The Urban Media Foundation, (UMF), a new non-profit organization created by newspaper industry veteran Natalie Cole, will give inner city high school students a comprehensive look at journalism and should also ideally increase the number of minorities working in newsrooms.
According to the 2008 newsroom census released by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), the percentage of minority journalists working at daily newspapers is 13.52 percent of the 52,600 total newsroom workforce.
However, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists noted that last year marked only the second time since 1986 that recruitment of journalists of color did not replace or surpass those who left, upsetting the traditional balance of newsrooms’ revolving door that kept minority representation flat for years.
The Urban Media Foundation consists of educational training via the Media Technology 101 series; a 10-week internship for college students; as well as an afterschool journalism and reading workshop for high school youth.
There will also be media day events where participants spend a full day visiting various media outlets throughout the Los Angeles area including television and radio stations, marketing and public relations firms and magazines.
Additionally, Urban Media will distribute more than $50,000 in grants annually to eligible college students to help with tuition and fees, books, supplies, equipment and more.
Applicants for the grant must be majoring in journalism, media technology, photojournalism, communications, marketing, advertising, public relations or broadcasting.
The Urban Media educational program is an expansion of the informal mentoring that has happened at the newspaper Cole launched in 2004 with her partner David Miller.
“Since Our Weekly began publishing, our door has been open to high school and college journalists, and we’ve been able to partner with local organizations like Yo Watts to offer paid internships to high school youngsters. But now we want to formalize our approach, and reach out to a much broader potential audience,” said Cole about the foundation’s thrust.
“During the first three years of operations at Our Weekly, the existing editorial staff was utilized to introduce, educate, and mentor in the subject of reporting news, writing and journalism to approximately 15 high school students from various local schools including Crenshaw, Foshay, Jordan and Inglewood high schools. Many inner city high schools do not offer journalism courses.
“In addition, approximately seven college students have interned from institutions such as Biola University, Bethune-Cookman College and USC. Some of the published articles of both high school and college interns can be accessed on www.urbanmediafoundation.org. And though the program has been successful thus far, it became apparent that the need and demand of such a program requires a deeper commitment of both people and funding resources.
“Further, being keenly aware of the small percentage of minority media representation, which I partly attribute to a lack of access and exposure to and/or knowledge of the many worthwhile career paths in the industry, stimulated me to bring a more formal structure of this educational program to fruition.”
Cole goes on to note that in addition to the editorial workshops, students have the opportunity to learn about the business side of newspapers (marketing, advertising, sales, circulation and operations). They will also learn about media technology, much of which is transferable to other industries.
Amber Jones, one of the paper’s current interns, is an ideal demonstration of one of the goals Urban Media intends to achieve.
“My internship with Our Weekly Newspaper has been both a rewarding and eye-opening experience. Not just because of the opportunities I’ve been given to explore different writing styles from the article assignments I was given, but also from the wisdom I’ve gained from the staff. The OW staff has so much knowledge and experience in this business, that the advice that I have received here is priceless. It is advice that has given me insight into how to approach a future career in journalism, after I graduate and has offered me options as an aspiring writer that I never considered before.
“The highlight of my tenure with Our Weekly was my assignment to cover the 2008 BET Awards Show. The people I met, the contacts I made, and just being part of such a high-profile event was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. I feel that when my internship is over, I will leave with some valuable tools that have helped prepare me not just as a journalist, but for life.”
Jones is a Los Angeles raised student attending historic Bethune Cookman in Florida. She will return to college in late July to start her senior year. During her 120-hour internship, she had the opportunity to work in editorial and gain exposure to pagination which is layout.
“I’ve had the real news experience,” added Brittney Walker, a Biola University graduate who is pursing her master’s degree. “I’ve gone to press conferences, and it’s exciting, and makes me more anxious to get into the field. I’ve learn a lot from the writers; different writing styles. And it’s challenged me and pushed me quite a bit,” added Walker, a native Angeleno.
“UMF is a 501c3 established in December 2007 and has the distinction of being the only such series of hands-on news industry courses offered in Los Angeles and quite possibly the state of California. I am absolutely euphoric about the prospect of driving constructive advancement in diversity in an industry in which I am passionate and look forward to making that difference one word at a time,” said Cole.
The first round of activity will begin in September with the After School Journalism Reading Workshop for youth between the ages of 14 and 17. To register go to www.urbanmediafoundation.org.