Read All About It: Journalism and Media Summer Programs

Former Editor, Porter Sargent Handbooks

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2012

If this article began with an attention-grabbing intro about a reporter who caught the journalism bug while attending a summer program for high school students, that would be called an anecdotal lede.

Yes, l-e-d-e—spelled that way so 19th-century newspaper printers wouldn't confuse it with the metal "lead" used in typesetting.

That reporters still use the antiquated spelling when most stories are first published online (and people are more likely to associate "lead" with "poisoning") reflects the one-foot-in-the-past, one-in-the-future nature of journalism education today. Programs must balance traditional reporting techniques with new media training necessary for the changing media landscape.

Here's a rundown of excellent summer opportunities for aspiring journalists. (See what we did there? It's called "burying the lede.")

Headlining programs

Pick up a copy of any major daily newspaper, or turn on ESPN at any hour of the day, and there's a good chance you'll find a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism telling you something you didn't know.

Established in 1934 as the National Institute for High School Journalists, the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute allows rising seniors in high school--known as "cherubs"--to take advantage of university resources, learn from professional journalists, and preview campus life. Workshops, seminars, and lab sessions cover topics ranging from reporting and editing to new storytelling forms like podcasting and video blogging.

The Ivy League's only journalism school, Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism boasts alumni including 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft and New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

The school operates the annual Columbia Scholastic Press Association Summer Workshop, a six-day residential program where high school journalists and faculty advisers come together to share ideas and plan for the upcoming year's publications. Each participant chooses a class sequence focusing on writing, editing, management, photography, or advanced design for newspapers and online publications.

Political reporting in Washington, D.C.

If your dream is to start making sense of the presidential race as a CNN talking head, or to expose government cover-ups like Woodward and Bernstein, check out summer programs located where the political action is: Washington, D.C.

Students in the American University Discover the World of Communication program learn to build a portfolio of photographs, script and shoot a film, write a news story like a pro, speak with confidence, lobby for the environment, or broadcast the weather. A wide selection of courses taught by AU faculty includes topics like the art of the interview, backpack journalism, and even Web and video game design.

Georgetown University's pre-college summer offerings include a broadcast journalism institute that covers Capitol Hill and White House reporting, the use of social media, ethical dilemmas, and more. Students compile an online portfolio of their work and meet with CNN correspondents and other D.C. media professionals.

Diversity in journalism

Designed to expose students from underrepresented backgrounds to careers in journalism, the Asian American Journalists Association J Camp assembles a multicultural group of high school students for six days of intensive journalism training (it's not limited to Asian American students). The program location varies each year, and admission is competitive--but for good reason: J Camp is offered tuition free.

Princeton University's Summer Journalism Program, also offered free of charge, enrolls high-achieving rising seniors from low-income families. Reporters and editors representing newspapers, magazines, and television networks from around the country conduct the session's classes, and students tour New York City media outlets.

Check out the CollegeXpress Summer Program Search tool for even more summer journalism opportunities. Even if you can't find a formal program that's right for you, you might try to score an internship with a local publication. Check with your guidance counselor to see if any past students have worked at local newspapers or magazines. It helps if you have experience on your school paper, but writing samples from English class or a faculty recommendation could be enough to get your foot in the door.

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