Inc., a company based in Detroit, for program sponsorship. Thanks to the unique partnership between the MSU School of Journalism, Detroit high schools and Crain Communications, the Detroit High School Journalism program reaches hundreds of students every year.

Last year, students in journalism clubs and classes at 13 Detroit high schools benefited from mentoring through the program. Each student learned to write relevant articles about issues that affected their peers at school. The program and its participants received additional support from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association.

With a storied 35-year history, the Detroit High School Journalism Program has provided invaluable experience to Detroit’s high school students. Program mentors and leadership hope to continue this tradition for years to come. Yet, they are actively seeking resources that may allow the program to continue during the global coronavirus pandemic.

If corporations or foundations are interested in partnering with and financially supporting the program, please contact Meredith Jagutis at: 

By Melissa Priebe

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