The students at Frederick Douglass High School were engaged. They were excited, but most of all they were interested and involved in the lesson playing out one morning in late January. The woman that held the students’ rapt attention that day at the school was no teacher, although she was certainly working the classroom like the best of teachers.
It was Rose Scott, Atlanta Public Radio journalist, host of WABE’s afternoon news magazine “A Closer Look,” as well as avid sports fan and cat lover. Scott, a St. Louis native, is also passionate about helping young people. If she’s not speaking or actively working with young people in some venue, then she’s planning her next engagement, mentoring journalism students, or volunteering with one of the city’s youth programs.
So it was no surprise, especially to those who know her well, to see her discussing her profession with a large group of teenagers, and a few teachers, too, at Douglass High.
But this was no ordinary, mundane explanation of the field of journalism. The group assembled that winter afternoon was getting a special treat. They were learning the basics of broadcast news production, including how to assemble a newscast, which stories should be covered, in what order, and why, from one of the city’s most prominent radio journalists.
Scott led a dynamic lesson with the students, who were mostly part of the school’s journalism and video broadcast program.
“We’re going to stack a newscast,” Scott declared as she singled out two students to serve as the audience for the fictional newscast. She asked the teenagers, who were divided into groups, to come up with news headlines, and asked them questions about stories that have the biggest impact on people’s lives. She also asked them to give examples of news stories and the order they should appear in a newscast.
The most important thing when you’re a journalist is you got to tell the truth
The students excitedly replied to her questions and talked among themselves about the stories, laughing at times over the implausibility of some of the fictional stories that were making it into the newscast. One story students came up with involved Hillary Clinton contracting the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Another involved a snowstorm heading to Atlanta. The high schoolers even extended basketball great Kobe Bryant’s career through a five-year contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the lesson in building a newscast, Scott told the students, while the exercise dealt with fictional stories, in real life there’s nothing made-up about journalism.
“The most important thing when you’re a journalist is you got to tell the truth,” Scott stressed after the lesson.
But the radio host offered Douglass High students more than a lesson in how to be a good journalist.
She gave them a life lesson, too, showing them how to work together and how to overcome challenges together.
“Did you all work together?” she asked the class. “Yes,” a student responded.
“How you work with people is important,” she told the class.
Then it was the students’ turn to ask Scott questions. They wanted to know about her background, where she went to school, what her day is like, why she got into journalism.
She explained how listening to baseball games on the radio while fishing in St. Louis with her dad when she was young inspired her, but she also mentioned the lack of diversity for people of color in broadcast journalism at one time in the U.S. and the impact it had on her.
“Can you imagine turning on your TV and not seeing anybody who looks like you?” Scott asked the young people. “Can you imagine that? I’ve experienced that,” she told her young audience.
“My father said to me, I was 7-years-old, you can do anything you want to do.”
An aha moment for a young Rose Scott was when she first saw a sports broadcast with Jayne Kennedy and said to herself “I can do that.” Kennedy was one of the first women, and women of color, to rise to national fame in sports broadcasting when she went to work at “The NFL Today” show in 1978, creating a path for others, like Rose Scott, to follow in her footsteps.
Scott’s journalism presentation and discussion with young students at Douglass High was really a lesson about the many opportunities students of today have, compared to earlier generations. She encouraged them to create a blog or a start-up business, to use the internet and social media to be creative, to start a radio program and “put it online.”
“Take advantage of those opportunities,” she told the students.
As the end of her presentation neared, Scott reviewed the students’ newscast and summed it up in a few words. “It was a very good newscast. You all should be proud.”