Hofstra University Adjunct Professor Scott Brinton, a longtime Press Club of Long Island member, initiated a community journalism class at the university this fall.
He brought six graduate students –– Sakeenah Benjamin, Kimberly Charles, Joié Johnson-Walker, Nakeem Grant, Rohanie Parbhoo and Weina Shan –– to Hempstead High School every Thursday for six weeks to help restart Tiger’s Roar, its award-winning school newspaper.
Hempstead High sits in the heart of a low-income, largely African-American and Hispanic neighborhood. Tiger’s Roar ceased publishing in 2013 because the Hempstead School District couldn’t afford to print it, so students stopped writing.
Suddenly, they lost their voice.
The club adviser, a smiling, ever-positive art teacher named Linda Mizel, created a website where students could post their articles, but it wasn’t the same as having a physical newspaper distributed throughout the school.
This October and November Mizel and Brinton set out to get Tiger’s Roar going again –– with a copy of the paper printed for each student at Hempstead High. Cliff and Stuart Richner, co-publishers of the Garden City-based Herald Community Newspapers, are printing the first issue of the new Tiger’s Roar pro bono. James Clark, the Hempstead School District’s assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, and Rachel Blount, a Hempstead High assistant principal, lent their full support to the project.
The Hofstra mentors not only taught their 18 protégés about how to construct a newspaper, but also offered sage advice about life. The program, partly funded by a New York Press Association grant, “is about seeing and doing,” said Brinton, who is senior editor for enterprise reporting and staff development at the Herald. “If college journalism students who have grown up in middle class and wealthy locales are to become reporters and editors who care about issues of social justice and race, they have to experience communities of color like Hempstead firsthand, if only for a short while.
“At the same time,” he continued, “we need more diverse newsrooms. Through the Hofstra-Hempstead partnership, we hope to encourage students of color to consider journalism careers.”
As part of the project, the Herald and Long Island Report, Hofstra’s online student news magazine, are publishing two outstanding advocacy articles by Hempstead High seniors Delmy Valle and Lucy Acosta. All of the Hempstead students’ pieces will be published in the revived Tiger’s Roar.
The program featured several guest speakers, including three ESPN staffers who gave a talk at Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication on Nov. 19. To cap off the experience, participants toured the Herald’s offices on Dec. 17.
The Community Journalism course will be offered again next fall.
With his colleague Professor Peter Goodman, Brinton is now organizing the Herbert School’s Summer Journalism Institute, an intense, two-week workshop that will introduce high school students from low-income communities, including several from Hempstead, to print and broadcast media. A NYPA grant is funding the institute.
Brinton is looking for journalists interested in volunteering for the program or being guest speakers.
For Brinton’s Herald column on his experiences at Hempstead High School, see http://bit.ly/1SZBKrF.