PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Build Career and 21st Century Skills

July 8, 2016

Public media nurtures teen talent and builds diversity

Mentor Jennifer Suzuki with students Chris Ediger and Keenan Penn II at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Academy

Mentor Jennifer Suzuki of Kahului, Hawaii, works with Chris Ediger of Aurora, Colo., and Keenan Penn II of Detroit at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Academy in Washington, D.C. Photo by Steve Bayless.


During a late June visit to Washington, D.C., middle and high school students from across the country came to the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) Academy to hone their journalism and video production skills, produce digital video reports and work in collaborative teams. The Academy is part of an innovative program in which students study journalism and gain working experience with the help of public media mentors.    

“SRL engages students by connecting them with local PBS stations and the NewsHour,” said Thaisi Da Silva, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs director. “While the students get involved with news and current affairs, the stations and PBS NewsHour gain the valuable perspective of diverse youth voices as they address critical issues facing the nation.”

The Academy included time with PBS NewsHour producers and hands-on experience including a visit to the White House, where students interviewed videographer Hope Hall and Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

“[The Academy] is opening our eyes to new technologies and different ways of doing things,” said Sydney Dempsey, a rising senior from Maui High School in Hawaii, on the fourth day of the Academy.


Dempsey is one of 20 middle and high school students selected for the summer SRL Academy from applicants at more than 100 PBS NewsHour Student Reporting labs, a CPB-supported program in which students learn journalism, critical thinking, and video production skills. At each lab, teachers and students work through an academic journalism curriculum, learn to use digital video production equipment and work with mentors at their local PBS stations. The students produce local reports and work on national stories on issues important to students such as bullying, school safety and stereotypes. Some of the best student work is published online on the PBS NewsHour SRL site and has aired on the PBS NewsHour.

The Student Reporting Labs are funded by CPB as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative aimed at improving educational opportunities for all students. Student Reporting Labs, which teaches STEM skills, also receives support from the National Science Foundation.

“We are getting the experience we need if we want to get into this field,” said Nick Hinojosa, a rising junior at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Nick, who shot footage that aired on PBS NewsHour, has found the SRL experience of reporting from the field much more like what professionals do than typical journalism class assignments. Along with technical instruction on using cameras and editing equipment, the SRL curriculum focuses on understanding the role of journalism in society and developing broader communication skills, including listening, asking questions, public speaking, and finding, analyzing and evaluating the quality of information.

“These are all 21st century job skills that can go into any occupation,” said Chris Ediger, a rising junior at Vista Peak Preparatory High School in Aurora, Colo. Although he plans to pursue engineering, Chris described how SRL has improved his writing and taken his photography skills to a different level. “You have to focus on every detail.”

American Graduate