Workshop saved despite budget cuts
High school students learn life lessons with hands-on journalism experience
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 15:07
For 28 years, the Urban Journalism Workshop at San Antonio College, known as UJW, has served high school students who aspired to make a career in journalism.
After last year’s workshop, the program was on the verge of closing because of budget cuts, but San Antonio College President Robert Zeigler dashed in at the 11th hour, promising to find funding.
“We found a way to make the workshop operational for this summer, and we’ll continue to do that,” Zeigler said. “This is too important not to continue to do it, and I think Dow Jones (News Fund) probably made the same decision.”
The Urban Journalism Workshop, which debuted in 1985 with a seed grant from the Dow Jones News Fund, has worked with hundreds of high school students. Each year, with access to professional journalists, college students and journalism faculty, a small group of high school journalists from San Antonio and the surrounding area have produced a newspaper in the course of the two-week boot camp.
Alma Linda Manzanares, who attended the workshop in 2009, is now editor of the San Antonio College newspaper, The Ranger.
“I don’t think I’d be editor of The Ranger without attending the workshop,” Manzanares said. “You have a newspaper, which you finish in two weeks. It’s a really great experience overall.”
As with most educational and enrichment programs, it takes money to fund activities. The workshop is free to participants, who are housed in area dormitories and fed three meals plus snacks each day for the 11 days of the workshop.
Rented vans transport students to interviews and social activities and Ranger editors and reporters serve as resident assistants in the dorms and assist in coaching the students through their assignments. The program also brings newspaper professionals and university professors in as faculty.
Zeigler said he understands the program’s funding needs.
“We feel that it’s important … there’s money, but you’ve got to look to where it’s significant and put your money there, and that’s what we decided to do,” Zeigler said.
In the case of UJW, money is received from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund where, in 1984, Professors W.B. Daugherty and Chet Hunt originally submitted a proposal for a SAC sponsored workshop. The SAC UJW is one of 26 high school workshops supported by Dow Jones this year.
Many other organizations, publications and companies also contribute to UJW and have continued to do so for the past 28 years.
“We’re going to run the workshop,” Zeigler said. “We’re proud of the workshop and we’ll keep doing it and I’m delighted that we’re finding ways to do that.”
The Dow Jones rules require each student to write a bylined story. The highlights of the program for many students were a trip to the San Antonio Express-News to shadow reporters and working on their stories, which meant driving around the city, interviewing members of the community, business leaders, nonprofit volunteers and government officials and taking photographs.
UJW Director Irene Abrego served as a resident assistant for the first time in 1987 and in 1995, upon the death of department chair, Daugherty, became director. She has seen a lot of changes in 26 years.
“I feel a number of things have changed,” Abrego said. “The stories have more complexity and depth to them compared to the stories students were writing when I joined in 1987.”
For about four months before the 2011 workshop, plans for ending the program had been discussed by staff, many of whom can claim 25 years or 15 years with the workshop. They considered a variety of options, including eliminating the residence portion and shortening the program’s length. Ultimately, the staff came to a decision.
“It was incredibly sad,” Abrego said. “Support from the college had been cut for several years running. We also faced a cut in funding from the San Antonio Express-News three years ago. We felt we were making the right decision in ending the workshop.”
The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund provides the workshop with $4,000 and the San Antonio Express-News donates $8,000 plus in-kind donations, including the release of reporter Vincent Davis, opening the newsroom to allow students to shadow reporters, lunch with editors and the participation of numerous personnel throughout the course of the program.
Members of the daily newspaper’s photography staff coach students on photo assignments.
“This year, there was a added gift,” Abrego said. “The San Antonio Express-News gave us proceeds from its annual Fiesta medal auction.”
Everyone learns from the workshop, and it’s no different for those who are in charge.
“I believe everyone who participates in this workshop can develop a skill or talent that can help them in the future,” Abrego said. “There’s potential for the teens of San Antonio to truly succeed.”